Here, in no particular order are some of the things I expect to see in the coming year:
1. SEM rises to dominate online marketing: Any marketer looking to sell anything online should be starting (and in many cases ending) their online ad spend with search engine marketing.
2. Blogs become the best way to find out about most stuff: I regularly read over 100 blogs that provide me with greater depth, better commentary, and faster breaking news than anything other news source. Look for more and more of us to depend on blogs for our industry insights. Smart marketers will incorporate blogging into their overall corporate communications strategy.
3. Increased focus on meeting user needs instead of corporate goals: I hope for this one every year but I’m now seeing signs that companies are starting to take user experience and user benefit seriously. Let’s hope all sites work on meeting our needs instead of theirs.
4. A more pragmatic approach to e-mail: In 2004 e-mail marketers will be happy if the message even gets there. Watch for spam filters, increased privacy concerns, and inbox fatigue to reek havoc on response rates.
5. RSS prepares to take centre stage in 2005: I am a strong believer that RSS will dominate retention-based communication in the future, but I don’t think RSS will be on enough marketers’ radar to hit critical mass in 2004. Watch for leading edge companies to use 2004 to define the future of this amazing new channel.
6. Social Networks will have a make or break year in 2004: Social Networks were named THE hot technology of 2003 by Business 2.0 and I expect that 2004 will see the sites go mainstream and at the same time, work out privacy and business model issues. There will be an inevitable shake-out and many will fade away in the coming year. Watch for LinkedIn to gain momentum as the most privacy and value focussed network for professionals.