Our Team’s 10 Predictions for 2011

As the end of 2010 draws closer, our team wanted to share ten predictions for 2011 that you might find interesting.

Websites are here to stay…

Websites are here to stay but the look and feel will change dramatically in 2011. Because of the emerging tablet industry, website owners will request the site become more friendly with the iPad – buttons will be larger and easier to click, text will increase in size, and layout’s will become simple and clean. In addition, Flash video, photo galleries, and animations will drop off the radar and be replaced by HTML5 and jQuery markup – that basically does the same thing, but will download more quickly and not eat away at the processing power.

Since the April launch of the iPad, we will see websites becoming more tablet-friendly.

Mobile websites for every business…

Lately, our team has been investing a lot of time into mobile website development. Everywhere we go, more and more people are connecting through the web on their smartphones. (Don’t forget to sign up for our mobile giveaway at www.wisnet.com/social/!) It’s predicted that by 2013 web access on mobile phones will surpass that of home computers. The difference between a mobile website and today’s normal website is screens are much smaller, download speeds are slower, and mobile users are on the go. This means most small business owners will have a simplified version of their site with just the bare necessities, i.e., a list of services, products, contact information, and a link for mapping the location. And in case you weren’t aware, a recent Forrester study says 49% of small business owners use smartphones. If you’re in B2B, then a mobile website is a must for 2011!

In 2011, many businesses will expand to mobile websites and make it easier for smartphone users to access their content.

Increase in social marketing campaigns…

In 2011, more and more companies will hire our team to run their social media campaigns and monitor their reputation. We’re not talking about only setting up a Facebook and Twitter profile; we’re talking about full-blown campaigns that run for months at a time. Owners are beginning to understand why Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare are important. Other owners will be forced into it when poor reviews and testimonials overlap their marketing efforts. Although it sounds frustrating, social marketing has a good return on investment (ROI) and makes your company more transparent. In other words, it can be fun!

Foursquare, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Facebook Places, and Groupon are one of many social networks used for social marketing campaigns.

SEO becomes complex, local search becomes relevant with geolocation…

Everyone wants to be ranked #1 on Google for this, that, and everything in between. For small local businesses the expense makes it impossible. In the past, ranking #1 meant competing against your competition. Today, in addition to competition, you have to compete with microformats, reviews, social snippets, blog posts, YouTube videos, Facebook Likes, Tweets, and other material. It’s not the same anymore and it’s complex! Good news is, in the past year, Google has made many advancements towards localizing search results. They are well aware of the move to mobile phone devices and the need for geolocation. All new and modern browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari) can detect your location, resulting in Google displaying local businesses near you. Keeping your listing optimized, offering exclusive discounts, responding to poor reviews, and cross promoting them on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Foursquare will become the norm.

With microformats, images, and reviews, it is more difficult to have your website appear on the first page of Google.

Optimizing communities…

Although communities are nothing new, business owners will start to understand the importance of building and maintaining them. All your company’s followers on Facebook are a community. Your email subscribers would be another community. Exclusive offers will be given to cross-promote communities. Most businesses rely on word-of-mouth advertising and fostering communities allows your clients to help spread the word for you. In 2011, some businesses will champion new communities while others reduce them so more effort can be focused on the ones that return with the best results.

Building, maintaining, and optimizing social outlets are goals for many businesses in 2011.

Monitoring reputations (reviews)…

Since local search will dominate the scene in 2011 you will want to make sure poor reviews get an appropriate response, and if needed, hide them (with good reviews) so they are barely noticeable. It’s a difficult task for those new to the scene. Prevention is the best method but when all else fails we expect to see more companies request our services to monitor their reputation and provide consultation.

Having no reviews isn’t any better than having poor reviews. 2011 will be the year businesses give attention to reviews on local listings.

Geolocation exclusive offers…

Geolocation is new for most businesses. Using a mobile phone with built-in GPS, services such as Foursquare allow clients to ‘check-in’ to your location. When checked-in, their friends become aware of where they shop and dine – and that can be considered word-of-mouth advertising. In return, business owners provide incentives and discounts for check-ins.

Foursquare adds geotagging to a local business owner’s marketing arsenal.

QR codes…

QR codes will be found everywhere! If it’s not Foursquare check-in clings, it will be QR clings stuck to windows, embedded on websites, and advertised on TV. A QR code is a barcode such as the ones found on a cereal box…well not really, but close. Smartphone users can easily scan a QR code with the built-in camera. Instantly, clients will be taken to a website or landing page. QR codes are easy to scan, compared to typing a long web address on the small mobile keyboard. Oh, and you can hold a smartphone up to a TV and scan a QR code – it’s that cool!

Google Places provides a printable QR code to hang at your location. QR codes can be added to the contact page of your website where visitors can easily grab directions.

Online marketing…

Spending for online marketing will dramatically increase. It’s not clear if Google Pay-Per-Click (PPC) produces better ROI (return on investment) compared to that of Facebook yet. Lately, we have seen many local companies advertise on Facebook. Demographics for the advertisement can be broken down to the city, age, gender, relationship status, education, workplace and more – WOW! You can run a campaign for all 25-55 single women, who graduated college, live in Fond du Lac (WI), and are working at Charter Communications! Now, that’s amazing! Of course, 2011 will be the year to find out what works and what doesn’t – Facebook users might not be in the mood to shop compared to those who are searching via Google.

Demographic targeting can easily be accomplished through Facebook.

Email marketing is not going away…

For some odd reason everyone seems to have a grudge against email. It’s not interactive and most of the time it feels impersonal. To counter the animosity email will become more social, personalized, and owners will start incorporating team photographs and video. There will always be clients that despise Facebook – email might be the only way to communicate with them. By offering email-only exclusive offers a community can be built that can rival your fan base on Facebook. Email, along with Facebook and Twitter, are the few marketing channels where promotions can be created and sent within hours – and we have seen this done with smart business owners who use these channels just as the weather turns sour, e.g., ‘Mountain’s Flower Shoppe will be closed for the massive snow storm tomorrow. All online orders are 20% off!’ Now that’s quick thinking!

Our December email campaign had Holiday email tips and pictures of our account executives.

To the cloud and beyond…

If you’re out of the loop you might not have heard about the cloud. Traditionally, company’s purchased software programs and spent a great deal of time installing and configuring them on their computers and network. When disaster struck, a quick call on the bat phone usually turned into a long wait for the technician to appear. Today, companies are using software on the cloud, e.g., Google Docs, Hosted Exchange, SalesForce, and our very own project management program called PM. At first, the monthly charge makes a business owner quiver. Once they realize they won’t need to pay the IT guy $125 an hour to upgrade software, fix glitches, and drive to the location, it becomes very affordable.

Here at wisnet.com, we offer our clients POP3/IMAP webmail and hosted Microsoft Exchange services. It’s fast, secure, and never needs maintenance. Plus, it feels like a desktop application! We predict that in 2011 many of our clients will be moving away from traditional desktop applications, such as Outlook and Entourage, and move to the cloud (wisnet.com webmail and Hosted Exchange).

Moving to the cloud will reduce unnecessary time managing and maintaining software and local networks.

Wow, amazing changes are happening in 2011! From all the research we accumulated this past year we have great confidence our ten predictions will come true. Well, then again, we never saw the iPad coming in April of ’10 and word is Apple recently patented holographic technology. Next thing we know, we will be developing 3d holographic advertisements to view while clients are waiting to be teleported into a conference meeting…in Antarctica. Your guess is as good as ours.