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As the year comes to a close, it’s time to look forwards to next year and what are shaping up to be some key trends for marketers to track through the year.  To add to the already vibrant discussion of trends to pay attention to, here is my stab at a few top marketing trends that I will be watching in the new year (in no particular order):

  1. Sharing a Corporate Personality – For too many years, large organizations have focused much of their marketing and communications on becoming "faceless" – yet the danger of facelessness is now becoming better understood.  In short, companies cannot connect with customers in a meaningful and emotional way without having a personality.  As more organizations realize this fact, we will continue to see more "corporate bloggers" and more touch points for customers to interact with the true personality of a brand.  Look for social media to play a bigger part in overall marketing strategy as a result.
  2. Widget Marketing – A trend I have been following since earlier in the year, widgets have made significant strides as an accepted marketing technique in recent months.  Many new blog oriented services are launching Widgets in Typepad’s gallery, startups offer their own widgets as a quick way of introducing their service, and new products like Chumby (a compact clock-radio-like product that has a wireless connection) are bringing widgets out of the online world and into the real one.  For marketers looking to offer a quick introduction to their service, or those seeking to create an online connection with customers – widgets will find more users in 2007. 
  3. Social Media Optimization – Originally introduced just a few months ago, SMO has rapidly blossomed into a movement in the online marketing industry worldwide.  Primarily being driven at the moment by those in the search marketing industry, in 2007 I suspect SMO will continue to get broader use from marketers interested in building traffic and buzz online, moving far beyond linking strategy and smart SEO into the marketing mainstream.  Hooks to allow site visitors to easily share and bookmark content may become more commonplace than those ubiquitous "email a friend" links.
  4. AutoTagging and AutoSorting – I have written often about the trend for visual search and how companies like Riya are leading the way for photo recognition technology that allows imagery on the web to be more effectively tagged and organized.  In 2007, we will see more solutions like this that offer autotagging, autosorting and the next extension of this technology … auto recommendations, where new content of any format can be recommended and people can find new content more easily.  This will continue to create waves in how users watch video online, find music, and browse the web.
  5. Human Filtered Search – One of the effects of the personal media revolution is an exponential increase in the amount of content online.  This will continue to lead online users to search beyond the algorithm for new ways of finding information.  A key method for this is human filtered search, where people are sorting content on the web, creating their own groupings and sharing that with others.  Just as Jerry Yang initially built Yahoo as a directory to help him and friends sort through the exploding amount of content online, now sites like Squidoo and Rollyo are offering alternative ways of finding information online.  The human side of search looks set to become a force in 2007.
  6. Contentcasting – Putting content online, and then trying to spread the word about it is so 2006.  Contentcasting is set to be the new standard, enabled by RSS and a growing number of online users that are finding the only way to keep up with all the news and information they care about is to subscribe to feeds and access it that way.  Contentcasting will relate to videoblogs, audio podcasts, and frequently updated content in any area of the site – from a blog to a newsroom.  Got content that you want to spread around?  Don’t just market it — broadcast it and let your users/customers pick up the feeds.
  7. Online Identity Shifting – If you add the success of Facebook, Myspace, Vox, Second Life, LinkedIn and Flickr together – you would come to a single conclusion: that having and sharing your identity online is hot right now.  This is not about blogging or about uploading your photos online, this is a phenomenon of having an extension of your personality online to share with friends, family and colleagues.  With the number of assets we can now create – from photos and videos to full podcast programs about our lives, the appeal of sharing this with those you care about will continue to represent a force in driving more people towards social media.  Within these online representations of self, brands and products will continue to play a large role.  People will talk about products they like and don’t like – they will share brand experiences, and they will even become brand ambassadors for products and services that they care about.  In this world where individual lives are shared online, there will be huge opportunities for marketers in 2007.

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