Review of 2014

2014 Digital Predictions

As 2014 comes to an end, it is time to reflect on what has been a highly eventful year – the world of digital marketing saw significant changes in social media, search marketing and well, everything else!  But what were the biggest stories of 2014?  Here is my take on the key stories from the last 12 months:

January:
The start of the year saw Google announce its position regarding Guest Blogging – despite Matt Cutts quoting that ‘guest blogging is dead’, there was some ambiguity.  Not surprisingly, guest blogging that is focused on the audience rather than an SEO benefit is still favourable – but make sure you do your homework before embarking on this.

February:
Following the IPO in 2012, Facebook has been under some pressure to monetise, and I mean seriously monetise, its model.  In February 2014, it announced its intention to buy WhatsApp for up to $22bn.  The deal only went through a few weeks ago, and it is not clear what Facebook has planned for the mobile messaging service, but it’s likely that Facebook will use this to connect with teens who are less keen on Facebook following friend requests from their parents!

March:
Twitter announced its biggest design change in March and seemed to take some inspiration from Facebook.  With such a notoriously quick-fire model, Twitter seems to struggle for engagement, and putting more emphasis on imagery is presumably a move to drive this up – still unclear whether this will work.

April:
Chinese ecommerce giant and one of China’s best kept secrets, the Alibaba Group, filed registration documents to go public in the US (it became the biggest IPO ever in September).  Already accounting for around 80% of China’s ecommerce, the scale of this business is staggering – ecommerce sites of the US and UK, you have been warned.

May:
In May, it was widely reported that 99% of digital advertising was incorrectly targeted.  This number seems staggeringly high, although looking at the products being advertised to you on a daily basis may shave you agreeing.  One of the benefits of digital advertising is the opportunity to segment effectively – if you are not doing this, or talking to your media partners about this, don’t expect any return from your ad spend.

June:
June was a predictable month – England get knocked out of the World Cup early, Germany win the tournament and the record for the biggest social media event ever was broken by World Cup Brazil 2014.  With a run rate of 619k tweets per minute when the final was being played, and one billion posts / comments / likes on Facebook, the numbers are staggering.  The opportunity for brands who are able to react quickly to live events came into clear focus.

July:
Twitter release their analytics package in July, although it was initially only available to accounts which have run paid campaigns.  There is limited analytics available for all now, and this is long overdue – if Twitter want to drive their revenue, they need to be able to prove that ad spend on their network drives ROI, and for that you need an analytics package.  About time!

August:
The Ice Bucket Challenge was the most widespread social media event of 2014.  It really showed the potential positive power of social media – it was a very simple idea which is easy to execute, everyone can do it (even celebrities got on board as it was for a good cause), you can be nominated and nominate other people.  Not a bad checklist for viral content…

September:
Apple’s biggest launch event of 2014 took place in California in September and saw the much anticipated launch of the iPhones 6 and 6S, as well as the launch of Watch (no, not iWatch) and iOS 8.  While there was predictably fever pitch excitement at the event, I felt a little mixed about the launch – not much excitement around the phones, but looking forward to tracking Apple’s foray into wearables.

October:
Google’s Penguin algorithm refresh caused much panic for digital marketers everywhere – until it actually took place and there wasn’t much to worry about after all.  Penguin is all about cutting down on spammy links, but this update only affected around 1% of English queries.  If you still have a black or even grey hat approach to link building, time is running out (if it hasn’t already).

November:
Facebook announced that it was going to hit brands who have very highly promotional posts – to quote Facebook, they “should expect their organic distribution to fall significantly over time”.  In a statement (whose ambiguity Google would have been proud of), Facebook mentioned that promotional posts without context would see their reach plummet, but didn’t go as far as defining context!  You will be shocked to know that paid Facebook posts are not affected by this!

December:
Just before the end of 2014, Instagram hit 300m users and surpassed Twitter.  It also beats Twitter in terms of user engagement, a crucial measure for advertisers.  Maybe Facebook’s purchase of the image-sharing network for $1bn was a smart move….?

Phew. quite a year!  What were your highlights of the last 12 months?

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