4 Trends That Shape the Future of Content Targeting // Ektron
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  • 4 Trends That Shape the Future of Content Targeting

    Anyone who works on a website knows that one of the most discussed topics is content targeting, how it works, why it matters, and how to do it.  And right now,  one of our favorite topics is about creating, managing and targeting content to specific personas.

    But where does this all lead?   As new devices and technologies continue to revolutionize how people can find, interact with and experience content, that also means that how marketers target content is changing too.   What does that future hold?  Here are a few trends I see that are changing and will continue to change how marketers can find and engage prospects, turning them into loyal customers.

    What’s Driving This?

    In the past few years, the digital world has been transformed by mobile, social and local technologies.  Combine those new technologies and all their underlying data with the number of digital screens that are now virtually everywhere,  and you can see why we are just getting started when it comes to content targeting.

    Mobile brings with it a new set of capabilities, from geo-location, to cameras, accelerometers, and has ushered in the touch screen era.  Social networking may feel like its been around forever, but that just means its now mainstream.  When you think of location-focused technologies, you may think of check-ins on Foursquare or something as simple as driving directions.   Touch screens are everywhere, from printers, to remote controls, refrigerators, to even my new coffee maker.  Digital display ads are everywhere too, from the back of a taxicab to elevators, to city bus stops.    And in your house, its not just small screens, most new TVs run apps and browse the web.  The list goes on and on.  These factors combine to impact two trends.  First, how do individuals react and adapt to what has become message bombardment. And second, how will marketers use all of this new data they have at their disposal? 


    Trend 1: Location and Loyalty

    Today, many retailers will provide you with their closest location when you visit their websites from a smartphone  while you have geo-location turned on.   But we’re just getting started using location to target content.  I’ve downloaded the app to my favorite restaurant, so I can order online and pick it up on my way home.  I drive by it all the time.  It’s right on my way home, and I stop there about once every 2 weeks.   We tend to have a few favorite dishes that we order consistently too.  That same app knows who I am, and can tell from my phone where I am.  I’ve connected it into their loyalty program too, so I can earn points to a free meal too.  That restaurant now knows, what I like, and what my habits and behaviors are..

    Now what happens if I stop ordering takeout every 2 weeks?  Soon enough, that restaurant will be able to figure out that I haven’t been in in a while, and when I drive nearby, they will be able to target me with an alert on my phone with a coupon for a free entrée that I used to order.  They can personalize it just to me “Hi Bill, we’ve missed you.   Please order online again, and the salmon entrée is on us.”  Now just think about how that targeted content will increase my loyalty to that restaurant, and get me to come back for another order.  It’s pretty amazing.

    Trend 2: Mining the Social Graph  

    No one will dispute that social media has become amazing way to communicate, and for marketers gain insight into who is engaging with you.  While it may feel like social has been around forever, we are still in the early days.  The social graph is essential a person’s digital footprint online.   I think marketers will really start to drill into the social graph to discover even more data about their visitors. 

    Let’s look at Facebook as an example.  Facebook is already a very useful tool for marketers when determining what people’s interests and likes are.   While many organizations gain insight into how their fans on Facebook interact with a Facebook page, only a handful, outside of big consumer brands, are really using the information in the Facebook social graph. This is one of the reasons that Facebook has made changes to how it shares information, and what’s public versus what’s private.  In my opinion, this is a clear attempt to try to make more information available via their social graph.  That information is already becoming a treasure trove, and will continue on this path for marketers.


    Think about a scenario for a college or university.  That school wants to target alumni to donate to support sports programs.  But they don’t have great information on what sports alumni who graduated before 2000 actually like.  The school could conduct a survey to asking people provide details on what sports they like.  But that survey is static.  It won’t capture visitors who join the site after the survey is conducted.  Or, they could ask visitors to the site to login via Facebook.

    That very simple act of a login now means that the school doesn’t have to conduct that survey.  They can mine the graph and figure out that a particular alumni likes, say a basketball team.  It doesn’t even have to be the school’s team. As long as an individual hasn’t explicated turned off how that data is shared across Facebook, the school now has an easy to figure out if an individual is a good candidate to donate to support the basketball program.  And that will continue over time, as new visitors login to the alumni site via Facebook, the school can know a lot about them and use that to target content.

    Stepping away from higher education for a moment, lets go back to my favorite restaurant.    What happens when they combine everything they already know about me from their app and loyalty program with everything they can learn from me about Facebook?  The possibilities for new ways for that restaurant to target me are now almost endless.

    Trend 3: The Relevant, Contextual Search

    One of the most powerful examples of where content targeting is headed is with Google Now.  If you have a current Android device, you’ve probably been amazed, or perhaps creeped out by this.  If you are in the Apple mobile device camp, check out the latest version of the Google Search app, make sure you are logged in and see what it does for you.    And this will be coming to Chrome browsers soon.  


    Google targets individuals with relevant content based on location, their schedule, searches and what they are doing or have done.   Google Now targets you with a traffic update and travel time details on you how long it takes to get to and from work, because it knows where you live and work, and when you leave.   It targets you with information about what the weather- not only where you are, but also where you work, and even where you are headed on a trip.  It targets you when a package has shipped, or been delivered.  It targets you with you the status of a flight you are taking and even shows you your boarding pass.   What’s amazing about this is its all extremely relevant information that Google figures out by looking at where you are, what you search for, what your calendar has on it, and what has come into your inbox

    If you are a fan of Google Now like I am, you may be thinking, this doesn’t feel like targeting, its just useful information.   True, it’s useful, because it is relevant, and its contextual, and therefore a perfect example of targeting. Google is amassing even more information about you the more you interact with it.  And they can then take the data they learn about you in Google Now, use that to refine search results, and more effectively sell their ad space to other marketers.  And they get smarter and smarter the more you use it.  Google is bringing context to its targeted content, but on steroids.  Because of this, Google delivers a user something before the user realizes they even want it.  To me, that’s really awesome.

    Now I don’t see digital marketers being able to do everything that Google can do to target you in the immediate future, but this is a primary example of where we are headed.   It’s also perhaps a bit scary.   The underlying component here, of course is search.   Tying searches on Google or other search engines, or searches on your website to dynamically providing relevant content to a visitor is possible today, but doing so usually requires a bunch of custom web development.   In the not so distant future that will get much easier and easy to use tools for marketers will really help organizations target more effectively.  

    Trend 4: Across the Universe

    Every organization we talk to has a number of different systems of experience where they store information about their prospects and customers.   This universe usually includes CRM, Marketing Automation System and Analytics, and of course a CMS, but it can also include other systems.   Some organizations use APIs and web development to tie all these systems together with their website.   But the vast majority have siloed systems, or if they are connected, those connections aren’t very deep. 

    Being able to target based on a unified view of a visitor, using data across the universe of systems, means that many of the trends above can start to materialize.  What previously took massive data warehouses, ongoing development resources, and expensive technologies that only the largest enterprise could afford is now something that organizations of any size can take advantage of.   Marketers now have the right technologies at their fingertips to easily target based on location, social data search queries, and other firmographic, demographic, and behavioral attributes.  

    This is just the start.  With the multitude of screens, and the number of digital messages that we each receive every day rising exponentially, the only way to stand out, the only way to connect, the only way to engage, will be to figure out how to target the right content, to the right person at the right time.  All of these trends are the foundation of what will continue to be an extremely exciting time for marketers. 

    Check Out The 4 C's Of Content Targeting

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  • Bill Rogers
    By Bill Rogers
    Twitter: @bill_ektron
    Friday, May 31, 2013
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