It’s always fun to pick your head up, look around, and take a stance on what the future holds. Once a year, I make an effort to do that, and at the end of 2013, I took some time to think critically about the year ahead. My forecast ended up on Digiday as the The 7 Megatrends of Media in 2014.

As we see a wave of predictions for 2015 come out, I wanted to actually look back at my trends to watch for the current year and put a lens on how accurate my predictions were. I welcome your thoughts and feedback, and have included the original trend to watch in italics

1) You won’t create content without promoting it.

(The original forecast from 2013) The idea of creating content for your ‘followers’ will go away as the potential for the audience you would like to reach with your content becomes realized. With Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest all rolling out smart ad products, the promise of being able to reach the exact audience you want is here. But, as with most things, it won’t come for free. If you want the reach, you’ve got to pay for it. This is always what advertising has been about. Now the potential is just bigger and better.

You can still create content without promoting it, but the data says that unless you’re a top-tier publisher, no one is going to see it. Here is a good chart that shows how inconsequential organic reach has become for brands on Facebook compared to the reach multiplier they can achieve by using paid:

image05

The social channels are now massive. They are mostly public companies whose primary revenue model is paid media. If your marketing is focused on managing your organic communities on these platforms, you need to realize your objectives are at odds with the platform you’re trying to build audiences with.

image04

2) Android is eating the world. You have to take a mobile-first approach to marketing.

Android, at well over 1 billion activations, will continue to grow in scale and proliferation across the enterprise and the rest of the world. Every piece of content needs to be created first by asking the question, how will that look on a mobile device, and more specifically an Android?

Android continued to dominate in 2014, even with the resurgence of iOS alongside the roll out of the iPhone 6. Overall, the global market share winner is very clearly Android, particularly in emerging markets.

From a marketing perspective, we are also seeing why mobile is so important with the growth across almost all social advertising coming from mobile.

image01

Mobile is also a catalyst for the continued expansion of advertising budgets in general. Standing at ½ trillion dollars in 2012, it is amazing to think about how much our industry will change over the next few years as global ad spend grows by almost 30%.

image09

3) Social platforms will focus on the rest of the world and continue to draft off mobile penetration.

The big push by the social platforms will be in wiring and getting downloads for the 60% of the world that is still not on the internet. Mobile penetration has disrupted the natural monopoly that Facebook and Twitter have had in social (see: WhatsApp, SnapChat, Instagram, etc), but mobile has also created a big enough opportunity for social to reach the world’s internet-connected population that it doesn’t matter. The overall pie has grown and 2014 will be looked at as a building year as Twitter and others will march towards 1 billion users and Facebook will march towards 2 billon.

Whether it was Facebook with drones and internet.org or Google with Project Loon, it is clear that all tech media platforms had their sights set on global expansion in 2014. These companies know that while it took over 20 years to reach 3 billion internet users, we will double that number in just the next five. And with these billions of new users will come massive opportunities.

There are also some very positive trends around the global middle class increasing from 1.8 billion to almost 5 billion by 2030. For the platforms and for marketers the question becomes: What happens when the whole world wants and can afford your product — and will buy it on their phone?

image03

4) Brands will start to adopt technology that moves beyond simple problems (e.g. Marketing Automation/CRM/SMMS).

The trend is already out there that marketers are becoming the largest purchasers of technology. What hasn’t been seen yet is marketers becoming more sophisticated with the technology they are buying. Most marketing automation and CRM software to date is for marketers looking to fill blank boxes, route customer service inquiries, and build dashboards for reporting. While this was important, it isn’t enough in a world where your customers and your marketing strategy is mobile first and real-time.

This forecast ended up being more relevant to #5 so I will answer it there.

5) Design finally matters for enterprise software.

For the most part the largest enterprise software giants in the world have largely been able to ignore user experiences in mobile. As they have cozied up to procurement and other parts of the organizations that have taken a top-down, check-the-box approach to software installation to date they have been able to tell the individual users to kick rocks when it comes to having a user experience in mobile. Those days are coming to an end, fast. If your enterprise technology solutions don’t have native Android and iOS end to end experiences it is time to get the RFPs out. Young, fast growing tech companies that are built for the future and out to disrupt an irrelevant user experience.

This. Marc Benioff has said that almost 2/3rds of Salesforce customers aren’t ready for a mobile world and Salesforce’s software suite is still focused around a desktop experience.

As we are seeing in Slack’s growth, Box’s pending IPO, and our own product roadmap at Percolate, the future of enterprise software empowers a workforce that is mobile, always-on, and demands the types of tools and user experiences they are used to having in consumer technology. To illustrate that point, we recently released a film that showed how our software cuts across multiple departments in the enterprise in both desktop and mobile environments:

6) Web banners will be down YoY for the first time ever and it won’t come back.

We are starting to see this with some of the Google Adsense data. In a social and mobile world, the ad is your content and your content is your ad. Banners are still important but aren’t growing like the rest of internet advertising (search + social + mobile).

The only part of this prediction that was off was that my original article overlooked the fact that annual display ad spend was down once before, during the recession. Overall though, the data strongly suggests social advertising cutting into display spend. Why show someone a banner when you can share a brand experience with them  which they will find much more valuable and compelling?

image07

7) China, not the US, is the most important country to watch as it relates to social and mobile.

To find patterns in studying what might happen next it is important to be pulling from the largest dataset you can find. China offers this with the scale and a culture that is largely mobile-first with their adoption of technology. Fast growing companies like Xiaomi are perfect examples of what to watch and also in 2014 we will most likely see a few US tech companies that are acquired by Chinese tech companies.

2014 was definitely the year that we felt the scale and success of China. Xiaomi is now a major player in the mobile hardware market and China sells over 25% of the smartphones in the world. As measured by purchasing power parity, China is now the largest economy in the world.

image00

Alibaba, with one of the biggest IPOs in history, is now showing Amazon and North America what it looks like to service the largest and one of the fastest growing markets in the world. The numbers coming out of China continue to impress:

image06

From BI Intelligence:

As of June 2014, Alibaba had 242 million active users and $298 billion was spent on its commerce platforms. An average Alibaba user spends about $1,240 annually. Amazon had an average of 239 million active users during the same period, and $165 billion was spent on its platform. The average Amazon user spent $690.

As for my prediction of Chinese companies acquiring American companies — we didn’t see this like I thought we would, but we did see investment activity like Baidu investing in Uber, SnapChat almost taking an investment from Tencent and Xiaomi investing in a US company in the fast-moving wearables category.

I’ll end with a preview: one of my trends to watch for in 2015…

Alibaba and eBay

With PayPal splitting off from eBay in 2015 and going public, it’s a genuine possibility that Alibaba could swoop in and acquire eBay. That would be quite a business tale, when 10 years ago eBay tried to go to China and failed to take down this crazy little startup known as Alibaba.

I’m going to think about that one a little more and hopefully I will be back soon with the most important trends I’m watching heading into 2015. Thanks for reading.