5 Business Predictions for 2011

Since 2011 is right around the corner — and my 2010 business predictions have been more popular than I expected — I’ve decided to venture into the risky field of prognostication by making a few modest business predictions about the coming year.

Business Prediction #1:
Cloud Computing Goes Mainstream

Michel Fortin’s prediction from a year ago (“The Future of Internet Marketing Is Cloudy”) appears to be right on. With services like Google Apps, Dropbox, Basecamp, and Amazon Web Services (AWS), more and more content is being stored in, edited on, and streamed from the cloud.

And this coming year we’ll witness the release of the first netbooks outfitted with Google Chrome OS — a new open source operating system that boots up in about 10 seconds. The idea behind it is simple: Do everything you need from a web browser.

One thing that just about everybody wants is increased freedom to travel wherever they want without being tied to any one particular computer or operating system. They want to know that they can do their work anywhere, anytime, with any computer that’s connected to the Internet.

This is just one of many reasons I predict cloud computing will become increasingly common, and hard drives — while they won’t go away entirely — will slowly lose their daily relevance.

Business Prediction #2:
Optimizing for Social Media
(Rather than Search Engines)

In 2010, Facebook became truly mainstream. It now gets just as much traffic as Google does, not to mention 25% of all U.S. pageviews.

For many sites, they’ve seen traffic from social media surge — and even surpass — traffic that comes from search engines.

I believe in 2011 many businesses, especially those with a heavy focus on information publishing, will begin to focus on optimizing for social media rather than search engines alone.

For some, that will mean creating more viral content optimized for sharing across social media platforms; for others, it will mean diverting some of their ad spend to Facebook PPC ads and similar advertising opportunities.

Vadim Lavrusik writes in his post 10 Predictions for the News Media in 2011:

And of course, the quality of [social media] referrals is often better than readers who come from search. They generally yield more pageviews and represent a more loyal reader than the one-off visitors who stumble across the site from Google.

Business Prediction #3:
Increased Focus on Reputation Management

With the amazing success of Yelp (and other review sites like Ripoff Report), I believe reputation management will become increasingly important for business owners, no matter if they do business online or on Main Street.

The reason I say this because many times a single disgruntled customer can severely hurt a business — even if that customer’s experience was uncommon and the business tried to make things right.

Furthermore, there are many reports of consumer review sites turning to various forms of extortionYelp included — to make money from an otherwise difficult-to-sustain business model. Some claim that positive reviews have been deleted and negative reviews created merely to convince merchants to pay up.

And what do you get for your “protection fee”? It depends on the site, but usually it involves removing bad reports posted about your business, or responding to them by saying the claims are baseless, etc.

Of course, I’m not against legitimate consumer review sites and publications (Consumer Reports is awesome).

But if and when false or inaccurate complaints are being publicly posted about your business, it will be a high priority to get those complaints corrected or removed, especially if those complaints have been intentionally falsified to extort money from you.

Business Prediction #4:
More Video, More Mobile Advertising

Two things have exploded during the last year:

1. The use of video in marketing.

2. The use of smart phones (primarily, the iPhone and phones running Google’s Android OS)

I predict that copywriters will begin shifting more of their time toward writing, editing, and critiquing video sales scripts. (I’ve already noticed this in my own copywriting business — the use of video in sales is definitely on the rise.)

I also predict that there will be increased spending on advertising aimed at the users of smart phones and similar mobile devices. (Whether that advertising is successful or not remains to be seen. Personally, I don’t want advertising on my iPhone, but I might be an anomaly.)

Business Prediction #5:
Affiliates Will Get Smarter & Demand Accountability

What the veteran affiliate knows that the new affiliate does not is this: It’s not your first sale that matters; rather, it’s the first time you get paid.

Tens of thousands of affiliates refer sales, yet never get paid. Only a few make sales and actually receive their commissions.

This is because many affiliate programs mismanage their money and end up stealing commissions from affiliates, choosing to keep that money for themselves.

Most affiliates promote more than one product through more than one affiliate program. They don’t really have the time (or desire) to verify they’re getting paid for all the sales they make. They’re unlikely to notice if one program doesn’t pay out.

I’m personally aware of multiple situations where affiliates were not paid the commissions they earned. I’m aware of situations where affiliates were paid — but months late. I’m also personally aware of technology glitches that screwed up affiliate tracking… during a launch!

These personal experiences — combined with some extra reading and shop talk with fellow copywriters — has led me to conclude that affiliate commission theft is more common and widespread than most affiliates would dare to believe.

This is why I predict that affiliates will “wise up” and begin to demand better accountability from the affiliate programs they support.

More Business Predictions for 2011

I actually have a few bigger macroeconomic predictions, but those fall outside the scope of this particular post. Perhaps I’ll write about them later.

If you’d like to read more predictions and business advice for 2011, I recommend these articles to you (each opens in a new tab or window):

I wish you all the best in the new year.

-Ryan M. Healy

P.S. If you have any business predictions of your own, or if you agree/disagree with anything I’ve said, I want to hear it. Please leave a comment below. Thanks!

Ryan M. Healy

Ryan Healy is a financial copywriter and the author of Speed Writing for Nonfiction Writers. Since 2002, he has worked with scores of clients, including Agora Financial, Lombardi Publishing, and Contrarian Profits. He writes a popular blog about copywriting, advertising, and business growth, has been featured in publications like Feed Front magazine, and has been published on sites like WordStream.com, SmallBizClub.com, and MarketingForSuccess.com.

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