Web 2.0, video on the Web, mobile Internet, and e-commerce are once again hot contenders for discussions, conferences, trade fairs and road shows. So if you intend to drop these terms nonchalantly at the next meeting you will most probably attract only little attention.

While communication and information are still the main reasons to use the Internet, the new trend among the trends is called differentiation. Old and new technologies retain principally the basic elements that allow the wise and efficient use of the new media. Within these limits users reveal specific habits and needs, aimed at individuality and ubiquity.

You are recommended to take a closer look at the Internet and its users to analyze requests, offers, and virtual possibilities - not only from next year onward – as in the near future specialized content and its ubiquity will determine the trends in the online environment as well.

The following trends will contribute decisively next year in shaping the information and communication culture further, while setting new standards for online marketing.

Trend 1: Social Media Marketing

To build-up and extend the publicity of a brand, new channels of communication in particular economic segments have to be explored. The Internet has long been established as an acceptable and highly frequented medium, so that potential new target groups can be easily exploited there. The characteristic in using social media marketing is the active involvement of users to design brand messages as well as their viral spread. This, however, works only if users are really convinced of a brand, do not feel exploited for advertising purposes, and discover a personal value. Therefore it is important to look at each user as an individual that it represents at the moment of its online presence. Which means you have to take into account both the users diverse interests as well as their personal networking. Members in social networks are mostly interested in news and innovations and like to be taken by surprise. They are among the early adopters and transmit information after a personal assessment to their friends and acquaintances. This gives them recognition in their narrower and wider circle of acquaintances, a direct connection to the offering company, and the feeling that their opinion is respected. They are part of the brand identity design, providing viral marketing effects, which can be controlled with continuous intelligent monitoring.

Trend 2: Apps

Apps, short for Applications, describe small utility programs for multimedia mobile phones that provide owners with an individualized added value. Leading the pack is the currently extremely popular iPhone. With an app the user is able to determine the optimal cooking time for an egg, find out instantly current flight data, mark their own location on a map, or simulate a beer glass. Around 300,000 apps are available and offered for download in the iTunes App Store, which are mainly developed by Apple experts or freelance programmers. The number of iPhone users is growing steadily. Although currently only about 20% of the available free and paid apps are used, interest is rising progressively. Since the demands of the mobile become more individual, the more personalized are the requirements to design mobile access to various services. The applications must provide added value to everyday use and integrate itself seamlessly. In this way apps find a positive place in the life of the user and the associated brand.

Trend 3: Cloud Computing

If performance of software and hardware, as well as the resulting applications and data from the local computer or server is shifted to a virtual space (cloud), we talk about cloud computing. It is a concept that has essentially changed the deployment and use of IT. Software is provided as a service, an external infrastructure ensures the internal supply of data, and even social networking applications can be found within the cloud space. Companies benefit from the on-demand infrastructure, as the resulting flexibility helps them align their IT equipment with current requirements. Currently, providers of appropriate solutions deal with the integration of other user-friendly components and Cloud Computing will also experience increasing popularity next year.

Trend 4: Augmented Reality

Although it still appears to some extent like science fiction, Augmented Reality is a new method to address the most innovative, mobile and young audiences. Augmented reality is mostly used in environments, where people are looking for information and want to broaden their perspective. It can help to identify a place in all its facets, in order to make it useful for a particular project. This could be reality-based computer games, navigation tasks, industrial processes or locating historical guided tours. The fact that people want to be fascinated by new technologies they can easily integrate into their daily lives, and that provide additional value on top, will never lose its charm.

Trend 5: Video Marketing

For several years now, Video on the Web is regarded as a guarantor for innovative online marketing. But only recently multimedia short stories are slowly growing out of their infancy, going from their experimental phase to a more professional status. There are not only the self-made home stories that find their way onto various video portals, but in particular enterprises focus now on multimedia entertainment for their target audiences, producing short movies, webisodes, clips, movie contests, theme channels and viral video campaigns to play their brands to the gallery. Consumers, on the other hand, reward technological know-how, content-sensitivity, and emotional involvement by forwarding the information and impressions they gained to friends. Video will, therefore, continue to establish itself as a medium with a high entertainment factor next year, as its positioning possibilities are definitely not exhausted yet.

Trend 6: Social Commerce

The term “social commerce” is currently on beat in the shopping world with the customer being king, as he decides what, how, and how often he buys on the Web. If he doesn’t like a product or provider, he simply switches to other offers, always on the look-out for things that perfectly meet his expectations and taste. As long as the shop suppliers respond to his wishes and ideas deliberately, he seems to be loyal. The fact is that one-to-one marketing puts the customer at the center and filters out any individual preferences. A satisfied customer likes to talk about positive experiences and shares them with his social network. He speaks out on product and vendor recommendations, writes reviews, and advertises on his own web presence for his chosen online shop. The customer, therefore, becomes an indirect and direct seller.

Trend 7: Visual Search

Visualization is one of the key buzzwords in the Web world today, as images evoke emotions and graphics offer guidance. Together they provide a valuable overview that can stand out from similar online offerings. Every user knows the three-to-four-line teasers in the results of a search engine, which lead with a bold headline and a continuative colored link to new content. But many issues can be understood better when visualized. A visual product or topic search offers the searcher a direct overview of articles he is interested in and links topic related complexes to new impressions. Many websites will create value-add for their visitors by using this visual diversity result  in 2011.

Trend 8: Content Scraping

The complexity of information and content on the Internet increases minute by minute. With each new article, blog post, or comment, the flood of information grows regardless of the loss of overview. Content providers are therefore advised to concentrate their content and deliver it enhanced on separate websites. Microsites are the tool to point out special offers to customers, which are connected with the main presence, but can be considered completely isolated and used independently. Customers experience a specialization of the company offers in response to their individual demands.

By Daniela La Marca