By Sean Blankenship, Senior Vice President, Marketing

“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” -Oprah

Like every year at this time, we reflect on what we have learned, where we have succeeded, where we have failed and begin to formulate our plan for success so we can hit the ground running January 1st.

As I finalized my plans for the New Year I find myself overwhelmed and intrigued by the amount of top 10 lists coming out before the New Year.  There’s the top 10 for TechGadgetsBusinessPredictions, and of course my favorite Google’s 13th annual Zeitgeist. Yes the almighty Google.  Unlike the other top 10’s, Google captures good and bad, of what we are interested in.  And while Twitter Trends is becoming a formidable force in “what’s on people’s mind,” it just doesn’t have the scale of Google Search.  My favorite “trending topic” in 2013 was the MTV VMA’s.  Of course that was Miley Cyrus and the train wreck that was.  At the time I was shocked, but it may have turned out to be one the best awareness campaigns of the year.

As I look into my crystal ball for 2014, here are my top trends (and no I didn’t take the bait on a top 10):

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    Privacy – To say social media has exploded over the past 4-5 years would be an understatement.  It’s defined a generation, become a staple in our societal interactions and opened a previously guarded door to people’s innermost thoughts, beliefs and feelings. While I believe social media has proven it is here to stay, I do see a retraction taking place. I predict there will be a withdrawal not from the idea of social tech but the idea of sharing.  While it was cool to cast a video or a check-in into the cyber space with unknown reach and visibility, the permanency of a “digital footprint” is notable, and to some scary.  As many others have predicted, I believe Direct Messaging will continue to be a hot topic and a norm on both new and existing platforms.

  • Search (SEO) – What could be sexier than Penguin or Panda?  Like many other marketers, I have tried to keep up with Google’s algorithm changes to achieve the almighty goal of being #1…and by #1 I mean trying to stay at the top of the search page. I was overjoyed when I learned Google decided to go back to its roots when they said, “let us worry about search, you worry about great content.”  They did this by encrypting organic search terms.  That’s right, we can all stop worrying about ranking #1 with keywords, and get back to doing what we love best…creating great content (i.e. be marketers again).  We will see the creation of great Content once again define great brands.
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    Consumer Ratings – While most of us rely on complete strangers to determine where to eat, sleep, or buy a car, we haven’t seen the real estate industry fully embrace the notion of consumer ratings.  AirBnB has redefined vacation travel through the idea that ”it’s OK to stay at a complete strangers home.”  This has been made possible through a movement called Collaborative Consumption, but is rooted in “reputation management.”  Seems the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Customer referrals remain the holy grail of marketing, and with today’s social platforms like Yelp and LinkedIn it’s never been easier to either get a referral or generate one’s reputation (for better or worse mind you).  We will see “online reputation generation” become paramount in the real estate industry.

  • Mobility – I know, every top 10 list has mobile on it.  It’s been the year of mobile for 5 years (remember when QWERTY was a cool?).  As technology evolves, as well as web dev/design, the idea of having a separate mobile platform is so 2007. Everything is mobile, which is why I use the term “mobility.”  It’s ALL about the user, and more importantly the expectations of the user.  Remember the good ‘ol days of leaving a voice mail?  I don’t even use voice mail, haven’t set it up in years, and wouldn’t know how.  Why?  Because of SMS, or DM, or TXT, or SNAPCHAT  or (insert favorite form of messaging service here).  We live in a society that has zero patience.  A brands (or persons) ability, or inability, to adapt to this culture will define success.  Yes, success.  When a consumer chats with customer service for Apple Inc., they no longer want immediate response and answer, they expect it.  When I send a “lead” to a car dealer regarding a product, I expect an immediate response or I’m moving on to the next car dealer.  We will see Mobility transform and redefine customer service in the real estate industry, and everyone in it.

So there you have it, my top 4.  Perhaps in summation, it’s getting back to basics a bit but using services and technology to amplify what we do best.  So go on, be your best, but keep in mind people are watching!

Have a 2014 prediction you would like to share? Let’s discuss on Twitter. You can find me here.

I wish everyone a happy new year and good health in 2014.

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