Six of the best: digital predictions for 2012 (part 2)

Alex Butler

The Social Moon

Continued from “Six of the best: digital predictions for 2012 (part 1)”

Last week saw the first three of my digital predictions for 2012. This article details the final three.

4. Social media begins to separate the winners from the losers

Although this does not seem like much of a prediction, social media will continue its incredible growth over 2012. As has been said by many including myself before, this is not because it is a new medium but because it is an old one.

The social platforms that are intrinsically woven into the everyday fabric of hundreds of millions of people’s lives are just technical facilitation of the human condition: a desire to be social, to connect with other people and to feel appreciated.

What may start to develop over the coming year is a greater sophistication in understanding the social internet. You can map the behaviour of people engaging on the web and begin to harness not only the sharing and personal interaction this affords companies but also develop collaborative production and collective action.

This can bring groups of people together to improve your company, your products, the information and support available for patients and to develop trust through action and participation, not through messaging.

“The latest change to the Google algorithm called ‘Panda’ shifts the focus on to the quality of content rather than quantity…”

Unless pharma is able to harness the crowd to help them communicate the complex and nuanced arguments and positions that make up the health discussion, they will not be able to solve the hard problems that face them on a broader level over the next few years.

As social is a learning curve, it could be that 2012 begins to see a marked divergence in the success of companies who have made strides in the social space already, away from those who have not. With the right support, however, it is possible to make small adjustments to thinking that can make a big difference to the organisation.

5. Search moves ‘out of the search box’

Search engines are changing and social media is a large part of this evolution. The web itself is changing dramatically, with the top ten most-visited places on the internet owned by search and social applications such as Google, Bing, Facebook and twitter.

It is now possible for highly connected people to spend the whole day on the internet without visiting a website once. Search within social applications such as twitter is growing fast and many people predominantly source information through their network, even if this is not a fully conscious behavioural change.

Both Bing and Google have admitted in interviews that their search results are positively affected by social signals, such as tweets, Facebook likes, and Google +1s. Google has already started integrating its new social network Google+ into powerful and popular media platforms such as YouTube.

Assets and content that are not socially enabled will struggle to rank highly enough within search results to be easily found.

“Search engines are changing and social media is a large part of this evolution…”

There are other challenges to the search landscape in 2012 that could mean it heralds the biggest change to search in a decade. The latest change to the Google algorithm called ‘Panda’ shifts the focus on to the quality of content rather than quantity. Creating engaging experiences for audiences will have a direct impact on search engine results.

We have the mobile algorithm and different searching patterns and behaviours of the mobile user. On top of this there will be a rise in popularity of artificial intelligence voice-mediated applications such as Apple’s Siri, recently released with the iPhone 4s. This in itself will affect search as users start to bypass the search engine web-form completely, and instead put their faith in their app to find the right site for them. Bing has also made strides in this regard with Xbox voice search.

6. Privacy goes public

Over the past two or three years people have become much more comfortable sharing likes, dislikes, opinions, photos and videos online. There is a sense that people are becoming more aware of possible repercussions and will become savvier about sharing detailed forms of personal information. We have recently seen Google privatise keyword data from those searchers who are logged in to Google. This is the first effort made by Google to hide their users’ search data.

Social media users will demand that platforms provide more privacy restriction settings and more information about how their personal data is being used, and will make more informed decisions about what social platforms they engage with based on this knowledge.

Privacy concerns regarding the entire internet are under scrutiny and are subject to change in 2012.

The law which applies to how cookies and similar technologies are being used for storing information on a user’s equipment such as their computer or mobile device is changing. With these changes impacting on things such as targeting and user experience, it is something that online marketers will be eagerly awaiting in 2012.

“This is the first effort made by Google to hide their users’ search data.”

Privacy is also a big issue in health, this is best encapsulated by’s openness policy outlined on their website:

“…we believe sharing your healthcare experiences and outcomes is good. Why? Because when patients share real-world data, collaboration on a global scale becomes possible. New treatments become possible. Most importantly, change becomes possible.”

We need to explain and win the argument for an openness culture in healthcare without abusing people’s privacy and personal information.

About the author:

Alex has very recently founded the online marketing communications agency The Social Moon to provide the highest quality digital marketing communications in healthcare.

Follow Alex’s agency at twitter (@the_social_moon) or reach him directly by email:

Prior to establishing the communications agency, Alex worked in the pharmaceutical industry for over a decade, with six years at Janssen (Johnson &amp, Johnson) in numerous roles, culminating in him being senior lead in Johnson &amp, Johnson Strategic Marketing for Marketing Communications responsible for Europe, Middle East and Africa. This role worked above international brand and communications teams to deliver core integrated marketing and communications platforms, through the use of new marketing models and social enterprise strategy.

Alex is often cited as a key thought leader for digital marketing and health care social media in pharmaceuticals. He has overseen numerous award-winning projects, including the design, implementation and management of the world’s first Facebook pharma disease information community with open commenting and the UK’s first corporate pharmaceutical company twitter account. In addition, he developed a social charter, approval process and business toolkit for Janssen to move it towards becoming an innovative social business and leading to numerous digital awards for the company during his tenure.

Personal awards for Alex include becoming the first pharmaceutical recipient of the Johnson &amp, Johnson James Burke global marketing award for ‘Uncommon courage’, numerous PM Society Digital awards (including three in 2011 for Psoriasis 360). He was also the inaugural recipient of the John Mack ‘Pharmaguy’ Global Social Media Pioneer award in October 2010.

Alex is keenly interested on the impact that new media has on advertising and is an invited member of the prestigious Wharton University ‘Future of Advertising’ global advisory team.

How can we attain an openness culture in healthcare?