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10 Trends for Online Marketers in 2011 A look at the latest technology tools that will influence how you reach customers.

By John Arnold Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

With a new year in swing, it's time again to focus on setting new revenue records in 2011 by investing in the marketing strategies with the highest return-on-investment potential. Small businesses have more at risk than big companies when it comes to capitalizing on new trends, so your timing should follow the old saying, "The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese."

The following list features my top 10 online marketing trends for this year, as well as advice for whether you should be the bird (invest now) or the mouse (leave the trend on the sidelines).

No. 1: Location-Based Marketing
Advice: Be the early bird
Location is so relevant that Google has already started mixing local results and maps with other searches.

Get your business ready for location-based marketing by claiming your spot on Google Places. Make your website more mobile-friendly with clickable phone numbers and maps. Also, prepare for more marketing features to be added to search results, such as mobile coupons, custom tags and logos.

No. 2: Instant Search
Advice: Be the early bird
Since Google decided to make search results and suggested key phrases appear instantly as people type, look for some consumers to abandon their first-choice, shorter search phrases in favor of these more relevant suggestions. For example, a consumer searching "desk lamp" might go with the suggestion "desk lamp reviews." If your business is optimized for shorter search phrases, it's time to evaluate the longer phrases to make sure you aren't missing potential customers.

No. 3: Social Media Monitoring
Advice: Be the mouse
This year, the reality will be revealed that social media conversations conducted by businesses aren't as personal, memorable or profitable as they would like to believe. Spend your time and money building a fantastic customer experience. Then, let your fans do the positive talking as you leverage your social media properties to reach your customers with social marketing campaigns.

No. 4: Social Media Marketing
Advice: Be the early bird
Savvy entrepreneurs are abandoning chatter in favor of running actual marketing campaigns on social media sites. Try a social sweepstakes, contest, group deal or coupon. You can use sites like Foursquare to reward loyal customers who check-in to your business, and services like Wildfire to help you run promotional applications.

No. 5: Mobile Marketing
Advice: Be the mouse
While 2010 showed us that many people use text messaging, email and social media on their smartphones, most consumers still aren't comfortable snapping a picture of a bar code.

If you want to dabble in mobile marketing this year, start by building an application, mobile website or text messaging campaign. If you own a retail store, try an in-store promotion so you can walk your mobile users through the process of snapping a bar code or texting a short code to retrieve a coupon and redeem it at the register.

No. 6: Online Advertising
Advice: Be the early bird
Banner ads may sound antiquated, but display advertising is destined to become hot this year. In fact, it's now easier for small businesses to place display ads on millions of websites by going through a few ad networks that have purchased most of the space available on publisher websites. Those ads can be tailored by geography, behavior and category of interest. It's a great way to boost the results from your pay-per-click budget this year because combining search marketing with online display ads generally increases the results from both.

No. 7: Email Marketing
Advice: Be the early bird
Facebook has announced plans to add a more familiar looking email inbox and social media integration with email marketing tools is well underway. Mobile applications are making email easier to use on smartphones, and the HTML functions on phones are making branded emails look prettier on mobile screens. It's probably time to give your email marketing a facelift.

No. 8: Social Shopping
Advice: Be the mouse
People already share their purchases socially, but newer social shopping technologies, such as Swipely and Blippy, make it possible to share with just one click or swipe of the credit card. If your products stir excitement, or you can offer a group discounts, give this technology a try.

No. 9: Instant Messaging
Advice: Be the mouse
This could be the year when website visitors begin to expect instant answers to their questions. If you have customer service teams or a sales force that are in front of computers or mobile phones all day, consider running an instant messaging test.

No. 10: Online Television
Advice: Be the mouse
Consumers will be able to customize their television feeds, browse the Web while watching shows, watch programs on-demand and even control their televisions with a mobile phone. Online television presents a huge opportunity for advertisers because the targeting options are so much better than traditional TV. However, you may have to wait to capitalize on this trend as the corporate television giants tend to be slow about making changes.

To see my predictions for last year, see "10 Web Marketing Trends for 2010."

John Arnold

Marketing consultant and author

John Arnold is a marketing strategist and author offering practical marketing tips and advice to B2B companies. Connect with him at 

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