In 2011, Microsoft acquired Skype; Facebook's and Twitter's advertising platforms gained momentum; Google joined the social networking party with Google+; social became a mainstream component within search-engine results pages (SERPs); and Congress called for increased disclosure by companies providing location-based services.

As 2012 follows on the heels of such events, what digital changes and trends should forward-thinking marketers anticipate? Here are Optify's Top 12 predictions for the year ahead.

1. Marketing automation 2.0 will arrive, ushering in mature software and increasing enterprise adoption

Historically, marketing automation has consisted primarily of email and email nurturing. In 2011, however, we witnessed the expansion of social customer relationship management (CRM). Marketing automation is now one of the fastest growing segments of the CRM industry.

In 2012, it will evolve from being an early-adopter tool into a mainstream solution for organizations that want to connect marketing operations, from the very top of the funnel, to online search, and down through sales and customer management.

Industry players like Aprimo, Eloqua, Marketo, and Optify (our company) will continue to shape the marketing automation 2.0 revolution.

2. Customers and employees will become an extended part of companies' marketing teams

As social networks are used ever-more frequently for aggregating and sharing interests, expect opinions, positive or negative, about products and services to spread with lightening speed. As a result, businesses' customer relationships will become increasingly focused on creating and managing perceptions.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brian Goffman is CEO and co-founder of Optify, a leading provider of marketing software and services for the real-time Web.