2008 has seen an explosion in many different areas of digital, in particular we believe the full mainstream adoption of traditional digital marketing channels like email marketing, pay per click and SEO. While big business players have been doing this kind of marketing for a long time, we have only this year seen it trickle down to all companies, even those that for a long time have considered the Internet as a relatively useless marketing channel (e.g. Trades generally).

For the more forward thinking companies, on the edge of new technologies, there have been some very deep in roads made into social media such as Facebook, with some limited success. Social media is a very hard sphere to get right for traditional companies, banks especially. It’s seen as an invasion of someone’s personal space, this is their realm, not the banks.

The biggest trend that we have seen online is something that has been happening in all the best businesses for a long time, whether it was online or not and that is conversation and interaction - this is the biggest thing to bear in mind for 2009. The Internet, unlike any invention since the mobile phone, has enabled people’s streams of information to cross more than ever before. Combine that with the power of location and mobile phones generally and there’s a massive potential.

So what does this mean really?

Well the easiest way is to imagine a scenario. I go to the cinema to see a film, let’s say I saw "Madagascar 2" - yes I do love the Pixar movies. I love it and so on my Facebook page, I say so. On my Twitter feed, I say I loved it too. Now when any of my friends check either of these two places they know I liked it. If they trust my taste (another question), that might reinforce them further to see it themselves or vice versa. I haven’t called anyone or spoken to anyone – I just put something into my information stream, for want of a better term, and it has been distributed.

This has been going on for a few years now however in 2009 it’s really going to gather some very serious momentum, with Google introducing comments on search results (Google Search Wiki) the popularity of social networks such as Facebook and Bebo; Twitter’s start of mainstream adoption and the steady rise of specialist social networks based on market verticals or common interest groups.

In 2009 you cannot underestimate the number of conversations that will be going on about your brand online and offline and how much people will vocalise their experiences to wider audiences than ever before and at a very rapid rate.

So what can you do?

Take control of your online reputation. Encourage conversations with your clients/customers by starting a blog with comments enabled and encourage a two way interaction. Communication is key as we know, however the level of communication will need to rise, the transparency of your services and products will need to increase and any issues with your products/services will be found quicker and spread faster.

Here’s the best way to put this point. Type in "Webfusion hosting" into Google. You see their site top. The next two sites after are review sites. Go to each of these review sites and read the reviews. That’s what we mean in a nutshell. That conversation will be going on everywhere – Facebook, Twitter, Bebo – any social media platform you care to mention. Not good if you’re Webfusion. Here’s the big thing though – the review sites may well be right, but without the Internet though, how would you find that out?