Approach 1: Menu Badges
Use the Menu Badges module to add such notifications to any menu item and/or menu tab of your choice. Here are some details about it (from its project page):
Provides a method for adding iOS-style badges to menu items. (see screenshot)
Adding Badges to Menus
Once enabled, go to
Administration > Structure > Menus, and click "list links" next to the menu containing the target item. Click "edit" next to the item and select the badge to display with the Display Menu Badge select box.
Adding Badges to Tabs
For adding badges to menu tabs, there is a tab under
Administration > Structure > Menus called "Tab Menu Badges". Search for the menu router path of the tab you want to alter, then select a badge from the corresponding select box.
The module includes five example badges, and new badges can be created easily with Views. Modules can also supply their own badges with a hook implementation. See the README.txt file for details.
Because of how it integrates with the Views module, you basically reduce the solution for any type of notification to something like "Just create an appropriate view of it".
Approach 2: Message stack
Use the Message Stack, which consists of these modules (quotes are from the module's project page):
The Message module is the core of the message stack. It enables logging and displaying system events in a number of different use cases. Events that are recorded over time are sometimes call activity streams. Exportable messages subtypes can be created for different use cases with custom fields and display (view) modes.
This module provides a method for sending a message via a notifier plugin. Message Notify comes with plugins for email and SMS and may be extended to other transport mechanisms as required.
With this module, users who subscribe to content will be notified when events occur that involve that content. The module leverages the Flag module, which provides a subscribe functionality to users.
These are the basic components and dependencies of the message stack:
Quite a few popular Drupal distributions already adopted to this Message Stack, such as such as Commerce Kickstart, Drupal Commons, ERPAL and Open Atrium.
If you want to have a closer look at the Message Stack in your own environment, then experiment a bit with the Answers module (disclosure: I'm a co-maintainer), together with the Answers Notification sub-module, which allows logged in users to subscribe to selected questions, so that they receive notifications (using the Message Stack) when Questions receive Answers.
And the Message Stack will make you well positioned for Drupal 8 also (because of he modules' object orientated architecture). Even though there is no such a thing as 8.x-dev yet, the Message code repository already does contain something already (not yet for the 2 other modules though). I assume the
wip part of the branch name stands for 'Work In Progress'.