Content marketing has gained notoriety in the online marketing world over the last several years, and there’s no sign of it slowing down in 2017 and beyond.
Right now, content marketing leaders see nearly 8x more traffic than non-leaders, and content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing. The 2017 B2C Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America report shows promising change for content marketing:
- 86% of B2C marketers are using it.
- 63% are either much or somewhat more successful with content marketing than they were last year
- 25% are either extremely or very successful with their content marketing approach
- 60% are either extremely or very committed to content marketing.
Here’s a bit of what we can expect to see in the coming year.
1. No More Willy-Nilly Content Marketing Strategy
Today, there are a number of content managers and online marketers who still don’t have a documented content strategy. Some of them don’t even have a strategy at all.
But we’re quickly closing in on the last days of executing a successful content marketing campaign without a documented strategy in place. Recent data shows only 72% of marketers have a content strategy in place, but of those, only 30% have it documented.
In the future, posting frequency will change so that less is more. It’s okay to post less often, as long as the content you’re providing provides real value to readers. This principle is true whether the content is long-form or otherwise.
Quality over quantity is a definite mantra here. Taking the time to produce a single piece of stellar content will have a better return on investment than 100 smaller pieces of mediocre content.
2. Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing is already in full swing. With influencer marketing, your goal is to connect with people who already have an established audience and credibility in a space. These influencers have an interest in promoting products and services related to their audiences.
Influencers are everywhere and in every niche, working with brands to spread awareness and to create new customers. As more influencers connect with brands, we can expect to see the trend to keep growing, and strongly.
3. Data-Driven Content
Data is everywhere. We’re creating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day, and we’ve created about 90% of the data in the world in the last two years. As we get access to more analytics for that data, we can learn more about what our audience likes and expects to see.
With Google Analytics, it’s possible to see which blog posts your audience spends the most time on, which ones they aren’t reading often, and more. Looking for trends in this data will allow you to make better use of your content budget. Then you can focus on the content you know will resonate with your audience.
Check the data regularly to make sure the data-driven content is performing the way you expect. It might be necessary to adjust your strategy periodically to keep your audience happy with the type of content you’re producing. Data-driven marketing improves customer engagement, loyalty, and revenue, so it makes sense to use data to improve your content as well.
4. Interactive Content
Some experts are suggesting a shift toward interactive content that allows the readers to choose different paths within it. They can click sections that they find interesting and applicable to their situations. This freedom makes the content more enjoyable than the standard text-heavy content we see a lot of today.
Interactive content will cost more to develop, but it can make a lot of difference in terms of reader engagement. It therefore has a greater potential for higher ROI.
Types of interactive content you can create include:
- Personality Tests and Assessments: Deliver custom results based on how a user answers a series of questions. Personality tests offer value to the audience because they help users address specific issues. These assessments are effective because they make it possible for users to self-identify. Assessments also help you discover more about your audience, giving you information you can use to fine tune your content strategy.
- Calculators: Built to take input from a user and generate numerical results based on any number of algorithms, the options with calculators are nearly limitless. Common options include: cost calculators, ROI calculators, revenue generation calculators, and time savings calculators. Calculators provide a form of communication with your audience members as they work through their buyer journeys. And the data you collect can be applied in a number of ways throughout your marketing strategy.
- Quizzes and Knowledge Tests: These help you see what your audience knows and help you identify gaps that you can fill with educational content. You can entertain, increase page views, and ultimately build more revenue.
- Polls and Surveys: Opinion-based engagements with no right or wrong answers, these are a great choice for simple engagements. You can use them to collect feedback and gain insight from your audience. Ask visitors for their opinions, get input on product features, or ask them to vote on any number of options.
- Image/Video Galleries: These allow you to showcase a collection of images and videos. You can do so either as part of a contest or as a separate part of the user experience. And you can use the galleries to highlight content of your own or to highlight user-generated content.
- Interactive White Papers: Traditional white papers are text and data heavy. The interactive versions are condensed forms of the full white paper. They are commonly paired with something like a survey, assessment, calculator, or test. These help users educate themselves while actively answering questions related to the content.
- Interactive Infographics: Because they make the information visually interesting, infographics are already more engaging than throwing boring data at users. But interactive infographics kick it up a notch. They give you the chance to ask your audience members relevant questions as they are processing the content. In turn, you get valuable data about who your customers are and where they are in the buying process.
- Sweepstakes and Contests: People have a natural desire to compete and win, so create contests where you randomly choose winners. These are a good options for user-generated content, such as photos, video, and text/captions. These contests are valuable because they encourage users to engage with your site, generating their own content for the chance of getting something tangible in exchange. Plus, it’s easy to promote your contest or sweepstakes across multiple channels to increase its exposure.
- Interactive Video: Traditional video is engaging, but interactive video incorporates any number of elements directly into the video to increase the engagement level. Options include questions, hotspots, and calculators. The best part is that you have a nearly endless array of options for transforming any video into an interactive video. Interactive videos are a great way for marketers to create a two-way conversation with their audiences. They then learn more about them and drive deeper engagement.
5. Advertising to Offer Cost Per Engagement (CPE)
We’ve seen many publishers shift to native advertising networks so that they have more control over the ads the audience sees. But even third-party and managed service providers will begin to offer CPE buying options to make advertising more robust. Content marketers need this type of buying arrangement so that they’re only spending money when someone engages with the content.
6. More Live Video Streaming/Broadcasting
With platforms like Periscope and Facebook Live, we’ll see more use of live video. Research shows that traffic from online videos will make up 80% of all consumer internet traffic across the world by 2020. Digital video spending is projected to hit $14 billion by 2019. And half of digital video spending will be attributed to mobile video ad spending. If you’re waiting for incentive to use Facebook Live, those videos are watched 3x longer than regular videos.
Lush Cosmetics uses Facebook Live video to showcase new products, like the Witchin’ Kitchen video for its Halloween line. In this video, employees demo making products and announce those products will be available for sale. They host other live videos on a fairly regular basis, using the name, “Lush Live,” and promoting each next live event on Facebook.
iHeartRadio uses Facebook Live to build a collaboration with its audience, asking people to send in questions for radio guests. Want to see how they include fans in the experience? Take a look at this Q&A video with Keke Palmer.
7. Shift into Seller’s Market
Anyone can string words together into sentences and call himself a writer. Millions of people all over the world do so every day. Some of them even make a decent living churning out low quality content. But remember that quality content is going to become paramount to reader engagement. Brands will realize the content is a representation of themselves.
So we’ll start to see the less talented writers drop out of the market, leaving a limited number of top-quality content creators. Content creators will then be able to command higher rates to produce premium content. But some also say content marketers will be able to request and receive higher budgets for their campaigns. So the situation will work out for everyone involved.
8. Move Away from Long-Form Content
People have placed a lot of emphasis on long-form content. The reason why is that it tends to perform better in terms of search engine optimization, links, and more. But companies will start to see that long-form content isn’t always what their leads are looking for or need. Then we’ll start to see a shift back to varying content lengths, and there will be a bit more emphasis on shorter content.
9. Continued Growth in Visual Content
The internet is shifting toward visual media and has been for a while. Writers have been in control for a long time because of the past text-heavy nature of the internet. But visual content increases conversions, and visual content is 40x more likely to be shared on social media.
While there will still be a demand for writers, the market will bring in other types of creators as well. More companies are starting to use visual elements such as slideshows and videos to differentiate themselves from the competition. So we’ll see an increased demand for designers of all kinds.
10. More Personalization
We’re already starting to see a shift toward personalization in content. Nearly 9 in 10 customers say personalization impacts their purchasing decisions. Leaders in the personalization trend are showing 26% more profit overall. They are also experiencing a 12% greater market capitalization.
More companies will turn to personalization to break through the noise of all the other competition. Brands will start using more targeting to craft content based on personal preferences, interests, and desires.
What Will the Future Bring?
Only time will tell where the future of content marketing will bring us. But we expect that the content itself will be the first step, whereas a promotion and distribution strategy will become the second step. Content was once considered the finishing point, but now it’s really just the beginning.
I believe we’ll also start to see more of a focus on the “why” of our marketing campaigns—purpose-driven marketing. Having data is great. Knowing who, where, and how is great. But to be successful we must focus on why we’re creating the content in the first place.
It’s only through answering this question that we’ll be able to make sure the content has an impact on our prospects and our customers. Knowing the “why” also helps us find our deeper purpose and ensures we won’t simply churn out content for the sake of our sales and marketing strategies.
Have you noticed any recent trends in content marketing? Do you have any predictions for the coming year? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.