It won’t surprise any marketer to learn, that if consumers want information, they go looking. Whether it’s a new recipe, or they’re considering a new washing machine, the answers are within reach. Businesses have learned that they need to be present at this point. Or they risk obscurity.
To avoid this, organisations have learned to become publishers, compelling their marketers to create vast amounts of content. Once seen as a niche discipline, content marketing is arguably the central component of most modern marketing strategies.
But the world of content marketing is not without its challenges. Consumers have high expectations. Not just of the content quality, but of the availability and relevance. Even of their own experience when consuming it. This presents real challenges for even the most developed marketing operation. So it’s important to stay up-to-date and keep your content strategy evolving. In this blog we’ll look at some of the key content trends to watch out for in the year ahead.
Perhaps one of key content trends emerging in content marketing is the way in which content is developed. Agile is a methodology in which teams take an iterative and collaborative approach to creating content.
Key principles of agile content development include:
- Continuous delivery – Agile favours imperfect (but still high quality) content, delivered on short time scales and improved as necessary.
- Adapt where necessary – If requirements change mid-project, be prepared to make changes.
- Focus on simplicity – Strip back objectives and reduce what needs to be achieved before you can deliver tangible outputs.
- Collaborate and review often – Content teams must meet regularly, to review and fine-tune their operation.
The overriding objective is to deliver valuable content to customers as quickly as possible
From webinars and business surveys, to specialist applications such as finance calculators or car configurators, interactive content is already surprisingly prevalent. The expectation of hyper-personalised and highly targeted content grows. And the importance of interactive content will also develop, driven by its ability to create deeper engagement – it literally demands your attention.
This year, watch out for the explosion of interactive content, delivered using human language processing technology, such as chatbots and smart speakers. We’re also likely to see more content gamification. And the maturing of emerging technology, such as augmented reality and virtual reality.
The rebirth of long-form content
It’s often asserted that “attention spans are getting shorter”, but this may be an oversimplification. It’s certainly true that the world is full of distractions – particularly digital channels. This can often contribute to low dwell-times and high bounce rates, giving the impression of short attention spans. But users have learned to flit around, subconsciously filtering noise, ingesting information passively, until they find something that fulfills their need.
When they find such content, they are prepared to invest their time. But only if the content is in-depth and has good production values. In response to this, brands are creating more long-form content, aimed at building their thought-leadership credentials and taking ownership of topics. Marketing content clusters are emerging, consisting of short-form supporting pieces, centred around a long-form central content pillar. These varied content hubs focus on particular topics, offering content to buyers at every stage of their journey.
Marketing content clusters are emerging, consisting of short-form supporting pieces, centred around a long-form central content pillar.
Video – not new but one of the crucial content trends
Video isn’t new, of course. YouTube is one of the most visited properties online, Facebook generates billions of video views daily, and last year B2B favourite LinkedIn finally introduced video to the its newsfeed. In years gone by, high-quality video had been predominantly the domain of media companies and brands with large budgets. But more recently, brands of all shapes and sizes have been jumping on board.
Taking the fact that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world as one indicator of the importance of video, this trend is hardly surprising. Brands are responding – from fully-fledged branded content extravaganzas, to how-to guides, and short explainers, video in content marketing is set to accelerate exponentially as marketers build the skill-sets and understanding they need.
YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world
UGC & Influencers
In 2015, LinkedIn announced that more than 1 million users had published a post on the platform. Today, bloggers on WordPress produce nearly 3 million blogs every 24 hours, highlighting the phenomenal rate of growth in user generated content (UGC).
Savvy brands are realising that UGC can be harnessed for marketing purposes – from tweets, to short reviews and testimonials, video unboxings, or simple photographs, UGC can deliver impressive volume, and unbiased, authentic voices.
Beyond that, marketers have also come to understand that they can find synergies with influential users, collaborate with them to reach their followers, and enable the creation of great content.
The final in our list of content trends we’re looking at isn’t actually about the content at all. It’s about how the content is deployed and the experience of customers when they’re consuming it. For years, brands have known that customer experience (CX) is a key differentiator in their customer’s journey, but often thought of content as “pre-journey”. Many brands worked on the principle that content would get people into the funnel, then they could worry about CX from there. As content becomes ingrained in every stage of the customer journey, and brands realise that users want high-quality experiences at every touch-point, CX in content will become pivotal.
Blogs, or periodical updates are good examples of where brands often fall short – if customers are viewing articles on mobile, is their experience as high-quality as on desktop? If they’re using a tablet, is the content “aware” of this, and does it respond accordingly? Does content give them familiar, native controls, and easy-to-read layouts?
This year, marketers are learning to give the same level of attention to their content, as they have to their checkout process, digital merchandising and more. Quality content CX is now a requirement.
So, that was a list of content trends to watch out for in content marketing this year. As with everything in marketing and technology, it’s constantly evolving, so it’s by no means exhaustive.
What we do know for sure, is that new technologies are helping to put business people in direct control, and reducing the dependence on IT. In the year ahead, successful businesses will use this to their advantage, freeing up the resources they need to generate more content, by focusing on workflows and automation. Consumers expect high quality experiences across the board – on every device, at any time. If they can’t get them from your brand, they’ll go elsewhere. With that in mind, investment in content itself is a must, but so too is investment in tools to help streamline and scale your content operation.
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