Content marketing was rated as the most important technique for driving incremental sales in 2017, according to Smart Insights. In an industry that’s all about experimentation, some key trends stood out this year and paved the way for next year’s content marketing best practices. Here are 6 trends to watch out for in 2018.
1. Brands will continue to invest in original content
Recently, it became public knowledge that tech giant Apple is planning to invest over $1 billion on original content. Though some gossip states Apple is making this move to take on Netflix, we believe there’s more on Apple’s mind than video streaming. As competition in the mobile space continues to heat up, the brand needs to stay relevant. And valuable, original programming can help the company grow its audience and keep its current customers satisfied (just like all brands should!).
Google is also purchasing original content from media companies and brands to fill content gaps it has discovered using its search algorithm, and Facebook is investing large amounts of capital on original video. Not to be outdone, online shopping giant Amazon will be perhaps the largest investor of all. While we’re not exactly sure what all of this means yet, we do know that some of the largest brands in the world see original, consistent content as important.
If your competitors haven’t started investing in bespoke content yet, they will soon. The time for building your thought leadership and inspire your audience is now. As an added bonus, investing in original content creation will give your brand multiple options to monetize that content, either through prospects and current customers or through content syndication with major brand influencers.
2. Transparency will be king
Consumers are becoming increasingly desensitized. Millennials, in particular, want (and even expect) companies to be transparent, authentic and dedicated to giving back. However, according to Digiday, there’s a growing exhaustion in brand advertising, environmental claims, charitable contributions and corporate support for causes. Some brands have tied this together in an appealing way, but many others are causing consumers to see this type of promotion as desperate or dishonest.
Nielsen’s 2015 Global Trust in Advertising Survey makes it clear where consumers are putting their trust. (See the graphic below). We expect these trust trends to continue in 2018 - with recommendations being the most trustworthy and online ads and social ads less so.
It’s clear from this survey and other similar research that consumers don’t believe they get the same authenticity from brands that they get from their peers.Moving forward, brands need to focus on transparency and disclosure to close this gap as much as possible. This is why we’ve seen the growth of influencer marketing in the past few years.
But keep in mind that even working with influencers can be tricky. The Federal Trade Commission continues to take measures to protect consumers from companies who aren’t transparent enough--with influencers and otherwise. Take what happened with Machinima, for example:
In 2015, the FTC gave Machinima, a YouTube gaming network, a warningfor not disclosing paid endorsements to YouTube influencers who produced content for the channel.
And this is not the only such instance. A quick Google search shows that a lack of disclosure and transparency have caused trouble for many brands.
To build (and maintain) the trust of your audience, the next phase of influencer marketing and brandedcontent is to ensure that every piece of content you create, whether on social media, your website or otherwise, should be completely transparent.
3. Content marketing budgets will continue to increase
A recent study shows that building expertise in content marketing is the number one goal for marketers in Asia Pacific. U.S. content marketing budgets are also increasing, as are others across the globe. This is great news for content marketers who have been waiting years to have their efforts acknowledged; however, it’s also interesting that these budgets typically revolve around native advertising campaigns and projects.
Many brands continue to think of their content marketing like advertising., but content marketing should be unique and consistently delivered to an audience over a long period of time--not delivered in short bursts. Your content marketing department should be acting more like a media company and less like an advertising firm. Keep this in mind when you are planning out the budget for your 2018 content marketing strategy.
4. Content marketing duties will continue to overlap
These days, it can be difficult to determine exactly who is in charge of content. Roles and duties are shifting inside of the marketing department, and even those in other departments are fighting for the rights to own the brand’s content strategy, voice and execution. PR and communications may have their own separate content creators, social media managers may not be integrated with the official content team, and no one is really in charge. Such disarray can lead to a very disjointed content strategy.
When this happens, marketing leaders (preferably the CMO or the highest marketing position) must step up and take control, giving guidance on who is the lead person (or team) for content strategy. Marketing practitioners should also meet with the leaders of other departments to ensure everyone is on the same page about who owns content strategy and execution. In 2018, make sure your marketing department and overall organization are on the same page regarding content.
In addition, you need to ensure that your content marketing strategy is continuously improving, customized for different audiences and personas, and adapted to new formats to keep customers guessing. Ideas can always been improved upon. To alleviate some of the confusion with roles, your content team may need to grow and adapt in 2018. Ensure you have employees with talents in the following areas:
- Editing, illustration, and graphic design
- Video editing and production
- Content promotion and distribution
- Content optimization across multiple formats
- Audio production and editing skills
- Branding and communications
- Metrics, analytics, and reporting
- Media purchasing and advertising
- Strategy development, execution, and campaign management
Successful organizations are using a spread of content tactics across a wide range of media types and channels. See the infographic below for more information. With clear direction from marketing executives and the right mix of marketing talent, you can have a well-defined content strategy that’s extremely successful across all of the tactics you choose.
5. IoT (The Internet of Things) will take content off-screen
Customers are no longer limited to the screen in the way that they view content. And while different content formats (radio, television, billboards) have always been available, the Internet of Things has made it so that content is interwoven into our lives in a brand-new way. Consider how we currently interact with technologies such as Apple’s Siri. When users speak, Siri responds with call-and-response content wherever and whenever they need it. Amazon’s voice service, Alexa, is becoming a digital doorway to content as well.
Many organizations already use Alexa to share content with their audiences beyond their laptop, tablet or phone screens. For example, the American Heart Association uses Alexa to provide details on performing CPR, including step-by-step information on how to perform the process in an emergency situation. The content also includes information on the warning signs of a stroke or heart attack.
Pet food brand Purina is also benefitting from Amazon’s Alexa, specifically the “Ask Purina” content.
Ask Purina includes a wide range of information on dog breeds, including each breed’s shedding level, energy level, size and more.
With IoT, everything is becoming digital (and voice activated). With beacon-based proximity marketing, sensors, device pairing and more, there are many new and exciting opportunities for marketers to invest in content interactions that feel fresh to their audience. This type of highly-targeted content can help you reach your audience at the right place and the best time.
6. Pre-recorded video is so 2017
Well, maybe it won’t be gone for good, but pre-recorded video content is continuing to be overshadowed by live video. Buffer ran a survey in 2016 that provided some insight into how marketers see video changing, and over 80 percent said they want to create more video content. 42 percent specifically wanted to create more live video. We expect the latter number to continue to increase. While live video really exploded in 2016 and 2017, we believe it will become even more mainstream in 2018.
According to Facebook, users spend 3x more time watching live videos than videos that are no longer live and comment more than 10x more during live videos. Additionally, a Livestream survey showed that: 80% of respondents would rather tune into a live video than read a blog post. The good is that live video can work for almost any business, whether is a closer look at your products or a behind-the-scenes look your company culture. You have a unique opportunity to take advantage of live video before some of your competitors do, so get started today!
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