The evolution of marketing is always scary. It seems like whenever we adapt to our customers’ preferences and habits, they change.
For many brands, content marketing is crucial. For startups, it’s the most important growth channel.
The value of content marketing is undisputed. A study by Smart Insights and HubSpot found that 53% of marketers see clear ROI and 43% at least see opportunities. But “content” is a big word. It includes countless topics, formats, and distribution channels.
When new technology is released or a new format is discovered, customers demand it, and we’re often forced to start producing before we understand what we’re making. Operating on the “hey-this-is-cool-let’s-make-a-lot-right-now” model is a sure way to burn through resources without certain results.
To stay fresh and competitive, we have to anticipate the coming trends and have the right types of content ready before our customers find it somewhere else. In 2017, you should make sure you’re capitalizing on these trends.
(Important note: These trends will undoubtedly be big this year, but that doesn’t mean you have to employ them all. Make sure you use strategies that are right for your brand. For instance, if video just doesn’t make sense for your industry/niche/customer/brand, don’t use it.)
It’s important to document your content marketing strategy. It should include your goals, research, tactics, and metrics. It should also include a rolling editorial calendar with topics that support your overall goal and get measured for effectiveness.
A documented strategy keeps you focused on achieving your goals. It prevents you from jumping on the latest bandwagon.
Too often, I see marketers spending resources on tactics that can’t possibly support their goals and I think, “There’s no strategy behind that. They’re just doing things.” (The other day I saw a B2B insurance company with a Snapchat account. Sorry, but that isn’t going to bring in customers.)
Sadly, a B2B Content Marketing report from Content Marketing Institute found that only 37% of content marketers have a documented content strategy. 41% have a strategy “in mind” (which is a little better, I suppose), but haven’t put it down on paper.
The bright side is that 17% of marketers plan to create a strategy within the next year, so expect to see more well-planned content in 2017.
More Video Content
Video content certainly isn’t new, but it exploded in 2016. The trend is expected to continue in 2017, accounting for 69% of all Internet traffic. Publishers of content that isn’t traditionally suited for video are still seeking ways to capitalize on the trend.
Facebook is the primary window-to-the-web for many people and it’s putting an emphasis on video. The site pushes users and brands to use Facebook Live and bumps video content higher in people’s News Feeds.
HubSpot research shows that most people watch at least some video content every week and they pay closer attention to it than written content.
Most importantly, video pays. A Firebrand Group study discovered that 85% of marketers see clear positive ROI from video content, so expect to see more of it.
As a content marketer, ephemeral content (sometimes called topical content) scares me. I want my content to be evergreen so it can be found and used forever. The idea that something I spend resources to create can be irrelevant tomorrow is… unsettling.
But if Snapchat has taught us anything, it’s that short-lasting content can thrive. The expiration dates on Snapchat content force users to consume it right now or lose it.
Snapchat isn’t right for all content creators, but the principal remains. People like to read content that’s relevant and timely. In 2017, we’ll see more brands investing in topical content, such as summaries of conferences, live blogs during presentations, or Twitter chats.
In the past, content marketers were content to publish “McPosts” (fast, cheap, little value, and frustratingly similar to everything else). Bloggers would craft posts in an hour with little outside research or consideration of value. More pages = more results, they assumed.
But times have changed. Where Google was once our master, now we serve actual people. Value has become the standard.
In 2017, we’re going to see the continuation of purpose-driven content; content that’s designed to deliver as much value as possible to tightly defined audiences. The best content will be useful and unique.
Content length isn’t the only metric of value, but it’s the most easily measured. Longer content outperforms shorter content in terms of position on Google’s results pages and social shares.
We’re all busy people. Consuming content takes time and there’s always more of it pouring into our inboxes and social media feeds. We want to make sure the content we spend our time consuming is relevant to our lives.
Interactive content makes your audience feel involved. It tailors the content to their specific needs. According to CMI, “Eighty-one percent of marketers agree that interactive content grabs more attention than static content.” The benefits are obvious.
Check out this New York Times article: You Draw It: How Family Income Predicts Children’s College Chances.
The user has to interact with the graph to unlock the rest of the content. The content that appears is tailored to the graph’s data. No, they didn’t write a page for every permutation. They identified six to ten trends that apply to most people. From the user’s point of view, the output is right-on-the-nose specific.
Pages like this are the most valuable types of content because they give personalized information. In 2017, we’re going to see more stuff like this.
Just because creating content requires creative skills doesn’t mean it can’t be organized in a process. The smartest brands are mapping their content production to ensure efficiency and reliability.
Good processes require talented people. In 2017, we expect brands to utilize multiple people in the production process, rather than a single generalist. Yes, this creates managerial challenges, but the superior output is worth the investment.
At Audience Ops, we use a Trello pipeline to move content pieces through each phase of our process: upcoming, draft, editing, setup, final check, client preview, and complete. Each phase has its own deadline. When tasks are completed, our team assigns the article to the next person in the chain.
At any time, our managers can quickly view the production process from a high level and identify errors. This gives us control over our production and deftly manages the content marketing pieces (writers, managers, editors, designers, articles, content upgrades, social media posts, newsletters, reports, etc.).
2017 in One Word
If I had to use one word to describe content marketing in 2017, it’d be this: Maturity.
This year, we’ll all be raising the bar. We’ll be creating content that resonates with our audience more than ever before. We’ll think strategically, invest heavily, and test objectively.
Check out our upcoming content marketing tool, the Audience Ops Calendar. Our Calendar is a comprehensive platform for creating, preparing, sharing and measuring your content. There’s no better way to push through the content noise in 2017.