In the world of content marketing, much of your success comes down to staying ahead of the game. You don’t just want to use Facebook – you want to be among the first to use Facebook.
You don’t just want to have a mobile app – you want to have one of the first mobile apps available, wowing your audience and setting the standard.
To do this, you’ve got to focus on current resources while keeping an eye toward the future.
By researching trends and patterns, you can get a pretty good idea of where the industry is headed before it actually gets there.
As we are well into the new year, let’s do just that by taking a look at some of the most important content marketing predictions for 2017 and beyond.
In the world of upcoming content marketing trends, there are two main categories.
One involves the trends, innovations and new technologies that help shape the way your content is experienced by your target audience.
The other involves trends and techniques that shape the way your content is initially created.
The Future of Marketing, Part I: The Experience
1. Personalization: The Silver Bullet You’ve Been Waiting For
One of the common themes among these content marketing predictions is the increasing effectiveness of some powerful weapons that you already have in your arsenal.
Such is the case with personalization, something that brands are already using to help create the right content for the right people at the right time. Expect personalization to get even more important throughout 2017.
Face-to-face interaction can help strengthen these efforts, deepening your organic relationships with individual customers and giving you more valuable insights into what they want and, more important, when they want it.
2. Intelligent Content
Along the same lines as personalization is the idea of intelligent content, or the art of targeting certain segments of your audience with surgical precision.
Once you understand what someone wants and when to deliver it, you need to also realize that good content is no longer enough to get the job done. Expect more content to be created with the major principles of behavioral science in mind.
Intelligent content doesn’t raise awareness; it shapes and elevates the user experience by the way it is noticed, consumed, retained and acted upon.
3. Who Influences the Influencers?
Speaking of getting noticed, you can definitely expect influencer marketing to become mission-critical in 2017.
Customers are no longer willing to simply take your word that a product or service is a good one.
Instead, recommendations are a requirement – whether from friends and family members or celebrities and other notable individuals.
People want to hear from someone they know and trust about what you’re offering, and influencer marketing is one of the best ways to afford them that opportunity.
If you’re going to use influencer marketing, always remember that less is more.
If a customer absolutely loves Steve Martin, but Steve Martin never stops talking about how great your product is because you’re paying him a lot of money to do that, eventually that customer is going to stop paying attention to what Steve Martin says.
Similarly, if you have a whole slew of celebrities endorsing your product, that may also soften your results. Instead, work with a small group of quality influencers instead of a larger, hit-or-miss group.
4. The Changing Face of Ads, Part I: Native Advertising
We’re living in a world where more than 200 million people use ad-blocking software on a regular basis. Clearly, marketers need to start thinking about the way they’re approaching ads in the first place.
Anything that detracts from the experience just won’t do, which is why native advertising will become more important than ever in 2017. Newer, stealthier forms of native advertising will emerge to grab visitors’ attention.
Advertising will become something that adds to the experience rather than detracting from it.
Speaking of native advertising, organic native ads are absolutely a trend to watch this year. Take Instagram, for example.
One of its biggest selling points as a platform is that in Instagram, banner ads don’t look like traditional display ads; they look like the rest of the photos posted on someone’s page.
Suddenly an ad isn’t an ad at all; it’s just another piece of relevant content — or so you hope.
The format doesn’t detract from the overall user experience in any way, which helps keep engagement high while also driving awareness. Look for platforms beyond social media to adopt these tactics across the board.
5. It’s a Video World; We’re All Just Living in It
At this point, nobody needs to be told that video is a powerful way to connect with target audiences. What does need to be said, though, is that this trend continues to grow and shows no sign of slowing down.
According to Hubspot, videos don’t just lead to higher conversions on your landing page (to the tune of 80 percent); they’re also a great way to target the ever-growing mobile user market.
Video already has one of the highest returns on investment of any technique you can use, but in terms of cold, hard dollars and cents, expect it to become the No. 1 technique to accomplish nearly all your goals in the not-too-distant future.
While we’re talking video, let’s not forget about the huge hit of instant gratification that live video delivers.
It’s already available through services such as Facebook and YouTube, and it’s coming soon to Instagram. As users continue to adopt live video in their personal lives, expect them to want the businesses with which they interact to do the same.
Live video is a great way to help your audience feel a deeper, more personal connection to your business.
People want advertising to feel less like a piece of marketing and more like a fly-on-the-wall, documentary-style look into your daily operations. Get comfortable with the idea of giving it to them.
6. Augmented & Virtual Reality
Remember Google Glass? You’re forgiven if you don’t, but it’s perhaps the perfect way to describe the goal of augmented reality.
It isn’t about creating something from nothing, as in virtual reality; instead, it’s about taking the life a person already lives and making it better with strategic content. You’ll need to focus on creating content that adds to the user’s current situation.
Along the same lines is virtual reality. HBO and others have been finding huge success with this technology, transporting users into the fictional realities of popular shows such as “Game of Thrones.”
VR was once the most exclusive of niche platforms, but as the technology has become more affordable, and with companies such as Oculus making huge breakthroughs, you can expect this to be yet another trend to watch this year.
As we noted earlier, being among the first to use a particular platform is one way to stay ahead of the marketing curve. Instagram is currently that platform, although the window to get in on the ground floor is rapidly closing.
Prophet forecasts that by 2019, Instagram could be bringing in more money from display ad revenue than Google and Twitter combined.
It’s a platform on the rise that hits all the right marks for audience engagement and awareness, making it a great place to focus your efforts in 2017.
Part of the reason why Instagram is so great for marketers is Instagram Business Tools, a platform designed precisely with business users in mind.
It allows you to verify your account as a business and gives you full access to the analytics you need to better understand your audience.
If nothing else, it gives you the perfect foundation for building an optimal social media strategy for 2017 and beyond.
The Future of Marketing, Part II: Your Business
If everything up to this point was focused on the perceptions of your end user, the following trends are focused inward on you and your team — on how you create your content and how you measure its effectiveness.
8. A Brand New Era of Accountability
Once you’ve started to put new techniques and innovations in place, you need a way to measure it all. It stands to reason that a new level of accountability is needed.
The latest content creation and content distribution strategies aim to acquire new customers in the most measurable way possible. You’ll need to develop new metrics and put new systems in place to help make sure this is actually happening.
9. Preventing Online Abuse
Let’s face facts: Online abuse is bad for just about everyone. It certainly doesn’t make users feel welcome to a particular platform, and from a marketing perspective, it only gets in the way of the important message you’re trying to communicate.
Platforms such as Instagram have already taken steps to help fix this issue by implementing features designed specifically with user protection in mind.
As social media becomes a more dominant part of your ongoing campaign, it’s going to be up to you to do the same.
You’ll need to start paying attention to not just the content you’re putting out there but the reaction to it and the discussions that crop up among users. Preventing online abuse doesn’t just help increase user engagement – it’s also the right thing to do.
10. Sales + Content = Match Made in Heaven
The wall between your sales team and your content is one that’s been slowly eroding for many years. Expect it to be destroyed for all time in 2017, as it becomes even more essential for sales and content to feed off and inform one another.
This is particularly true in terms of face-to-face interactions, which can be initiated by the sales team to the benefit of your content creation.
Buyer personas are great, but nothing beats a little one-on-one time for gaining the valuable insights you need to ensure that you put the right content in the right place at the perfect moment.
11. Weaponized Strategic Workflow Creation
As you start to adapt the way you do things in-house to take advantage of the valuable new insights you’re collecting, you’ll also need to focus on figuring out how to work smarter, not harder.
You’ll be dealing with more data than ever before from countless channels and sources, so finding the fastest, most efficient way to make sense of it all will become a top priority.
Part of this will come down to optimizing your workflow — in other words, automation. By automating certain repetitive tasks such as data entry, you can refocus your valuable time where it will do the most good.
Sophisticated, tech-based workflows can be tailored to automatically create personal experiences for buyers, all while guiding them smoothly down the sales funnel.
Automated workflows are designed to supplement your existing processes, not necessarily replace them.
If you combine a smart, personalized workflow with the right video content, for example, you’ve suddenly got a compelling, emotional way to build a connection with your audience and show off your brand personality.
It’s about finding newer, better — and hopefully easier — ways to engage with your audiences.
12. Rebuilding Your Audience Engagement Strategy
Another top content marketing trend to watch for in 2017 involves redefining what an audience engagement strategy really is.
Technology will continue to empower the way you do your job on a daily basis, giving you the chance to break audiences down into more meaningful segments than ever before.
This in turn lets you get even more specific and personal with your content, strengthening that all-important bond. As a marketer, it’s up to you to leverage these tools effectively for the benefit of the content you’re creating.
13. The Evolution of Content Strategy
It can’t be said too often: The content you’re putting out into the world must have a purpose, and that purpose should be to provide true value to the people who experience it.
This means focusing on quality over quantity. A high volume of content that doesn’t provide value is ultimately less than meaningless – it’s irresponsible.
Every decision you make regarding content — including its form, its message, its destination and its intended audience — needs to have a purpose. Focus on making decisions that help foster demand and build relationships.
Remember that the stronger your content strategy, the easier it is to follow. In this regard, you can truly never prepare too much. An added benefit of a strong content strategy is that it makes your teams more agile.
With a North Star to follow, they can stop working in silos and chasing yesterday’s trends and start focusing on what really matters.
14. Going Global
The world is getting smaller and more interconnected all the time, thanks in no small part to the internet and the powerful mobile devices we carry around with us.
This means you are now officially competing on a global scale – whether you want to or not. To succeed, you’ll need to embrace this idea with open arms. Start thinking about breaking down barriers through techniques such as translations.
Focus on finding newer, more meaningful and more valuable ways to reach out to people everywhere.
Their specific location on planet Earth doesn’t matter anymore, not when a single retweet can put your content in front of eyes in Los Angeles, London and everywhere in between.
15. Agile Marketing Adoption
The idea of globalization leads to perhaps the single most significant inward-facing marketing trend not only of 2017, but of the next two decades. The marketing industry is changing every day, sometimes in small ways and sometimes in massive and understandably scary ones.
Disruption can easily throw you off balance if you’re not prepared for it, but the biggest mistake you can make is to look at it like it’s a bad thing.
New technologies are going to emerge. New creative skills will be required. Your team’s focus will need to change rapidly to meet these challenges. When you’re facing these types of massive shifts, you’re only option is to get better, because you don’t have a choice.
Work to develop and prioritize work based on your audience, not on the calendar date. Your audience is the North Star that your entire business should be following.
This isn’t something you’ll master overnight, but then again, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Thankfully, as technology gives us bold new directions to follow, it also gives us the resources we need to get the work done.
With all that we’ve said, we’ve covered just some of what’s going to be hot in content marketing in 2017 and beyond. Understand that you don’t have to use all of these techniques.
Failing to capitalize on something like augmented reality or Instagram won’t close a door that can never be opened again. However, it’s important to recognize that marketing is, by its very design, a forward-thinking enterprise.
Gone are the days where you can tell people what they wanted so long as you had a loud enough voice. Instead, you’ve got to show them what they need to make decisions for themselves. The techniques discussed here are all excellent ways to accomplish that.
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