The new year is already well underway, but is your content marketing plan keeping up? Nothing stays always the same — especially not on the web — so it's imperative that you keep up with the evolving trends. It's less than a month into 2017, but we can already see the broad strokes of how this year's trends will take shape for content marketers. Let's look at five specific trends that can help you market your business or blog this year, no matter what your industry or niche may be:
- Live video
- Content & marketing automation
- Influencer marketing
- Evolution of user-generated content
- Social media shakeup
Facebook Live and Twitter's integration of Periscope, YouTube Live… 2016 was definitely the year of the introduction of live video on social channels. This year, look for live video to catch up with and possibly even overtake more traditional kinds of text-based and visual content. Its rawness and immediacy are compelling to many consumers, and that makes it especially well-suited for transparent “behind the scenes” content. This kind of video content seems pretty popular.
We'll possibly also see more brands begin to create their own web shows and other kinds of narratively entertaining content. As technology lowers the barriers to entry, it's not all that difficult to imagine brands becoming “the new Netflix” by producing their own branded video offerings. So if you haven’t already embraced video marketing yet, in one format or another, this is your year. It's no longer a fad – it's a core competency for effective brand storytelling.
The brands that will shine will be those that use humor smartly and aren't afraid to innovate and try new things. Undoubtedly, there will be some awkwardness and stumbling around initially, but as brands get better at video, the stories they tell will be more effective and compelling.
Content & marketing automation
2016 was the year that neural networks improved Google Translate and Pokemon Go swept the land. This year, artificial intelligence and machine learning will have more impact on automation, rendering it smarter and more personalized.
AI-assisted technology could help in many ways, or it could conceivably reduce the demand for marketing professionals. Most likely, it'll be a bit of both, and that journey has already begun. But marketers will need to educate themselves on automation's proper place, using it to assist and not replace the creation of great content.
Chatbots for customer service may become even more popular as the technology becomes more sophisticated and provides a smoother and more natural language experience. Together with excellent personal attention, bots can help your customers get basic information more quickly and more efficiently. This can only help your brand if the bots are well-implemented.
AI can also help personalize marketing, thus allowing you to more precisely target content to a highly specific audience. Smart brands can use automation to help place both content and offers in front of the right audience, based on meaningful factors such as demonstrated past behavior and likelihood of purchase.
Brands should use the freed-up mental bandwidth to create stellar content that their audiences actually want and value. Concurrently, we should also see a move towards the extremes of content length — lots of “snackable” content and more epic-length content (think books, longer and more narratively complex videos).
AI and automation will also help marketers use better data to drive smarter decision-making. For example, the New York Times announced recently that we may have reached “peak millennial”, at least in terms of influx into cities. If your marketing is based on increased numbers of millennials in your geographic area, you'll want to reevaluate based on more accurate data. The challenge is to have a reliable, scalable system for bringing data like that into your field of awareness.
At the heart of any kind of effective, successful marketing program lie actual relationships with real people. It's true of one-to-many channels like blogging, and it's doubly true of influencer marketing. Brands will continue to use influencers — which we can loosely define as pretty much any individual or brand that has a level of persuasive authority with some slice of your targeted audience — but we'll possibly see a move towards actual partnerships.
Additionally, while influencer marketing has long been the darling of B2C marketing, in 2017 we may well see more B2B brands utilize influencers with their corporate prospects. Smart B2B brands will start to finally get the value in partnering with names their prospects know, like, and trust, thus increasing their own reach and authority.
Evolution of user-generated content
This year, brands will increasingly solicit and feature compelling UGC into their marketing plans. Slick professional photo shoots and stock images aren’t compelling enough when the quality and emotional resonance of UGC is on the rise. According to the G Brief, 84% of millennials say that user-generated content (UGC) influences their decisions more so than any other form of advertising.
More than ever, individuals are creating content of their own — fan art, unboxing videos, mashups of all kinds — around the brands they love and the stories that move them. Access to the technology that powers even greater creativity is growing globally, which can open up whole worlds. Brands who already utilize UGC in social media will import it into other channels, such as email marketing, website copy, blog posts, infographics and more.
Social media shakeup
Nowhere is the fast-changing nature of digital marketing more evident than in the world of social media. This year is no exception. First and foremost, more than a few experts believe this is the year Twitter will fail, or at least begin its last (and some would say inevitable) decline. Its failure to find a buyer so far is certainly one indicator of trouble.
Whether Twitter becomes useless and irrelevant, or gets bought up by bigger companies and cannibalized for parts, only time will tell. Either way, Twitter should definitely not be the only social channel you incorporate into your social media marketing plan this year. But that's probably true of any social media network.
Instead, diversify to a video-friendly channel. The remaining big players are starting to look like each other. From Instagram's adoption of Snapchat-like Stories to the rollout of live video all over the place, there are fewer unique aspects between the most popular sites.
Be aware of the continued drop in organic reach, especially on Facebook. The trend that began a few years back, continued last year, and shows no signs of stopping any time soon. If you want to increase your reach, you’ll have to pay for it with promoted posts and smart, highly-targeted advertising. Social could also become more of a direct platform for sales. If so, then this could be a game-changer for products-based brands with a solid reputation and perceived trustworthiness.
Conclusion: Content marketing trends in 2017
One thing will always be true: Content marketers need excellent content. If you're not the greatest writer, hire the best copywriter or freelance blogger you can afford. If you're not technically savvy enough to work efficiently with video, either learn the basics or hire an experienced video editor. Above all, content marketers need to stay nimble.
Here's where you'll have an advantage over the big kids on the content marketing playground. After all, smaller businesses and solopreneurs can react much more quickly to changing needs and new technologies, because there's no endless analyzing of a situation before making a decision. How can you implement one or more of these trends in your own content marketing plan this year? Or do you have any other ideas for content marketing? Tell us in the comments below.