Content marketing done well becomes the basis for all other marketing and advertising functions within an organization. It’s the key to forming relationships with customers in an increasingly distracted world. The content your customers consume tells you a lot about what they want. The relationships you build deliver valuable data and insights that shape your overall messaging and, even beyond marketing, influence your product development and business strategy.
Communications mediums and technologies are rapidly evolving. Entire industries, like retail, are changing before our eyes. To get a handle on this turbulent environment, we asked 13 industry thought leaders to predict the content marketing trends for 2018 and beyond.
Specifically, we asked them these two questions:
- What current content marketing tactics will continue to be most useful for businesses to use?
- What new content marketing tactics will find more popularity or arise as we head into 2018?
Some of their insights will not surprise you; for example, they predict trends that almost everyone has been bullish on — video, personalization, etc. — will have their heyday in 2018. But they also predict a renaissance for some surprisingly familiar forms of communication. Here’s what they had to say.
Sam Hurley sees video, along with live streaming, as something more businesses should use in their content marketing and that one new tactic companies should consider is AI-enabled targeting and conversations.
1. “It’s an incredibly relevant form of content that aligns perfectly with the explosion of mobile usage; video isn’t going anywhere — it sparks deeper engagement, and audiences crave it. In addition, live streaming has gained traction fast. This upfront, ‘human’ method of brand interaction is a surefire way to attract more trust and consequently, customers when 80 percent would rather watch live video from a brand than read a blog.”
2. “Content marketing has often historically been an open-to-all, relatively untargeted approach (to some extent). With the constant progression of artificial intelligence and machine learning, brands and publishers are becoming more equipped to hone their content — at scale — to focus on the individual and their unique stage in the customer journey.
“Also, instead of one-way communication, it’s now key to engage with visitors in a conversational format. Chatbots play a key role here, yet even they are still in their early stages. 2018 and onward will see wider uptake and advancement of AI tech applied to not only content but also many other areas of marketing, sales, and operations. In fact, 75 percent of more than 200 business executives surveyed said AI will be actively implemented in their companies within the next three years.”
Ted Rubin echoes Hurley’s thoughts regarding AI systems, though he feels these systems still need some improving to be truly useful to marketers.
1. “Social media platforms are essentially huge AI systems designed to keep users tuned in by showing them things they want to see and using data to increase conversions each time a user engages. But AI isn’t really that smart yet. AI is big data pattern recognition that gets better at predicting what users will do as more people use the systems. It’s not actually ‘thinking.’
“Brand marketers can easily tune the process to eliminate endless digital spam and, instead, to create awesome content that the AI algorithms can connect to people along their path to purchase. Brands can map the prevailing digital path to purchase, create and test content along that path, and then build engaged persona models based on people who actually care about the content they create. By doing so, marketers can build better algorithm trainers and achieve outsize results.”
2. “Additionally, shopping behavior is changing: instead of consumers going to stores to get products, products now come to consumers. Stores aren’t going away tomorrow, but the fundamental role of a retailer is going to change over time from a physical location to a service that fits the product needs of a consumer whenever and wherever she chooses. What’s more, much of a future consumer’s product needs with be anticipated and automated, moving towards a friction-free experience. The challenge for retailers and brands alike will be remaining relevant in a consumer’s mind. The combination of the decline of the store shelf, coupled with the end of push advertising effectiveness, will eliminate some brands and retailers while others will thrive like never before.”
Long-form content remains a viable content marketing tactic, according to Jonathan Chan, while he sees video growing even more relevant into 2018 due to its more easily digestible nature.
1. “The best tactic to continue using, that we’ve always seen produce results, is to continue creating long-form content that is valuable, whether that’s through blog posts, video, or even podcasts. Use content to establish yourself as an authority in your niche, and to engage with your audience. Producing long-form content can be tricky, especially if you’re unfamiliar with content creation to begin with, but we’ve seen time and time again that no other technique will give you results both in the short-term and the long-term than long-form content.”
2. “I also believe that video will play a much larger role in the content marketing landscape, it’s been proven that video content is far more engaging and easy to digest than articles. I also see a trend where more marketers are getting more technical and spending more time studying their audiences to create content that they know will interest their community.”
Josh Steimle says that more businesses should take advantage of LinkedIn to get their content in front of more eyes while it remains a viable option.
1. “The underlying principle of all content marketing is to get great content in front of the right people. But to get very tactical, there is a lot of attention being harnessed right now using LinkedIn posts. I’m not talking about articles – I mean the short, 1,300-character status updates. LinkedIn has changed the way these show up in the LinkedIn feed, and it’s a gold rush right now for marketers. Who knows when the gold will run out, but for as long as it lasts, you can get hundreds of thousands, even millions of views to your content, for free, without a huge investment of your time.
2. “Some keys to success are 1) tell a story, 2) invite readers to comment (and give them an incentive to do so beyond a mere invitation), and 3) Include a call to action (visit a website, sign up for an email, download a lead magnet, etc.). Oh, and do it a lot and experiment to find what works best for you. I’ve used this simple tactic to generate views, likes, followers, and yes, leads and sales.”
Content Marketing Institute, @JoePulizzi
Don’t overextend your marketing efforts, instead focus more narrowly on one specific platform for the most success, Joe Pulizzi says. For 2018, he sees email newsletters and even print magazines providing bountiful opportunities.
1. “While so many brands get a story idea and decide to publish everywhere, the strategy that works the best is true focus. Communicate your message through (for the most part) one content type (audio, video, textual, imagery), one main platform (website, YouTube, iTunes), and deliver consistently over a long period of time (12 months or more). This is how great media brands and loyal audiences are built; there is no better way. We actually don’t have to publish everywhere.
2. “It’s a return to old in 2018…more brands will see opportunities with remarkable email newsletters and (believe it or not) consistent print magazines. On the newer front, podcasts have finally hit mainstream, and yet there are many content niches that are not being covered…this is a 12-18-month first mover opportunity in many vertical areas.”
Influencer marketing and native advertising remain viable, according to Chad Pollitt, and agrees with other influencers regarding AI in marketing.
1. “On the distribution front, influencer marketing and native advertising will continue to grow in use. More and more, brands are figuring out that the ‘publish and pray’ model of last decade no longer works for visibility today.
2. “As more artificial intelligence gets added to native adtech, I see more offerings in 2018 that offer cost per engagement (CPE). This is what content marketers want in their paid distribution (not CPC).”
Gina Schreck suggests focusing more on email list segmentation to reach out, while also employing use of video, which will see more growth in 2018.
1. “Segmentation in email lists and social media connections will become essential for personalizing content and making it relevant to each group. Video content also builds relationships. Video will only continue to help businesses connect and provide important answers and relevant content to their audiences.”
2. “For the average brand, video will continue to grow in popularity. Most brands have yet to embrace the use of video in much of their content and the performance of video on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and just about every other social channel, will persuade those laggards to get onboard. Finally, larger brands will continue to expand the use of AR (augmented reality) apps for the tech-savvy consumer.”
Many of the current content marketing strategies should continue to be effective, both now and into 2018, but businesses should look into more employee advocacy programs.
1. “Most of today’s’ content marketing strategies will likely continue to work in 2018: social media, blogging, video creation, and so on. Businesses and marketers need to find out exactly where their audience is spending time online and be there — waiting for them, quality content in tow.”
2. “I also think that we will be seeing more employee advocacy programs in 2018. Businesses are finding it more and more difficult to stand out and audiences are (quite understandably) not that trusting of brands. That’s why businesses need to leverage the reach of their employees and make them an integral part of their content marketing strategy.”
Businesses should look to create content targeting social media users, Neal Schaffer suggests. For 2018, expect more companies to consider influencer marketing and personalized content for the buyer’s journey.
1. “Content is the currency of digital and social media, so from an engagement perspective, the publication of content targeting social media users will continue to be most useful to engage users where they spend their most time when they are online: on social media.”
2. “I see the localization and personalization of content marketing becoming more popular. The technology and tools exist to give potential customers the opportunity to provide personalized content at every step of the buyer’s journey. The other tactic that will undoubtedly become more popular in 2018 is partnership with influencers, in both the creation and distribution of content.”
Marketing Insider Group, @BrennerMichael
Creating content that answers customer questions is an important strategy, while businesses should look to video and personalization for 2018, says Michael Brenner.
1. “Written articles are still an important piece in today’s content marketing arsenal. Effective brands are listening to their customers and publishing the answers to their customers top questions, challenges, and concerns.”
2. “Video and personalization are the hottest trends in content marketing right now. And both require special skills, special technology and most of all a focus on storytelling.”
Video will continue to grow, but don’t forget about written content, Ryan Deiss cautions. Meanwhile, personal communication with customers should be considered for businesses looking toward 2018.
1. “Video-based content is a trend that will only get stronger. At DigitalMarketer, we’re doubling down on video, and that’s not just an expression. We have literally DOUBLED the size of our videography team, and I expect it to only get larger throughout 2018. That said, content will still start its life in text format. It’s easier to produce and test, but once we know an idea has traction, the plan is to immediately create a video version of the piece and distribute it throughout all our media channels.
2. “We’re bullish on chat and messenger, and so we believe that this shift to more one-to-one-style communication will usher in a need for more one-to-one-style content marketing. In other words, content will need to get more personal, and companies will need to invest in people who can distribute this content in less efficient, but more impactful ways.”
Current tactics like blogging, e-books, and webinars will continue to be fruitful for companies, but make sure to include a strong call to action.
1. “There are quite a few current content marketing tactics that will still be useful for businesses in the coming years. The top ones will be blogging, podcasts, video content, e-books and webinars, providing you write catchy call to actions and effectively promote them across the various marketing channels.”
2. “Brands have seen good ROI when collaborating with industry experts on particular subjects. Whether you collaborate with them via blogging, video interviews, or even them sharing content, influencers can help you reach a larger audience as long as you carefully structure out your influencer marketing strategy. Podcasts will continue to rise; they are becoming the medium go-to for audio when commuting. We’ll also see a rise in video content, but more personalized – with the right tools and smart strategies, this can lead to huge success.”
Businesses should already use text messages as part of their content marketing efforts, while looking into easy video apps for 2018 and beyond.
1. “More content marketers will discover value through text messaging, which still has a remarkable 90 percent open rate, with many consumers migrating their e-commerce and business activities to their smartphones. Text messaging opportunities for companies will be front and center, with notifications taking up valuable real estate, even if only for a few seconds.”
2. “Businesses large and small will also leverage easier and cheaper video applications, used especially by those with little to no expertise. The adoption of such technology will prove to be the catalyst in bringing video to the forefront of content marketing, as has long been expected.”
If you’re an industry professional, what are your thoughts on how content marketing will evolve in the new year and what content marketing trends will become more popular? We’d love to know. And if you’re looking for a way to supercharge your content marketing strategy in 2018, we’re here to help you make it happen.