In 2015, there's been an increased awareness that great content drives true organic SEO and many organizations took the time to hire and work on their content to reflect their true voice. It's that whole "content is king" catch phrase.
It has raised the bar for everyone to consciously spend time creating edgy, sexy content that is actually worth reading. However, this has also created many false content marketers.
Too many people have labeled themselves content marketers or agencies when they're not providing anything like content marketing. They're likely providing clever advertising, or worse, producing lack-luster snippets as clickbait.
All of that said, content marketing isn't going away in 2016--in fact, it's getting bigger!
BrightEdge, in partnership with SAP, reported that more than $135 billion was spent in 2014 on creating new digital marketing content. A July 2015 report from Qvidian found that 78 percent of B2B professionals worldwide say content is very important to the effectiveness of the sales process. Now, here's what to watch for in the coming year:
Sophisticated content marketers have recognized simply creating content doesn't build an attentive and "leaned-in" audience. Instead of writing blog posts, day-in and day-out, they also need to focus on distribution and measurement.
Many marketers are already doing this, but it's sloppy and undocumented. Everyone is using social media, some are using content discovery tools, and most are using email marketing to support digital publications. While we would love for everything to be organic, sometimes we need synthetics like paid search to help build a community.
Futhermore, big players like Google will begin to enter the market. Currently in private beta, they will launch a content marketing platform to help deliver sponsored content as a scaled channel for brands--similar to what the New York Times, Huffington Post, Forbes and others do today. Chad Pollett, vice president of audience at Relevance.com calls it, "the biggest innovation disruptor for content marketers to date."
2. Fringe Networks
It's unfair to call platforms like Instagram and Snapchat fringe networks, given their explosie growth in 2015. A report from eMarketer forecasts Instagram alone will have nearly $600 million in advertising revenue in 2015, rising to $2.81 billion by 2017.
Unfortunately, many brands still lack the savvy and tools to launch successful programs on social media--even the established ones like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. But, for the more forward-thinking marketer or brand, Snapchat, Meerkat or Periscope are providing new avenues to connect with customers.
Now, I admit that you need to invest in your content first. But on it's heels is attention to community building.
In a May 2015 study by Schlesinger Associates for Augure, 84 percent of marketing and communications professionals worldwide said they planned to launch at least one program involving influencers in the next 12 months. Moreover, 81 percent of respondents were happy with the effect their influencer campaigns had on business goals--those are some good odds!
For the year ahead, marketers will incorporate influencer programs that leverage both external and internal advocates to help build brands (both personal and enterprise).
There is a raw power in influencer marketing that helps amplify messages; especially because in today's society, corporations are not trusted institutions.
4. Interactive Stories
Back in 2009-2010, everyone was whispering about how the media industry (as we knew it) was dead. Well, truth be told, they were right--that is until publishers turned a corner and expanded into new digital realms.
In media today, clear leaders like The New York Times‘ T-Brand Studio have introduced to the world a new form of digital storytelling, using a mixed-media approach of quality editorial, amazing photography, audio clips, and stunning video content. These stories create impressive destinations for brands and leverage The Times‘ storytelling capabilities to woo readers and viewers.
In Q2 polling by the CMO Council, nearly two-thirds of senior marketers in North America said that visual assets were core to communicating their brand stories. More, those same professionals ranked photography and video as critical to their success.
A separate study from Digiday and Chute in April 2015 found that marketers plan to spend 30.5 percent of their year-end budgets on creating, producing, and publishing visual content this year alone. That number will rise in 2016.
5. Episodic Content
Traditionally, marketers operate via campaigns. There's a vast number of hours upfront to create and launch an ebook, then there might be a few blogs posts to highlight some of the larger concepts. But once each content assets has performed it's "duty," it's on to the next thing.
The brands that are doing content marketing well, or at least those that have been doing it for awhile, now have a surplus of content. They can better analyze the trends and clear patterns are starting to emerge--which brings opportunity!
The sophisticated bunch will recognize those themes as trends to be explored. They'll focus on episodic content by partnering with great storytellers. Content will be broken out by "chapter" with a distinct beginning, middle and end.
One of the best examples comes from The Atlantic, which isn’t best known for its ability to speak to Millennial audiences, but has struck gold with its “If Our Bodies Could Talk” series, featuring Dr. James Hamblin.
What predictions do you have for 2016? Share your thoughts in the comments below and make sure that you're subscribed to the weekly "Keep it Current" rag get more commentary and resources delivered directly to your inbox.