We're almost in Q4 2016 and it's getting to that time when we take stock of what's worked and not worked for us content-wise this year before we begin to make our plans and set budgets for 2017.
While throughout the year we have tried and tested multiple content marketing strategies, unfortunately, some of them haven't work for us. But that doesn't end our digital marketing journey. There's lots more in store!
Here are 7 trends from 2016 that promise to be winners in 2017:
UGC Vs. Staff Content
B2B marketers are getting increasingly better at finding ways to source their digital content rather than develop their own content. As of the second quarter of 2016, Facebook had 1.71 billion monthly active users, and a fair share of them indulge in generating and creating content on a weekly basis. Similarly, though obviously not at the same scale as the Facebook platform, companies are encouraging their users to generate valuable content by promoting the use of company managed blog content and forums, customer and prospect surveys, social media channels, and guest contributing editors to create content for their audiences.
If your plan for 2017 is to put in that extra content marketing effort, perhaps now is the time to think about ways you can get your users to create your content for you. This approach is one of the most brilliant content ideas of all time.
Think Global, Act Local
General-purpose and just good content for all audiences no longer works. Since we are inundated with different content marketing examples every day, presenting a niche content type to audiences is a little tricky. A content marketing agency should realize that to capture the mindshare of its audience, its content needs to stand out from the crowd.
Now, how do you do that? An effective content marketing strategy is to create and promote a specialized content asset. Through 2016, we've seen that a specialized content marketing campaign has come to mean great content that is localized, segmented, and personalized to reach your potential customer. We still see campaigns, especially on the B2B side, where an engaging content piece in English is used for lead generation campaigns in countries across Europe or the Far East were content creation in the local languages would be far more effective. The companies that have seen far better results - by a factor of 10 or more - are those that localized their content marketing strategy. Second, audience segmentation is a content strategy that successful marketers use for their brand awareness for everything from drip email campaigns to retargeting to specific ad target audience groups.
Finally, personalization - this takes the specialization down to a further level in a content marketing plan, where content is not only in a language that an audience is most comfortable with, the messages are specific to their buyer persona as well as the content be a blog or visual content is personalized to them specifically based on the 'intent data.'
Videos and Podcasts as Starting Favorites
Video has been one of the biggest winners in a content marketing plan, and now podcasts seem to be making a powerful comeback. With increasing download speeds and the ubiquity of mobile devices, visual content seemed sure to emerge from being one of the most promising media formats to be an extremely effective and popular one.
Adding to the appeal of video is the ease of downloading podcasts and viewing at a convenient time for the user, and we assume we have another winner in the making. In 2016, marketers have found that both videos and podcasts are now powerful formats to engage the different segments in their audience and launch a successful content marketing campaign.
Quality Vs. Quantity
Every year we lament the abundance of poor content - either because it was created without an understanding of the audience, or that some marketers use the spray and pray method of content marketing. Either way, we see tremendous volumes of content daily and that volume is only increasing. This also means that poor quality content is receiving even less attention than it used to and poor content or even average content does not provide the ROI that marketers would hope for from their campaigns.
A quick and easy way for you to gauge the quality of your content is to look at the responses from your audience - this could be the number of likes it receives on social media or the open and clicks rates if you're using email marketing. So for 2017, an important consideration would be to focus on the quality of the content you are looking to produce rather than look to increase the volumes and different formats of content you are producing to meet the demands of your omnichannel outreach.
Paid Vs. Organic Reach
It was a good time when we could focus only on search engine optimization (SEO) or bring in an outside firm to do digital content marketing for us, and sit back and watch the leads pour in. Then came social media and with it the fascinating potential of our content marketing plans going viral overnight based on the hordes of users that flock to the most popular social media platforms daily for news.
Unfortunately, that's a trend that's on the decline with the choices for organic growth providing limited potential for 2017. For example, Facebook has recently severely limited the visibility that companies can achieve through organic reach itself. To achieve the same levels of reach, other platforms as well are providing more paid options and forcing the marketer to increase their usage of paid promotions to achieve the same visibility. For 2017, this means perhaps factoring in an increase in the budget for the paid component of social media promotions, and also upgrading your content marketing strategy to look for alternative channels of distribution.
Interactive Vs. Static Content
One-directional, static content has its best years behind it. Even with increasing levels of specialized inbound marketing activities being conducted in 2016, and we expect this to increase in 2017, there is a limit to how much personalization can be done on the content production side, aka by the marketer. Enter interactive content. By creating content that is wrapped within interactive tools like a quiz or a diagnostic questionnaire or a game, users can now tailor the content piece they see based on their real-time responses. This 'gamification' of traditional marketing in regards to content is one of the hottest trends of 2016 and we expect it will continue to grow meteorically in 2017.
Account Based Marketing
No discussion of marketing trends for 2016 would be complete without at least an acknowledgment of the strides ABM has made this year in terms of the growth of the tech to support it, the media fanfare created to promote it, and the increase in the adoption rates of the ABM approach by marketers. While the success of the adopters of the ABM approach is still mixed, there is no doubt that the ABM approach has valuable suggestions for even the most traditional demand generation marketers amongst us.
With the increasing levels of specialized content being created, ABM approaches demand even further personalization of content for key accounts - both prospective accounts and well as existing customer accounts. The strong growth of ABM in 2016 as an approach being put into practice by the best marketers around us will continue to grow in 2017 with the advent of new tech that supports ABM.
As you make your plans, the seven trends here can be considered to see how they can help make your plans more robust for 2017. Some marketers will ride the wave of these new trends, while some will deliberately choose to buck the trends and try different methods to innovate. There will be winners and losers on both sides. The future trends to look a lot like the past - and so by an increased understanding of the trends of 2016, we hope you will be better equipped as you move into the new year with better and more efficient content marketing plans.