The world of content marketing — both efforts and rewards — shows no signs of slowing. Over the past few years, Google and other search engines have consistently developed technologies focused on recognizing and rewarding good content. At the same time, businesses in both the B2B and B2C spheres have discovered innovative new ways to generate content aligned with customers’ needs and interests.
2016 is sure to be a landmark year in content marketing as more enterprises design repeatable processes for creating high-quality content. Although timely, relevant, engaging, customer-focused content will stay the most important differentiator on the web, trends are emerging that will challenge received wisdom and force brands to adapt.
Let’s look at five content marketing predictions for 2016:
1) The Visual Turn in Web Content Continues
For years, the standard blog post has been the cornerstone of content. With the proliferation of high-speed Internet and hosting platforms like YouTube, however, a long shift is underway. Marketers are recognizing the power of video and visual content: In fact, videos are have been ranked one of the most effective B2B marketing tactics.
Visual content is also much more effective for users who go online with their phones and other mobile devices – and 64% of Americans now own a smartphone. According to Google, 50% of YouTube’s global viewership comes from mobile devices. Social media is affected, too: Tweets with images get 150% more retweets, among other forms of engagement.
2) Targeted Content Becomes Valuable & Accessible
Instead of generating dozens of blog posts and hoping for the best, content marketing teams will focus on crafting more targeted, higher-quality content. Businesses will re-focus their efforts on thought leadership, generating more white papers, leveraging YouTube’s strength as the #2 search engine to position video content, and re-purposing core content into multiple user-friendly forms.
Beyond this, smart content will grow into a bigger differentiator. Smart content changes based on user demographics and behavior – for example, a page with smart content might present new information or ask users new questions based on the number of times they’ve visited before. Email marketing automation will also become more sophisticated, generating qualified leads with laser-targeted, highly-customized messaging.
3) A Shift Away from Viral Content
Since 2013, when Fast Company declared Upworthy the fastest-growing media site in history, viral content has taken the Web by storm. Flash forward to 2015: The site that made content aggregation and social-powered curation famous is now shifting to original content. Brands are sneezing their last, having some chicken soup, and getting over the viral fad.
“No matter how much traffic you have, if you can’t cultivate an engaged audience you won’t be able to convert those visitors into customers,” says Neil Patel, the founder of Quick Sprout, and that quote is instructive: Not only is viral content resource-intensive, but it simply doesn’t offer as much ROI as delivering smart, personalized content to the right prospects.
4) Challenges Finding Quality Content
Traditionally, brands needed to architect a versatile in-house team if they wanted quality content. Now, more and more of the work that once fell to professional writers is being outsourced instead. In 2014, Interact Media, LLC reported adding 8,000 writers and editors to Zerys, its marketplace for leveraging third-party writers to generate content. Textbroker, a competitor, recently claimed 56% growth over three years.
There are more writers available than ever, but how can brands be sure they’ll deliver excellent content every time? Exceptions do occur, of course, but most freelancers come from neither a writing nor a marketing background. Brands expecting sophisticated, granular control over content production will increasingly bring the function in-house and integrate it with other teams to promote a cohesive brand vision.
5) Paid Social Will Become Powerful in B2B
As Facebook has cut the organic reach of businesses – with an impact so dramatic it has been called “The Reachpocalypse” – many brands have been forced onto its pay-to-play platform. This left a nasty taste in the mouths of many social media marketers, which might explain why some brands have been slow to recognize the growing power of paid social ads.
One of the hidden gems of the social scene going into 2016 is LinkedIn. LinkedIn has grown dramatically since 2009, going from a base of 37 million users to over 396 million today – 64 million of which were added in the course of 2015. LinkedIn ads are unique in their ability to target exact job titles, allowing you to tap into qualified leads and accelerate the sales cycle.
Content marketing has represented an exciting shift in the way business is done online, but there’s still much to learn – and plenty of room for innovation. Brands that embrace the power of content and adapt effectively might find themselves setting the tone and pace of content marketing in the new year.