Content marketing has been a growing trend for digital entrepreneurs for some years now. Creating the perfect strategy is an obsession for those looking to grow powerful tribes of dedicated ideal clients, and successful, sustainable, online businesses.
As with most areas of business, each new year brings new trends within the trend, the continuation of existing methods, and the passing of former tactics that are no longer working. In the run-up to the New Year, we’re all making plans for 2018, and your content marketing strategy should be top of that list.
To that end, here are 10 awesome content marketing trends to watch out for (and take advantage of!) next year…
#1 Original Content For The Win
It’s going to be more important than ever to invest in the creation of your own high-value, original content. This is hardly a new trend, but the point needs reiterating, as do several items on today’s list. This one though, is the most crucial:
If you want to be viewed as an expert in your niche, a thought-leader, a player, you must have original content.
And by original, we’re not talking a simple regurgitation of the same type of content everyone and their dog has been churning out in relation to what you do.
Originality is far more than simply ‘not plagiarised’.
Focus on the aspects of your business that are unique, and the elements of your brand that set you apart. Play these up to ensure each and every piece of content you create has its own slightly unique spin, even if it is (by necessity) similar to existing content published by your competitors.
If you really want to up your game, create a signature service, product, or method, that delivers extremely high value and is, in some way, completely unique to you.
For example, The Divine Blogging Design is my signature service, providing a comprehensive content marketing solution for small businesses and entrepreneurs who lack the time, skills, or inclination to do it themselves.
There’s nothing inherently unique about offering a service that provides blog posts and social media marketing, but the inclusion of regular content upgrades and a mega lead magnet is something you don’t usually get in a single service. There is also the specific way I determine what forms of content to create, on which subjects, and how frequently, that’s based on a unique method utilising psychological archetypes to very specifically target your ideal client.
Having a signature offering gives you a massive amount of scope for the creation of totally unique content that sets you apart, demonstrates your expertise, and promotes your core offers.
Why is 2018 the year for unique content?
Apple has recently revealed they will be investing over $1 billion in the creation of original content. Ahead of an anticipated push to launch a new video streaming business, Apple is looking at positioning itself as a distinct voice in a new niche, one capable of rivalling Amazon Prime and current the streaming video God, Netflix.
More than that, Apple needs to ensure they remain at the top of their game, consistently excellent, and bang up-to-date.
This is how they established themselves as an industry leader, and one of the world’s most valuable companies.
Apple is hardly alone in their content marketing push next year. Amazon is one of the greatest investors in original content, and Facebook isn’t far behind. Even Google is snapping up original content from other brands as well as media companies, in order to fill the gaps in content their own search algorithms have exposed their native content.
The upshot of all of this is that, if you want to get anywhere with your content marketing next year, focus on the creation of consistent, highly-original content that’s specific to your niche, and directly targeted at your ideal client.
Why does original content matter so much?
Look at it this way, if a potential client has a choice between you, and one of your competitors, and they have a bucket load of original content relating to your niche, you’re at a disadvantage. All that content is constantly working on building the know, like, and trust factor between your competitor, and your potential clients.
If you don’t have original content of your own, it’s going to be tough to compete.
The great thing about this is the flip side: if you create amazing, original content before your competitors, you will have the edge. You will have an amazing and highly effective means of wooing your potential clients, raising their awareness of your brand, building trust, and endearing yourselves to them.
More than that, original content is the key to monetising your content marketing strategy, and fully leveraging to not only provide you with a mechanism for promoting your products and services, but a form of passive income in its own right.
#2 Video Still Reigns As King
We’ve been talking about content marketing in generic terms up to now because really, ‘content’ can mean pretty much anything. There are many great and successful forms of content.
But if the creation of original content is the most important thing you dedicate yourself to in 2018, the creation of Video Content is hot on its heels.
2016 proved to us that video was rapidly taking over the field when it comes to successful forms of content.
2017 has only reaffirmed this emerging trend.
According to IBM, 82% of all online content will be in video form by 2020.
If you’re not already recording your main content in video form, now is the time to start.
Whatever your current groove is, be it blogging, podcasting, email, or social media, now is the time to start a vlog.
For a full breakdown of why video is, hands down, the best form of content, check out my post on The Super Awesome Power of Video Marketing. But to summarise, a video is:
- A succinct, visual way of delivering quality content quickly (the visual aspect is why it has an edge on audio-only content like podcasts).
- Easier to digest than written forms of content.
- Simple to map to every stage of your clients’ journey (see below for more on this!).
- Effectively supports your brand message.
#3 Live Video Is The New Overlord
If video is the king of content, live video is the new overlord.
It’s now well over a year since Facebook Live launched, and 2017 was the year for perfecting this new tech. It was also the year several other social media platforms started to jump on the live bandwagon.
We’ve known for years that posts including images gain higher engagement. Video posts on Facebook garner an extra 135% when it comes to organic reach, and users will spend 3 times longer watching live videos while commenting over 10x more on live videos than pre-recorded ones.
Not only is live video amazing for your engagement but it’s viewers are also 80% more likely to watch a live video than standard versions. In addition, your viewers will be more interested in live videos than written social media posts.
Live video is also a great way to get ahead of the curve when it comes to video marketing, as only 14% of marketers investing in video content are currently utilising live videos.
Given that 60% of marketers are now hip to fact video is the way forward, that’s an astonishing statistic.
At the time of writing this, I’ve yet to pop my own Live video cherry, despite being a huge advocate of video marketing. I totally found my video marketing groove this year with the new vlog. Still, I find there is an innate fear what it comes to live video – there are no do-overs, no editing, and you’re totally exposed.
It’s a fear I’m going to have to face myself this week. I suggest you do the same.
Rip the bandage off.
The sooner you (by which I mean we!) start, the sooner you will grab your audience’s attention and boost our engagement.
#4 So Much More Than Blogging
As the world moves on and new formats like video rise in popularity, and social media marketing continues to be at the heart of many businesses’ promotional schedules, it’s now about so much more than blogging.
The most successful content marketing strategies have a multi-media approach. That almost always includes blogging, and your blog is still the heart of your content, but it’s the beginning, not the whole.
The content you create for your blog needs to be tailored to suit different audiences, different platforms, and sometimes even different ideal clients. Personalised content (highly-tuned to the desires of the individual members of your audience) is growing increasingly popular, and will likely be the ‘next big thing’ for content marketers to wrap their heads around (see below for more on that!).
Your audience has growing demands and your business needs to step it up to accommodate them. A modern content marketing strategy doesn’t just require a cracking writer or two, but also all the various skills and talents needed to create a multifaceted, multi-media approach.
To give you some idea, the talent behind The Divine Blogging Design looks something like this:
- Top-notch writing (that would be me!)
- Video production and editing (also currently me)
- Content scheduling, distribution and promotion (on multiple platforms)
- Graphic designer
- Content optimisation (on multiple platforms)
- Branding, communication and social management (on multiple platforms)
- Campaign management, strategy development and execution (me again)
- Advertising and PR strategies
- Metrics, analytics and reports
If I ever get around to podcasting to my repertoire, I’ll also need an audio producer and editor.
When I first started out I did all of this myself. In the last year, I’ve been steadily expanding my team to include specialist superstars who can handle aspects that don’t involve strategy and writing. They’re able to do a much better job than I can alone, and I’m now down to dealing with only three elements.
At some point there will be nothing for me to do but write, and I’ll be in a Nirvanaesque state of bliss.
Why You Should Invest In Your Team
When you’re handling all your content marketing alone, diversifying and incorporating more than simply blogging into your strategy can seem overwhelming, but it’s utterly essential if you want your efforts to pay off.
Content marketing is astonishingly powerful, and drives all other forms of marketing in your business (whether you realise it or not!), but you don’t get that much power without putting in a hell of a lot of work.
If you want to reap the rewards, you have to invest in the strategy.
Remember, just because you can do everything doesn’t mean you should. You will soon reach a tipping point where you’re trying to juggle so much you’re not doing any of it as effectively as you could, and some things just aren’t getting done at all. As soon as you can afford it, start building a content marketing team consisting of experts in any of these areas you’re not an expert in yourself, and any others you feel will be needed to complement your talents. (Alternatively, you can just hire me and my fabulous team!)
#5 Transparency Over Everything
The more familiar your audience becomes with sales tactics like brand-sponsored influencer content and native advertising, the less trusting they are of branded content. To combat this, your brand must be completely transparent.
#6 It’s All About The Journey
Digital marketing runs on content. You’ll be hard pushed to find any strategy that doesn’t require content in some form. On any given day your business is creating content in numerous forms, whether you think of them as ‘content’ or not:
- Blog posts
- Social media posts
- Email marketing and regular emails (still content!)
- Content upgrades
- Lead magnets
- Pre-recorded videos
- Live videos
- Nurture sequences
- Testimonials and case studies
- Podcasts and other audio
- Landing pages, sales pages, and other static website content
Even your paid advertising strategies rely on content (written and visual) to drive sales and convert prospects into paying clients.
Content marketing has been establishing itself as the core of all marketing strategies for some time, but 2018 is set to be the year everyone catches up and realises that, without a content marketing strategy, your business doesn’t have a marketing strategy.
Or at least, not one that’s going to be effective.
And all that content doesn’t just ‘happen’. Each and every piece is part of a journey your prospective clients embark on when they first hear about your brand. The more content they’re exposed to, the further their journey with you progresses, eventually transforming them into paying clients.
If they’re pleased with the journey, they will provide testimonials and case studies, and become part of that content themselves.
Your content draws in prospects, compels them to sign up to your list, leads them through your nurture sequence, and finally converts them into paying clients.
Most people can wrap their heads around this, but where a lot of people are falling down is in thinking that a funnel should naturally be top heavy. It’s an understandable thought, given the shape of a funnel, but it’s important to remember that there’s a lot more to converting readers that simply getting them to sign up.
Which means you need a content-rich approach to every stage of the journey, from sign up, to conversion, and beyond.
#7 Nurture A Team of Brand Ambassadors
The more you nurture your audience with quality content, the more clients you will have. And the more you continue to nurture clients, the more happy brand ambassadors you will create.
A brand ambassador is any client or customer who will gladly recommend you to friends, family and colleagues. They are the people so in love with your brand that they share your content, come back to you time and again, and are extremely vocal in their support of you and your business.
These ambassadors for your brand (also called ‘influencers’) are becoming increasingly critical. This ties back in with the problems surrounding trust and the need for transparency and authenticity.
The modern world is not a trusting place.
The sad truth is that people are far more likely to trust you if they have social proof that you’re trustworthy.
In other words, it’s not enough for you to tell people you’re good at what you do, and can be relied upon for quality and expertise. Positive word-of-mouth is crucial to raising brand awareness and building to trust in your brand. For that, you need ambassadors.
#8 Goals, Strategy, And Accountability
Analytics have always been essential in content marketing. Without them, you have no way of knowing how well you’re performing. But what has been less prevalent until recently is the importance of having complete clarity when it comes to your goals, a strategy that is driven by those goals, and accountability to ensure you reach them.
Your analytics will tell you how well you’re doing, but if you don’t know what you’re aiming for, how will you judge if you’re successful?
If you don’t tailor your strategy to those specific goals, how can you expect to achieve the best results?
And if you have no accountability, what true consequences are there (aside from the obvious financial implications) if you don’t hit your targets?
Studies have shown that writing down your goals and updating a friend on your progress weekly makes you far more likely to succeed than simply winging it. In fact, these two simple steps will make you 33% more successful at achieving your goals.
#9 Micro-Moments Are Taking Over
The concept of ‘micro-moments’ is one of the emerging obsessions to come out of the rise of mobile devices and gadgets. With everyone constantly online via phones, tablets, watches and more, even when they’re not at a computer, clients are interacting with your brand at more points and in more ways than ever before.
Searching for the perfect shoes? Looking up recipes? Ordering your groceries? Checking train times? Tweeting about your latest facepalming incident? Can’t get a song out of your head but forgot the lyrics? Need to settle an argument with your other half? In desperate need of immediate help in your business?
What do you do?
Reach for your smartphone.
And you’re not alone. 96% of internet users immediately grab the nearest device and search for the answers they need online. Not just once a day, but multiple times a day.
Our days are filled with innumerable micro-moments that constantly trigger us to reach for our phone, grab our tablet, or tap on our shiny new Apple Watch.
Think With Google describe micro-moments as touch points that are vital to the client experience. They are a critical element of your audience’s perception of your brand, and the more micro-moments take over (and believe me, next year they will be more prevalent than ever!) the more important it is to nail them.
Clients expect brands to be constantly available. If you’re not there exactly when they want you, they will go elsewhere and find someone who is.
You need reliable, up-to-date, compelling information on-hand to cater to their every whim, anytime, anywhere.
Truly successful brands are those savvy enough to anticipate the questions and needs of their ideal clients, and provide regular, consistent, high-quality content to address the needs inspired by all those micro-moments.
If you haven’t already, make sure your website is 100% responsive, enabling easy content consumption of every device imaginable.
#10 Create Highly Personalised, Customer-Centric Content
We’re all familiar with personalised content in the form of emails landing in our inbox bearing our first name (sometimes our last name, a random collection of characters, or the dreaded [First Name]!). But as technology evolves, our ability to provide personalised content that is highly customer-centric is growing increasingly important.
What do I mean by personalised content?
At its simplest, personalised content provides your audience with stuff tailored to their specific interests, preferences, and requirements, through the intelligent use of information that relates to them personally. That info could be gathered from their account profile, quizzes and questionnaires, and various other sources.
Amazon is a great example of this, providing you with a homepage fully tailored to you based on information given on signup, past order history, and the habits of other customers who have purchased the same things you have.
More than that, Amazon regularly send out email blasts containing those recommendations, as well as highlighting new releases they think you might be interested in.
Amazon knows my favourite authors, and invites me to preorder their new releases as soon as they’re available. They also let me know about brand spanking new authors nobody has read yet, if they’re in a similar genre or style to my favourite authors and they think I’m likely to enjoy their books.
Half the stuff I buy on Amazon I’d never have got were it not for the personalised content they send me!
That’s effective use of personalised content.
That is a customer-centric approach to content marketing.
If it sounds like an awful lot of trouble to set up, here are some stats to convince you it’s worth it:
- Forbes recently reported that 94% of executives view personalised content as vital to success.
- 75% of clients are more likely to buy from you if you recognise them by name, and provide recommendations based on their individual quirks and needs.
- User-directed calls to action perform 42% better than generic CTAs.
- 88% of professional content marketers (myself included!) are searching for ways to add personalised elements to their content marketing strategies.
Bonus Trends! Hero Assets And Cluster Topics
Two new terms have really taken off in 2017 and are set to be major elements of all good content marketing strategies in the new year. I’m not going into detail on either here, as I have dedicated posts coming out on both very soon, but here’s a quick look.
This is one of the best buzzwords to emerge in 2017. Catchy, empowering, and very cool. You may be slightly disappointing to learn that a Hero Asset is essentially just a very high value piece of content. They are usually eBooks or guides, and focus on a very specific topic in great detail.
They form the basis of long term marketing plans, designed to be part of your content schedule for weeks and months, possibly even years.
Basically, ‘hero asset’ is a new word for ‘content upgrade’ or ‘lead magnet’, but it refers to an extremely specific type: an uber-long-form written piece (as opposed to checklists, workbooks, or even video courses).
The term has partly emerged as a reaction to the prevalence of content that’s available now, and the changing approaches to gateways (the points at which you ask people to signup to your list).
Check back in a few weeks for more details on exactly what Hero Assets are, and how and why you should be using them next year…
Like Hero Assets, Topic Clusters are an evolution of an existing method used in blogging and content marketing: cross-linking.
The concept is really elegant and solves several problems at once:
Create a core or ‘pillar’ post that gives an overview of a main topic. Within that pillar post, create a section for each subtopics within that core subject. Publish the pillar post first, followed by one or more posts on each of your subtopics. Link to all the subposts from the pillar post, and optimise each and every post for at least one different but related long-tail keyword.
You end up with a ‘cluster’ of posts on a single topic, all optimised for different keywords (avoiding clashes and competing with yourself), while building an amazingly high-value resource for your tribe.
The best part about this method is that you can design an extensive cluster of posts in advance, but you aren’t face with writing a massive amount all in one go. You can add a post to the cluster as and when you have the time and resources available. It also enables you to go into great detail on every aspect of a topic, without overwhelming your audience with too much info in one go.
When you’ve finished all the posts you want to create in your cluster, you can package up the collective information in an eBook and use it as a lead magnet (or rather, HERO ASSET!), and even sell it for a little passive income.
What Does This Mean For Content Marketing In 2018?
Many of these trends are a continuation of existing elements of content marketing strategies that have been emerging over the last few years. Original content and the fact video is coming to dominate content is not news, but it is still becoming increasingly vital with each passing year.
A year ago we weren’t sure exactly what would happen with Live Video – it seemed like the next big thing, but so did Mini Discs when they first dropped.
Not all crazes are destined to survive.
Live Video has not only survived, but thrived. If you haven’t already started taking advantage of it, you really shouldn’t put it off any longer.
The main takeaway is that diversity is the name of the game.
Invest in multimedia content, available on multiple channels and devices, that tailors itself to the individual, and enables your audience to feel you both know them and value their uniqueness. Make sure you have the support in place to create, distribute, and promote such a diverse strategy. And if you’d really rather someone else just dealt with all of this for you, book a discovery call now, and let me tell you what The Divine Blogging Design can do for your business in 2018…