Content marketing is ever-changing. 2018 promises to be a year where the line between enabling human contribution will be balanced by advances in technology, AI and automation.
The goal of marketing has always been to tell stories that feel larger than life. To win over customers with relatable moments. The new paradigm uses actual, relatable stories to align with real customer experiences — parity instead of performance. As platforms change and evolve, offering new functionality and opportunities, these are our predictions for content marketing trends in 2018.
There’s no beating the feeling of being there. Live video, already a huge player in the influencer sphere, will continue to drive brands to new ideas. Expect to see brands putting on unique live stream events designed to tie into big product launches, customer moments and more. Video production has always had a quality problem, and live video ramps up the gap between great and ordinary considerably.
We’re not far from the point where the most SEO-worthy content will be created by machines. Who better to read the machine’s perky bias towards frequency and grammar? Artificial intelligence will invade more traditional content marketing frameworks. Automation, useful for scheduling content and managing audiences, will become a machine-led assembly of reports, collateral creation and managing of live-event communities.
It’s no surprise that people who love to be the centre of their own digital ecosystem (ie, everyone) like personalised content. It’s a natural fit to align people’s experiences with their own identities. Brands will extend the filter-bubble alignment of content to personalised messages, calling on automation and speed of delivery to curate great moments for users. While media companies have been doing this, it will become more and more common for brands to try and inspire a one-to-one relationship through clever content.
We will also see a shift in content ownership, as brands act more and more like media companies. Brand partnerships will become exclusives with influencers. And putting the audience in the celebrity spotlight will pay off in increased loyalty.
The trend towards mobile adoption of longer form content continues. While the average social video still sits under 2 minutes, the average YouTube mobile experience is longer than 40 minutes. Availability of data, the proliferation of wifi and a thirst for great storytelling (ushered in by continued greatness from Netflix and other media producers) will drive more mobile-first content consumption. While video will be the king here, people will embrace interactive e-books (still a very hit and miss affair) and podcasts. These language-heavy types will continue to capitalise on this data-rich and augmented type of consumption.
Pushing out the right stuff can still mystify a lot of people who are getting their heads around content marketing. Some of this is a hangover to bad metrics (is anyone still counting likes as a measure of success?) and some more is a lack of universal experience with paid promotion. Distribution models will become more accessible and easier to use — Facebook’s ad interface is already a lot smoother and clearer. Brands will continue to find ways to integrate content moments into the lifestyle moments of users, and will look for (and sometimes build) ways to distribute great story experiences across every branded channel they can.
Interactive visual content
Building apps and platforms that encourage users to generate content that tells more of a story. People like being involved. They like being a part of the story, particularly in a digital pace they can share with friends. We’ve already seen the emergence of interactive, geofenced filters and augmented reality. Next year will be about putting the audience in the driver’s seat of unique moments. Being able to sit by the catwalk at fashion shows through live streaming is a fun idea. Being able to comment on the outfits in real-time with your besties is even better. Imagine being able to edit the live feed to change colours, throw up moments or augment the experience with emoji.
Blurring between UGC and IGC
Everyone is someone’s influencer. More users will invest in creating their own content and interacting with brands. Broad-spectrum influencers are going to remain, and we’ll increasingly see the market filled with topic-specific, quality content producers that can be worked with, rather than just leveraged for distribution. We see the start of this already. Microinfluencers are working with brands on small, measurable campaigns. And since they’re a newer breed of influencer, marketers are setting new ways of working (and metrics) to help prove value.
People can forecast about the future of content marketing without too much worry. The only constant is change. And the one obvious prediction we’re avoiding is that quality will trend upward. The higher the market demand, the higher the skill level of those producing it. Content will get better — in quality and targeting. And since a rising tide lifts all boats, we should all see a benefit from that.