It won’t come as any surprise to regular readers of this blog that content marketing never stands still. Like so many other things in the digital landscape, it changes continuously, and 2017 is no different.
Whether these changes are good news or bad depends on your perspective. The good news, according to Larry Kim, the founder of Wordstream, is that 2017 will see bigger jackpots for those who are successful. However, he cautions that there will be fewer winners overall, and many businesses will struggle.
Content marketing has already changed in significant ways this year. According to respected authorities, like HubSpot, we’ve already seen a massive shift towards things like video and ephemeral content in 2017, and this evolution shows no signs of slowing down.
If you were to sum up content marketing in one word in 2017, it would be “maturity.” Content marketing has finally come of age, and after years of buzz and hype, we’re now in a world where businesses have to produce high-quality content or die in the digital space.
So what can your company do to drive acquisitions in this new era of content marketing? Let’s take a look at some of your options.
Generate Interactive Content
Despite all the buzz about blogging and video content marketing, both mediums are passive. Audiences either sit and read or sit and watch – it’s not necessarily the most exciting of experiences. What’s more, consuming content in this way often takes up a lot of time, something which is always in short supply on the internet.
Recently, however, a pair of influential organizations have been making noises about the benefits of interactive content to help businesses drive acquisitions. The CMI, for instance, recently claimed that more than four-fifths of marketing experts agreed that interactive content was more engaging than passive content and that it provided a higher degree of “lead nurturing.” Interactive content is just all-around better at grabbing attention and helping organizations better engage with their audiences they say.
The New York Times – the so-called paper of record – has also taken note of the benefit of interactive content. Over the 2016 Presidential Campaign period, they provided interactive maps showing who might win which states where readers could play out different election scenarios in their browsers. They’ve also used interactive graphs to show people how family income predict children’s chances of success at college.
Content is most useful when it helps users generate information relevant to them. Speaking to the individual and not the “average user” personalises the experience, helping engage your customers in a way that generic content simply can’t, no matter how compelling it is.
Get More Creative With Format
Another major change for 2017 is greater format creativity with many top SEO experts and bloggers are already heralding the move to short, sweet content, rather than long, rambling prose.
We also see the rise of things like visual content, a medium which will undoubtedly improve once search engines learn how to interpret meaning in images. Photographs, infographics and other static visuals will likely become the norm, replacing older formats, like blogs, ebooks, and email subscriptions.
Use Video For Killer ROI
Though the web was dominated by text for the first 20 years of its existence, businesses are in the process of discovering that this didn’t actually have anything to do with people’s preferences. Instead, it was merely the result of limited bandwidth: the pipes that connect the internet together weren’t wide enough to deal with vast quantities of video traffic.
But with the rise of super-fast broadband, that’s all changed. Now that multiple users can stream video in the same household, it’s fast becoming the medium of choice. A study by Syndicast says that nearly three-quarters of all web traffic will be video in 2017.
Most experts agree that video is probably here to stay. The reason? Humans are primarily visual animals. We find it much easier to obtain information from video than we do by reading words off a screen. Understandably, this has profound implications for businesses. Given that video content is here to stay, the time has come to develop a video marketing strategy. Acquisitions through a pure text-based approach will become increasingly difficult as the decade wears on.
Furthermore, search engines like Facebook and Google are working on video search features, not based on keywords, but on the actual content itself (rather like a human would). The more videos your business has on sites like YouTube, the more highly it will rank in search results.
Engage With Your Client Base Over The Long Term
Up until 2017, businesses focused heavily on acquisitions. They searched high and low for new methods to bring in business over the internet, but in the process, they neglected something equally important: retention.
As most companies will attest, selling to existing customers is often far more lucrative than trying to win new ones. This means that businesses will use content not only to sell to new customers but their existing customers as well.
So what can content managers do to ensure consistent engagement in 2017? The focus going forwards need to be on getting customers to subscribe and consume regular content updates. What this means in practice remains to be seen, but some analysts have suggested that content marketers need to change their approach. They need to think more like product managers, designing their content to be delivered in stages to their customers with enticing bridges between instalments to keep people coming back for more.
Focus On The Nitty-Gritty Details
If you go back to 2010, you’ll find lots of generic blogs on subjects like “How To Attract Clients” or “Three Things You Need To Know About Online Advertising.” But today, with so much content out there, these generic-type posts struggle to fly. Given that many blogs have been written on those subjects, it is unlikely that your post will add anything new and useful.
Therefore, in 2017, if you want to dramatically grow your business with content marketing, you need to focus on the nitty-gritty details. Companies need to go into intimate detail about a particular topic and provide step-by-step guidance which isn’t already available elsewhere. Instead of writing a generic blog on “How To Attract Clients” be more specific and write something like “How To Get Millennials Fired Up About Your Health Food Business.” Making the post about a specific industry and target audience will help you bag all the traffic from long-tail searches while simultaneously attracting the very people who are most interested in your services. This is evident on this niche blog for the property/real estate sector.
Stop Relying On Generalists: Be More Specific
Up until now, businesses have gotten away with relying on generalists for their content marketing needs. But with the ecosystem growing the way that it is, some analysts no longer think that this will be sufficient. Businesses need people with very specific skills to generate all the new forms of content required to attract new customers. Having a blogger create a video is a recipe for disaster.
Pulling off better marketing in 2017 will involve a few managerial challenges. You’ll have to design new processes to check each piece of content, including drafting, editing, final checking and so on. You’ll also have to hire and train all the new content creators you need.
But producing higher quality output will help to make your business significantly more competitive than others in your industry. If you want to get ahead of the curve, the time to act is now.
Nail your editorial process and make it happen.