The State of Content Marketing 2018


BEST PRACTICES SERIES

Article ImageAnother year is gone, and both B2C and B2B marketers still continue to be increasingly focused on content marketing. Despite new technology that may take the content production world by storm, movement has been somewhat slow among the masses of marketers in terms of really leveraging things such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, despite the predictions of experts in last year’s Sourcebook that content would become far more interactive and sophisticated as tools such as IBM’s Watson came into play.

The Content Marketing Year in Review

A couple of predictions held true for 2017. Nancy A. Shenker, founder and CEO of theONswitch, a marketing agency, pointed both to the need for content marketers to be more focused on analytics and to a shift away from a “love affair with Millennials as professional marketers” to recognizing that higher-level skills would be required.

Indeed, the demand for skilled content marketers has increased, with journalists finding themselves sought after as skilled and experienced producers of content. The quality bar is being raised, and companies of all sizes are eager to succeed.

With a proliferation of new and continued engagement with existing visual channels—such as Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube—content in 2017 increasingly focused on images and movement at all stages of the consumer experience. Pamela Muldoon is a revenue marketing coach for The Pedowitz Group. “As content marketers become more savvy around the strategy of content, we will see smarter content ideation happening in all stages of the buying journey or customer experience,” says Muldoon. “Instead of deciding that certain types of content are good for certain stages of the marketing and sales funnel, a more holistic approach to how an audience intakes information will be considered as content development takes place.”

That means, says Muldoon, that content that had traditionally been used mainly during the awareness stage—podcasts, for instance—will be considered for later stages such as consideration or retention. This also, she says, will serve to provide content up front, meeting audience needs to binge content when interested in a particular product or service.

Meanwhile, chatbots saw huge growth in 2017. Facebook’s Messenger led the way, growing to more than 100,000 bots in its first year. Brands that can create and maintain trusting relationships with consumers will become go-to sources for information, particularly as consumer trust in content is diminishing.

Jamie Posnanski, head of digital content with Accenture, says, “Brands are up against false content creators, who are utilizing bots to curate a perception that content is getting Likes and comments—so, in turn, brands are at war with the algorithms.” Today’s consumers know they’re being marketed to, states Posnanski: “This presents a challenge as marketers try to build a content strategy based on engagement and personalization.”

Addressing that challenge will require content marketers to be increasingly strategic, he says. “What has been interesting for us has been to see the gradual change amongst marketers who are only now starting to recognize the need to shift away from campaign-based thinking to a more comprehensive mindset for content and customer engagement,” Posnanski says.

Analysis has become part and parcel of the content marketing process, he states. “Marketers are now looking for analytic insights that can influence everything from ‘test and learn’ experimentation to media planning and channel optimization in a continuous cycle rather than a periodic campaign scorecard report.” This kind of refinement based on real data and increasingly sophisticated analytics will continue into 2018 as content marketers keep looking for real results.

A Look Ahead at Content Marketing

The demand for top talent will continue into 2018, predicts Megan James, a clinical psychotherapist and content strategist for MGID, a native advertising marketplace. “Yesterday’s editor-in-chief in publishing is today’s content strategist in the digital ecosystem, and businesses will increase their focus on finding top talent in that field,” she says.

In addition, James predicts, there will be an increasing focus on creating high-end media formats, especially video. “Infographics, galleries, podcasts, and video content will all be hugely popular in the content marketing field,” she says. “Video is dominating the space, with many consumers preferring this format and new platforms entering the space every day. If a brand is investing in new visuals, it should focus on video.”

Technology will continue to play a role in how consumers engage with content. “As we move into 2018, we are seeing a fresh romance blossoming with the physical world,” says Posnanski. “Content marketers are stepping outside of their screens to take a good look at the world around them and curating experiences utilizing augmented and virtual reality.” He points to IKEA Place as a great example of creating augmented reality (AR) for shoppers—making it possible for consumers “to view a potential piece of furniture in their living room to ensure it’s the right size, color, shape, style for their space before making the purchase.”

With the continued emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), says Posnanski, content marketers will need to consider “how to format and distribute content across an expanding array of non-phone or computer devices.”

Content consumers will play an increasing role in both creating and consuming content, with a growing reliance on user-generated content, says James. “This differs from influencer marketing, where a brand pays to engage with an influencer for content creation and distribution. This is capitalizing on positive word-of-mouth from actual consumers, and all savvy brands will be doing it.”

Mike Catania is the founder of PromotionCode.org. In 2018, he says, the question will be: “Who controls your content?” Catania predicts that “between Google AMP, Facebook Instant Articles, and your internal publication/syndication ambitions, it’s going to be hard to prioritize ownership over eyeballs, particularly with the Google AMP.” While Facebook and Google options have been in place for several years, they’ve grown out of their infancy, says Catania. “Content owners and writers are going to have to be more deliberate about distribution options that give away the control over who owns the content and how readers consume it.”

As we move into 2018, content will continue to be top of mind for marketers and consumers. Generating interest, earning trust, and driving engagement will be key to achieving real results. Keeping pace with the demand for high-quality content and continued competition, while learning to leverage new technology, promises to have content marketers very busy indeed in the new year.  


Related Articles

It's January 2017, and you've turned over the digital calendar page on a new year. Was your resolution to walk an extra 1,000 steps a week this year, to be tracked by your Apple Watch, shared on Facebook for extra accountability, and added to your Lifetick goal-tracking web app? Congratulations—you've both added to and exemplified the state of Big Data in 2017.
There may be no tool more important to the daily life of web users, but more overlooked, than the WCM system. Ask the average web surfer what powers the content he or she consumes, and he or she would likely just look at you dumbfounded. But businesses and publishers know how important WCM systems are to getting their messages out to the masses. While WCM systems may be the foundation much of the web is built on, the industry is changing shape all the time.
Despite the significant uptick in consumer use of mobile technology, there's still a big gap between those marketers who have effectively embraced mobile to provide an engaging user experience and those who have a long way to go. While experts have been predicting a big bump in the use of more sophisticated technology to deliver better mobile experiences through augmented reality (AR), mixed reality, and virtual reality (VR), for instance, those predictions have yet to be fully borne out. Instead, what we saw in 2017 was continued growth in the app marketplaces, the rapid advent of chatbots, and a growing focus on video (specifically live video), to engage audiences.
Big Data, that corpus of global digital information characterized by velocity, variety, and volume—with contributions from just about every being and machine on the planet—has achieved such a scope and speed of growth that any attempt to quantify it is outdated as soon as it's measured. If, in the last year, Amazon sold 636 items per second on Amazon Prime Day, YouTube saw 300 hours of video uploaded by users every minute, and Google handled 3.5 billion searches per day, then count on 2018 to bring more of the same.
In an increasingly high-tech world in which artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are rapidly accelerating our understanding of customers and paving innovative pathways to reaching them more intuitively, digital marketers have to ask themselves a logical question: Are the robots coming for my job too? No, not yet. Those tasked with reaching more eyeballs and raising brand awareness online can likely bolster their job security by staying ahead of important trends and carefully watching industry developments.
Consider, for a moment, the latest staggering stats. Worldwide, people watch an average of 5 hours and 45 minutes of online video weekly—a 34% increase from 2016, based on the results of Limelight Network's "The State of Online Video 2017" consumer survey. By 2021, a million minutes of video content will cross global IP networks every second, according to Cisco; at that rate, it would take you more than 5 million years to watch all the video crossing the network each month. And within 3 years, IP video traffic will account for 82% of all consumer internet traffic, per Cisco.
If you ask Elon Musk, artificial intelligence (AI) should be feared. "I don't think most people understand just how quickly machine intelligence is advancing," Musk said on stage at Vanity Fair's New Establishment Summit: The Age of Innovation. He also sponsors open AI, "a non-profit AI research company, discovering and enacting the path to safe artificial general intelligence." Despite Musk's misgivings, AI is infiltrating just about every corner of our lives and the digital content industry.
We thought it would be interesting to speak with practitioners who are working on the front lines, implementing WCM solutions on a daily basis, and get their thoughts on some of the most pressing questions companies face when selecting new WCM solutions.