The State of Content Marketing 2018

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 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.  

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