Content marketing is a complicated task. It’s not enough to write a few blog posts and share them on your company’s Facebook page anymore. When done right, content marketing can increase brand awareness, bring in more qualified leads, and convert these leads to sales.
If you’re going to win at the content marketing game, however, you need to know what tactics work today and which ones will continue to work tomorrow.
(Not an easy task in a digital world that changes in the blink of an eye.)
We’ve gathered together a list of the top content marketing trends that should be on your radar NOW, and that are likely to have staying power in the immediate future, as well.
1. Mobile-first Content Strategy is Priority #1
Content marketers who aren’t using a “mobile-first” mentality for content offerings are setting themselves up for failure in 2016 and beyond.
Consumers are using their smartphone and mobile devices as they embark on every phase of the buying journey.
From researching their problem to considering the best way to solve it and making their final decision; it’s all done on a handheld device.
All of this increasing mobile activity means content needs to be crafted for mobile devices first.
How do you create mobile-first content?
#1. Written content needs to be mobile friendly:
- Concisely written
- Short sentences and short paragraphs
- Strong, compelling headlines
- Good use of whitespace
#2. Quizzes and interactive content should be easy to operate on a mobile device.
#3. Diversify your content offerings: visual content such as Slideshares and videos are easier to consume than a 45-page PDF.
The rise of mobile has forever changed the landscape of content marketing, as you will continue to see with the following content trends.
2. Visual Content Crushes Written Content
Content visuals aren’t new, but their importance simply can’t be understated. Whether it’s photos, infographics, videos, charts, GIFs, or graphs -- visual content pummels the written word every time.
This can be a hard pill to swallow for content writers and lovers of the English language. But don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you have to set aside written content completely.
By incorporating visual elements into your content, your words can have an even larger impact on your audience.
Adding a visual element to your content can:
- Increase your readers’ attention spans and recall by 82%.
- Make an impression which is 39% more memorable.
- Get 94% more views compared to content with no relevant images.
Many industry experts recommend using 1 image for every 300 words of your content. Neil Patel uses even more than that in most of his articles for Crazy Egg, but cautions against sacrificing the user experience by packing in irrelevant or low-quality images.
3. Video is Taking over the World
Video killed the radio star… but it didn’t stop there. Because video also slays written content, stands out in a sea of unoriginal infographics, and has the edge over podcasts, too.
As discussed, your content needs to be strategized from a mobile-first point-of-view. And mobile devices are getting even faster than ever. Soon, 5G will offer connectivity speeds significantly faster than the current 4G LTE speeds available for mobile devices. Which means faster video download speeds, reduced latency, and fewer interruptions.
In other words, there will be even more demand for video from your audience.
Video is already the fastest growing segment of content marketing, and its popularity with content consumers will continue to rise.
Including a video in an email can provide a 20% boost in open rates and higher click-through rates.
That doesn’t mean slapping a few videos up on a YouTube page is the secret to content success, however. If you are going to use video as part of your content strategy, it needs to make sense.
- Is video a content element preferred by your specific audience, or would they prefer to read or listen to information?
- Is your video emotionally compelling in a way written information couldn’t be?
- Does your video demonstrate a process for your audience?
- Will your video enhance your brand storytelling?
Don’t make videos just for the sake of making videos. But don’t neglect video’s ability to supercharge your content efforts, either.
Video can be a compelling visual element that enriches your overall content strategy.
4. Paid Content Distribution is Worth Every Penny
There’s a limit to the free, organic reach for your content. Recent changes to Facebook’s feed and increasing opportunities for paid content distribution across channels such as Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter means the days of “free” content distribution are gone.
Content marketing was never a truly “free” way to build your brand, increase your exposure, and bring in new leads anyways. While content marketing has been (and continues to be) more cost effective compared to traditional advertising methods - the cost of creating great content now includes the cost of distribution across paid channels, as well.
The vast enormity of available content makes it nearly impossible for yours to organically reach your intended audience.
With the many benefits of paid social, why wouldn’t you include it in your content marketing budget?
- Advanced targeting options increase ad relevance.
- Improved conversion tracking can help you track performance and effectiveness.
- 76% of B2C companies use promoted posts, and the majority find them effective.
- Advertising execs rate Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter highest for returning ROI.
The question is no longer whether or not to invest in paid social advertising, rather it’s how much to invest to get your content in front of the right audience.
5. Interactive Content Reigns Supreme
Hand a toy to any kid and ask them if they would rather look at it, or play with it… what do you think the answer is? Luckily, we are all kids at heart.
If you want your audience to engage with your content, give them what they want… make it interactive.
The best part of interactive content? While your audience engages, they are often giving something of value right back to you:
To capture this information and engage with a willing audience, give some of these interactive content forms a try.
One of the most popular forms of interactive content is a quiz. They may seem like a fun distraction to your audience, but a quiz is also an opportunity for your to gather information and data, too. While your audience is determining what Star Wars character they are most like, you could be solidifying your persona research, or calculating the most relevant subsequent content to offer.
Assessments and Surveys
Whether it’s testing a skillset or knowledge, or discovering a personality type, assessments and tests are another popular interactive form of content. We will include polls and surveys in this category, too. Because once again, the answers your audience provides can help you determine who they are, what they need, and how you can best deliver that to them.
You’re not still making static infographics, are you? Interactive infographics, also known as gifographics, are breathing new life into a content offering that was beginning to get a bit, well, stale. An animated or interactive infographic is a fun way to engage with your audience and leave a great brand impression.
Get your audience involved with your content. Let them play, put them in the driver’s seat, allow them a fun distraction.
6. The Rise of the AI Machines
Ok, we’re not talking about Terminator-style, killer-robots-from-the-future artificial intelligence. But the future has arrived, and artificial intelligence (AI) is going to impact the way you do content marketing from here on out.
Google’s Knowledge Graph, Google’s RankBrain, and digital assistants like Siri are all examples of machine-learning AI systems that help search engines better interpret and understand search queries.
What does this mean for content marketers?
As search engines get more sophisticated at providing answers to long-tail search queries, marketers will need to dive deeper into topics for their audience by focusing more on long-tail keyword driven content.
Long-tail keywords better convey a searcher’s intent, which is why they have higher conversion rates compared to head keywords.
A head keyword such as “auto insurance” may have more monthly searches, but a long-tail keyword such as “commercial auto insurance quote,” or “auto insurance broker near me” better conveys a searcher’s intent to buy.
There’s no need to fear the rise of the machines. As search engines get better at learning what people are looking for, you can rise to the top of the SERPS with more detailed, in depth, content that addresses your audience’s exact needs.
7. Content Creation Gets Automated… and Freelancers Get Alarmed
Don’t worry -- you’re not out of a job quite yet. But new content algorithms are churning out articles about simple topics. And that could leave some freelance writers reconsidering their career of choice.
As these robotic algorithms get better at producing more sophisticated articles, they may become a more cost-effective solution compared to freelancers or even on-staff writers.
For now, complex topics will still require the specialized skill set of an experienced content writer. Content creation takes a unique blend of persuasive copywriting, data analysis, SEO knowledge, strategy, and creativity -- things that can’t be outsourced to a robot just yet.
8. Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP Deliver for Mobile
Facebook Instant Articles allows publishers to optimize content for instant access and easy viewing. The intent behind FB Instant Articles is to provide a better experience for mobile users.
Notice a theme?
Mobile is not a buzzword or a fad. It’s completely changing the way we use the internet. And companies like Facebook are taking notice and leading the way for better and better mobile- user experiences.
Content that you publish on FB Instant Articles is only available for an audience of Facebook users. However, with 1.04 billion active daily users, you may find it worth your effort.
Facebook isn’t alone in addressing a need for a better mobile experience. Google AMP is a publishing platform whose purpose is to share mobile-optimized content across multiple platforms.
It’s not enough to have a website that is optimized for mobile. To reach a wider audience and keep up with an internet that is ever-changing, you’ll AMP your site and publish Instant Articles, as well.
9. Story-telling is the New Black
Snapchat may not be the leading social media platform, but it’s having a big impact on content marketing, nonetheless.
Snapchat’s 100 million daily users represent 18% of all social media users, and that slice of the “social media pie” is growing every day. 60% of these 100 million users are contributing content to Snapchat every single day.
For those of you who haven’t taken the Snapchat plunge yet, here’s how this network has created an audience of content creators, not just content consumers:
The first screen of the Snapchat app is a camera which prompts users to share what they’re seeing or doing. Once a user has taken a photo or video, they can send the “snap” directly to friends. Unlike a text, a snap disappears after it’s watched.
Users can also post their snap to their Snapchat Story, where it can be viewed for up to 24 hours. Snapchat Stories were designed for users to show their friends what they were up to for a day.
But by changing their privacy settings, Snapchat Stories can become visible to a much broader audience: everyone.
Celebs like Chrissy Teigan, Lady Gaga, Kate Hudson, and Kylie Jenner are using the platform to tell their Stories and connect with fans.
And that means brands and businesses should take note.
Ignoring Snapchat is turning your back on an audience who is hungry to interact, eager to create content, and happy to consume it.
The world of content marketing is always changing. Trends may come and go, but we have a feeling that these trends will remain for the rest of 2016… and will serve you well in the near future, too.