We’re almost in Q4 2016 and it’s getting to that time when we take stock of what’s worked and not worked for us this year before we begin to make our plans and set budgets for 2017.
Here are 7 trends from 2016 that promise to be winners in 2017:
UGC VS. STAFF CONTENT
Companies are getting increasingly better at finding ways to source their content rather than develop their own content. As of the second quarter of 2016, Facebook had 1.71 billion monthly active users, and a fair share of them generate content on a weekly basis. Similarly, though obviously not at the same scale as the Facebook platform, companies are encouraging their users to generate content by promoting the use of company managed blogs and forums, customer and prospect surveys, social media channels, and guest contributing editors to create content for their audiences. If your plan for 2017 is to create all of your own content, perhaps now is the time to think about ways you can get your users to create your content for you as well.
THINK GLOBAL, ACT LOCAL
General purpose content for all audiences no longer works. We are inundated with content every day and content marketers realize that to capture mindshare of their audience, their content needs to stand out from the crowd. How do you do that? One of the most effective ways is by creating and promoting specialized content. Through 2016, we’ve seen that specialized content has come to mean content that is localized,segmented and personalized. We still see campaigns, specially on the B2B side, where content in English is used for lead generation campaigns in countries across Europe or the Far East where content in the local languages would be far more effective. The companies that have seen far better results – by a factor of 10 or more – are those that localized their content. Second, audience segmentation is a strategy that successful marketers use for their content for everything from drip email campaigns to retargeting to specific ad groups. Finally, personalization – this takes the specialization down to a further level, where content is not only in a language that I’m most comfortable with, the messages are specific to my buying “persona,” but that also the content is personalized to me specifically based on my ‘intent data.’
VIDEOS AND PODCASTS AS STARTING FAVORITES
Video has been one of the biggest winners in the past few years, and now podcasts seem to be making a powerful comeback. With increasing download speeds and the ubiquity of mobile devices, video seemed sure to emerge from being one of the most promising media formats to being an extremely effective and popular one. Adding to the appeal of video, is the ease of downloading podcasts and viewing at a convenient time for the user, and we have another winner in the making. In 2016, marketers have found that both videos and podcasts are now powerful formats to engage the different segments in their audience.
QUALITY VS. QUANTITY
Every year we lament the abundance of poor content – either because it was created without an understanding of the audience, or that some marketers use the spray and pray method of content marketing. Either way, we see tremendous volumes of content daily and that volume is only increasing. This also means that poor quality content is receiving even less attention than it used to and poor content or even average content does not provide the ROI that marketers would hope for from their campaigns. A quick and easy way for you to guage the quality of your content is to look at the responses from your audience – this could be the number of likes it receives on social media or the open and click rates if you’re using email marketing. So for 2017, an important consideration would be to focus on the quality of the content you are looking to produce rather than look to increase the volumes and different formats of content you are producing to meet the demands of your omni-channel outreach.
PAID VS. ORGANIC REACH
It was a good time when we could focus only on SEO, or bring in an outside firm to do the heavy lifting, and sit back and watch the leads pour in. Then came social media, and with it the fascinating potential of our content going viral overnight based on the hordes of users that flock to the most popular social media platforms daily for news. Unfortunately, that’s a trend that’s on the decline with the choices for organic growth providing limited potential for 2017. For example, Facebook has recently severely limited the visibility that companies can achieve through organic reach itself. To achieve the same levels of reach, other platforms as well are providing more paid options and forcing marketers to increase their usage of paid promotions to achieve the same visibility. For 2017, this means perhaps factoring in an increase in the budget for the paid component of social media promotions, and also upgrading your content marketing strategy to look for alternative channels of distribution.
INTERACTIVE VS. STATIC CONTENT
One-directional, ‘static’ content has its best years behind it. Even with increasing levels of specialized content being produced in 2016, and we expect this to increase in 2017, there is a limit to how much personalization can be done on the content production side, aka by the marketers. Enter interactive content. By creating content that is wrapped within interactive tools like a quiz or a diagnostic questionnaire or a game, users can now tailor the content they see based on their real-time responses. This ‘gamification’ of content is one of the hottest trends of 2016 and we expect it will continue to grow meteorically in 2017.
No discussion of marketing trends for 2016 would be complete without at least an acknowledgement of the strides ABM has made this year in terms of the growth of the tech to support it, the media fanfare created to promote it, and the increase in the adoption rates of the ABM approach by marketers. While the success of the adopters of the ABM approach is still mixed, there is no doubt that the ABM approach has valuable suggestions for even the most traditional demand generation marketers amongst us. With the increasing levels of specialized content being created, ABM approaches demand even further personalization of content for key accounts - both prospective accounts and well as existing customer accounts. The strong growth of ABM in 2016 as an approach being put into practice by the best marketers around us will continue to grow in 2017 with the advent of new tech that supports ABM.
As you make your plans, the seven trends here can be considered to see how they can help make your plans more robust for 2017. Some marketers will ride the wave of these new trends, while some will deliberately choose to buck the trends and try different methods to innovate. There will be winners and losers on both sides. The future tends to look a lot like the past – and so by an increased understanding the trends of 2016, we hope you will be better equipped as you move into the new year.