#1: Data-driven marketing will become the new standard
The Big Data trend shows no signs of leveling off in 2017, and that has important implications for marketers, who won’t be able to ignore data anymore. First and most importantly, they will have to take data into account before developing new content. They can no longer worry just about SEO anymore.
Instead, brands will need to take a closer look at the performance of all the content they are creating, and then attach metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) to that content to ensure that they are truly delivering value to clients. It’s no longer the case that marketers can create content purely for the sake of creating content – they need to show that content is helping to achieve certain business goals.
#2: Visuals will matter more than words
Content marketing won’t just be about your blogs, it will be about sending content out in myriad formats such as video. In short, content will become more visual. People won’t read long tracts of words. It’s about short, sharp and visual. We’ve already seen this with the emergence of new visual platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest. What matters is being able to tell stories using these visuals in a way that’s real and authentic.
For smaller brands, these social platforms can be enormously empowering, enabling them to compete with larger rivals at a relatively low cost. With Instagram Stories, for example, small upstart brands can help to tell the story behind their brand, as well as provide easy ways to share photos and videos of their products being used by consumers.
#3: Live video will explode in popularity
Video, particularly live video, will continue to gain traction as consumers want to live vicariously through what brands are offering. The easiest way to see the momentum around this trend is with Facebook Live, which has made live video streaming available to over 1 billion people worldwide. In addition to Facebook Live, look for social platforms like Instagram and Twitter (via Periscope) to gain traction with their live video offerings.
Expect to see more brands livestreaming from events, whether it’s conferences or exclusive events for fans and followers. Also, expect to see the rise of the first Facebook Live celebrities, much as we saw the rise of Vine celebrities, Snapchat celebrities, and YouTube celebrities. Judging from the marketing that Facebook is using to promote Facebook Live, the emphasis will be on shared experiences of friends – such as friends hanging out at sporting events and cheering on their teams.
#4: Content marketing and journalism will merge
Great writers, especially former journalists who ‘get’ content, will be treated like gold and snapped up by savvy companies as business realise how important the skills of a journalist are to content marketing. Ultimately, great content marketing is all about telling stories that resonate with consumers, and that’s where journalists have an edge: they are experienced at distilling complex stories into easy-to-follow narratives that resonate with readers. If doesn’t hurt, of course, that journalists are also experienced at creating the types of clickable titles that are simply irresistible to Internet users.
#5: The fake news controversy will change how content is created
Last year’s ‘fake news’ controversy will mean companies will be held accountable for their content. You won’t be able to put out stories using survey data collected from surveys of 30 people!!! (Nor should you ever have) Instead, the focus will be on creating credible content that has been fact-checked for accuracy and based on reliable sources.
In addition, we’ll see a re-thinking of how brands use the social media news feed as a distribution mechanism for updates. We’ve already seen signs in this direction: social media giant Facebook is looking to change the algorithm for determining what gets added to your news feed. After all, the whole reason the fake news controversy started in the first place was because “likebait” became the new “clickbait.” As Facebook refines the newsfeed algorithm, that could raise the bar for brands that are still creating content that is meant to be viral rather than informative.
#6: Brands will emphasize the value of their content to consumers
Brands are going to have to show value to the user in what they’re offering. You are using up their precious time, so don’t expect to get away with shouting your marketing at them. Provide value in your content – or don’t bother! This means even more of a focus on providing content that educates and informs users rather than merely entertains them.
One easy way for brands to embrace this trend in 2017 is to re-think the type of video they are creating on YouTube. The days of merely posting teasers, trailers and slick product videos are over. If you’re a beauty and cosmetics brand, for example, think about ways to educate female consumers about how to use your products. If you’re a travel and hospitality brand, think about ways that you can inform people about the destinations they are visiting rather than just showing glossy photos and videos of hotel lobbies.
#7: This will be the year of hyper-personalisation
Everything has to be more personalised and local. Don’t think you can get away with posting the same stuff on every channel. You’re going to have to personalise your content and make it more relevant for users. This will require a re-think of how brands use social platforms. One example is Snapchat and the use of geofilters – by simply customizing a filter for a specific geographic location, brands can add value for users while at the same time, personalising the overall social experience.
Of course, all of this hyper-personalisation requires a lot of time and resources, so brands will explore new technological solutions that make this possible. Using software, for example, it’s already possible to send out customized email newsletters to customers rather than one-size-fits-all newsletters. The next step is to take this approach to social media content. At a time when more content is being created than ever before, and some consumers feel that they are drowning in new content, personalisation will be the key to cutting through the clutter for brands.