At its core, content marketing is all about giving your audience something it wants. But as market paradigms shift, available technologies evolve, and users find themselves with changing preferences, “what your audience wants” becomes a harder question to answer.
As more companies enter the fold of content marketing, competing for a slice of that ROI pie, and experienced companies push forward to find new ways to connect with their audiences, content marketing trends emerge and evolve—and 2016 has been no exception to that rule.
Late last year, I made some predictions for how the world of content marketing would shape up in my article The Top 7 Content Marketing Trends That Will Dominate 2016.
Now that we’re more than halfway through 2016, let’s take a look at what trends we’re really seeing:
1. Organic reach is declining significantly.
For the last few years, social media platforms have been the dominant force in content popularity; they’re the most popular platforms for people to get news and information, and the floodgates that can allow torrents of followers to make a piece go viral. But lately, social media platforms—Facebook especially—have been downsizing the level of organic visibility that publishers and brands can achieve without paying money for advertising. One of Facebook’s latest updates was particularly crushing to the visibility of content in individual users’ newsfeeds. This is forcing content marketers to think about content production and distribution in new ways.
2. Demand for interactive content is growing quickly.
Thanks to the sheer volume of companies and individuals in the content marketing game, plain vanilla content is no longer enough to stand out from the pack. Furthermore, as brands publish better, more interesting content in an effort to do so, reader expectations get higher and higher. Now, readers want more of an interactive experience, with some degree of variability and an amount of influence over the end resulting experience. Content marketers are picking up on this trend and are offering more opportunities like quizzes, calculators, flowcharts, polls, and other ways for users to get directly involved with the content they produce.
3. The quality gap is widening.
There’s always been a “quality gap” when it comes to content, but it’s growing wider as more brands enter the content marketing game. Only a small percentage of all content produced ever gets any likes or shares, and those get the vast majority of all likes and shares on the Internet. Meanwhile, the vast majority of content doesn’t meet the threshold of “quality” necessary to see these results, and they end up generating no meaningful attention. Because competition is increasing and users’ expectations are increasing, this quality gap is growing larger, meaning it’s more difficult than ever for content to achieve the reach and visibility it needs to yield a positive ROI.
4. Video content is skyrocketing in popularity.
There’s no question that video content is one of the biggest content marketing trends of the past few years. It’s easier than ever for users to watch videos, thanks to mobile technology and near-universal Wi-Fi, and it’s easier for publishers to produce and syndicate them. When done right, they’re highly effective ways to communicate information, and since they’re visual, they tend to stand out more than a written post (or even an image) could. The floodgates are open, and videos are pouring in to fill the void.
5. Podcasts are rising in popularity.
In our age of video content, it seems strange to think a format like podcasts is seeing a resurgence in popularity—but it is. More people are downloading and listening to podcasts regularly, and content publishers are finding it easier to find and build a niche audience for their respective brands. Part of the appeal is the ease of getting started with podcasting, along with its relatively easy integration with other media formats.
6. User-generated content is on the rise.
Why produce your own content when you can have your users can do it for you? It sounds a little crazy, but it can be quite effective. There are many ways to encourage your users to create content on behalf of your brand; you could open up a public forum for your users to engage with one another, sponsor a social media-based contest to facilitate user submissions meeting certain criteria, conduct a survey of your email newsletter subscribers and use the data to compile a report, or even solicit guest posts from willing contributors who have enough experience to add value to your blog. These tactics give you new content, spare you effort, and get your users involved simultaneously—no wonder why it’s one of 2016’s biggest content trends.
7. Personalization and segmentation are becoming necessary to reach the right customers.
Due to increasing competitive pressures and rising user demand for highly specialized content, more content marketers are starting to turn toward personalization and segmentation strategies to create content that’s a better fit for their respective audiences. Rather than casting a wide net with a broad range of topics, content marketers are starting to opt for more specific niches. In cases where companies have multiple target audiences or where they can’t settle on one niche, offering multiple forms of content—on separate blogs or through separate brands—is becoming popular.
The year isn’t over yet, so if you haven’t yet gotten on board with these trends, you still have a few months to do so before they inevitably morph into a new set of expectations and capabilities. There’s no rule that says you must adhere to these trends—in fact, you might get some visibility and differentiation bonus points by going against the norm—but you should at least be aware of them, so you can plan your campaign around them accordingly. It’s a cutthroat competitive world in the content game, and you need to be at your best. If you’re looking for help getting started with a content marketing campaign, see .The All-in-One-Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.