In media, you're only as good as your understanding of the industry and the trends and tactics that shape it. And the industry is always changing. Last year brought us developments in social media, publishing platforms, and proprietary tech: Twitter removed its share count, and distributors had to adapt their metrics. Ad blockers were born, and content had to improve, often with the help of custom content technology.
Content marketing trends in 2016 promise change on a similar — if not greater — scale, and we’d love to see brands embrace these five trends as they transition to a new year.
You don’t have to search long to find video influencers in the content world, but one individual seems to outdo them all: Tim Washer is not only the senior marketing manager at Cisco, but he’s also a writer with credits including “Saturday Night Live” and “Conan.” He enhances his brand voice through humor and storytelling, a mission that strikes at a few content trends in 2016.
As content marketers work to craft more compelling, engaging content, video will be the platform through which it’s accomplished. But don’t just take it from me: A 2015 Nielsen poll found that 64 percent of marketers expect video to dominate their content strategies moving forward.
Foodies have long dominated the food influencer market, from DIY specialists and chefs to neighborhood hunters. But what about the places they buy their gluten-free, low-calorie, superfood ingredients? In 2016, we’d like to see brands like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods establish thought leadership using their own video influencers to educate consumers on the unique foods they sell, the origins of those foods, and how best to prepare them.
As more teams develop their own proprietary portal technologies, the custom analytics tools that make them so valuable will continue to help companies streamline processes and marketers create better content.
At Influence & Co., we rolled out our own custom software in 2015 and will offer access to clients throughout the beginning of the new year to complement the content creation and distribution services we provide, both internally and externally. And we’re not the only ones.
From corporations like Coca-Cola to local and state government offices, intranet portal technology can improve and streamline operations. According to Brennan White, CEO at Cortex, "In a world where our cars are beginning to drive us, it's time we let data and software direct our creative teams and make them more efficient and effective. The results are spectacular (and the easiest way to buy a leg up on the competition)."
Many types of business can benefit substantially from proprietary technology and portal systems, and we’d love to see online publishers like Forbes and Entrepreneur adopt a similar model in 2016.
Editorial processes in place to improve articles often end up slowing the flow of content from writer to publisher. But in a portal system in which writers and editors alike could easily pitch, review, revise, and publish content, these hurdles could be more easily overcome. As publishing platforms like Medium and LinkedIn allow for quicker, easier access to networks, mainstream publishers need to keep up — and portal technology can make them more competitive.
Content is more than just a marketing and sales tool. Recruiting, employee training, and even account service teams are requesting content that speaks to all aspects of a brand and its culture — beyond its value to the sales process. And creators of content are seeking help and ideas from those who are already engaged with the company.
Take Google's blog, for instance. Its description, "Insights from Googlers into our products, technology, and the Google culture," is fitting, as the blog covers niche aspects under the company's massive umbrella while still positioning Google as a cool, relatable brand. Visitors find themselves reading and engaging with content — covering topics as diverse as Machu Picchu and Google Demo Day — before deciding to commit.
Traditional newspapers' struggle to maintain circulation has been widely reported in the digital age. The shift to web and mobile models is an obvious culprit, but a lack of innovation might be another. Newspapers need to reimagine content outside the news and editorials they already publish. We'd love to see a brand like The New York Times or The Washington Post conduct a content series on the citizen journalist, providing guidance to readers who might find themselves in the right place at the right time.
The publication's series could highlight its environment, culture, and writing principles. As opposed to encouraging the erasure of traditional journalism, the series would educate consumers on the many attributes that differentiate the Times or Post from their neighbors — and on the quality of the content the organization produces because of those differences — while still encouraging citizens to take an active role in reporting and content creation.
It will take unconventional methods to stimulate citizens' interest in conventional news and reporting, but with publishing and social platforms accessible to all, this could be a profound way for a media titan to further engage readers on the platforms they already use.
We’ve written before about the successes of LinkedIn, Medium, and Facebook as alternative publishing platforms for thought leaders, but these spaces may not remain “alternative” much longer.
In particular, Facebook Instant Articles is changing the aesthetic of publishing. Readers on the platform are greeted by tilt-enabled photography, autoplay video, and embedded audio captions, each seamlessly integrated. The content is as beautiful to read and watch as it is informative. And media companies like National Geographic, BuzzFeed, and The Atlantic are quickly signing up to publish there.
GoPro's innovative video and photo tech has changed the way people experience the natural world. Through a channel on its website, the company leverages some of the content its consumers create — but we think it could do more through social publishing.
Not every company has the financial heft to build its own publishing arm like Red Bull. But by inviting guest influencers to use its product and share the results through words and video, GoPro could employ social publishing tools to spread viral content that shows consumers how it empowers people to experience the world.
If you're not a veteran, then you may not be familiar with the Veterans Affairs home loan — in fact, not many veterans are, either. But the Veterans Guide to Homeownership, a strategic content partnership between Veterans United Home Loans and Realtor.com, is designed to educate veterans through every stage of the homebuying process. Side note, Veterans United is a company that we've worked with at Influence & Co., and very much admire as they are right up the street from your headquarters. While we didn't help them with this particular project, we'd still wanted to share it because we think it's a stellar example!
Companies often place content on external sites through publishing platforms or native advertising. But partnerships like these provide great utility to each partner, allowing them to share expertise, increase brand awareness through exposure, and mitigate cost. Compared with native advertising, these partnerships also carry fewer ethical burdens.
Entertainment now comes through more streams than conventional screens. But with so much content available to view or hear, how can we really know what's worth consuming?
In 2016, we'd love to see a content partnership between a video-streaming service like Netflix or Amazon Prime and a review forum such as Indiewire. Whereas the writers for Indiewire fill a niche in the larger publishing world, their expertise could also be useful to those of us flipping through Netflix's "recently added" menu. The partnership would provide utility to all parties — informing the consumers, lending exposure to Indiewire, and helping the streaming service convince dedicated cinemagoers that high-quality entertainment can be found on the smaller screen.
Content marketing and the number of ways brands can leverage it will only grow in the new year. More practices will emerge as we continue to execute effective content marketing, but these are the trends and brands we most look forward to watching in the months ahead.
When it comes to ideation, I love my 4th, 5th, and 6th thoughts. The first three are often contrived. Improvisational comedy is my art, Nelson Mandela is my hero, and Zooey Deschanel is my love.