Some say we’re entering the golden age of Content Marketing.

Well, it depends on whom you ask, but one thing is for certain: content marketers are ready to go all in for 2018. The content marketing field is maturing— consistent, high-quality content marketing is one of the most effective tools you can implement to reach your company’s goals. In 2017, it was rated as the most important technique for driving incremental sales. From creation to distribution to consumption, organizations and businesses that have made consistent and sound investments in content marketing are reporting that those investments are paying dividends.

More than 60% of B2B marketers reported that their content marketing strategies are more effective and better developed now compared to just one year ago.  Looking at the data year over year, 34% of marketers felt their content marketing was effective in 2016 vs. just 30% in the previous year.

Video continues to overtake other types of content. Larger enterprises are placing more emphasis on creating original film, video, and animated content. Committing to content marketing is increasing— which in and of itself is great news!

Before you jump into pumping out dozens of pieces of content, take a second look at what makes the various types of content so effective, and what they can do for you and your brand. We’re going to breakdown some key trends that stood out this year and analyze how they are paving the way for next year’s content marketing best practices.

#1: Bets are still on original content.

Recently, Apple announced that they are planning to invest over $1 billion on original content. Though some industry gossip purports that Apple is making this move to take on Netflix, we believe there’s more on Apple’s mind than video streaming. Apple needs to stay relevant and consistent— after all, they are arguably the most globally recognizable brand in the world today. Valuable programming can and will grow their audience and keep their attention— just like all brands should!

We also know that Google is purchasing original content from media companies and brands to fill content gaps found throughout their search algorithms, and Facebook is investing large amounts of capital on original content. If your investors haven’t started investing in content yet, they will soon. Consistent, original, and addictive content is all the rage. Investing in original content creation will give your brand multiple options to monetize that content, either directly through prospects and current customers or secondarily via syndication through the Apples and Googles of the world.

#2: Transparency is king.

Consumers are getting burned out on brand advertising, and I’m not talking about the generation that’s been painted with a broad brush. Millennials, in particular, want (and even expect) companies to be transparent, authentic, and dedicated to giving back.

But consumers, overall, want that same transparency.

According to Digiday, some brands have tied this together in an appealing way, but many others are causing consumers to see this type of promotion as desperate and dishonest.

Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising survey makes it clear where consumers are putting their trust.

Graphical display of percentages of people who trust or somewhat trust various advertising formats, by geographical region
Percent of respondents who completely ore somewhat trust advertising format by region

For those in North America, recommendations from people they know come in at the top, with 82% saying they completely or somewhat trust their sources (compared to significantly lesser percentage for television ads, brand sponsorships, online video ads, social media ads, and ads on mobile devices).

It’s clear from this survey that consumers don’t believe they get the same authenticity from brands as they get from their peers. Brands need to focus on transparency and disclosure to close this gap as much as possible, which is why there has been a growth on influencer marketing in the past few years.

But keep in mind that working with influencers can be tricky…

In 2015, the FTC gave Machinima a warning for not disclosing paid endorsements to YouTube influencers who produced content for the channel. In fact, a quick Google search reveals that a lack of disclosure and transparency has caused trouble for many brands.

Visual representation of Machinima's failure to properly identify influencers
Machinima’s misrepresentation of influencers

To build and maintain the trust of your audience, the next phase of influencer marketing and branded content is to ensure that anything you create is transparent.

#3: There will be more ways to consume content away from our screens.

Customers are no longer limited to their screens to view, absorb, and interact with content. And while different formats, such as radio, television, and billboards have always been available, the Internet has made it so that content is interwoven into our lives in a brand-new way.

For example, think about how we interact with our technology, like Siri. When you talk and Siri responds, you are provided with call-and-response content on the fly.

Amazon’s Alexa is becoming a digital content doorway as well.

Many organizations are already using Alexa to share content with their audiences beyond their laptops, tablets, or phone screens. Through Alexa, the American Heart Association provides details on performing CPR, and pet lovers are benefiting from valuable “Ask Purina” shared content.

We’re at a point where everything is becoming digital. With sensors, Bluetooth, and beacon-based proximity marketing, there are growing opportunities for content interactions that go beyond audience engagement. This type of highly-targeted content can help you reach your audience at the right place and the best time.

#4: Content marketing budgets continue to increase.

A recent study shows that building expertise in content marketing is the number one goal for marketers in the Asia-Pacific region. U.S. content marketing budgets are also increasing, just like others around the globe. This is great news for content marketers who have been waiting years to have their efforts acknowledged. However, it must be recognized that these budgets typically revolve around native advertising campaigns and projects.

Most brands still treat their content marketing like advertising. Your content marketing department should be acting more like a media company and less like an advertising firm. For content marketing to truly work, it must be differentiated and consistently produced over a long time.

#5: Live video is taking over.

While it may not be gone for good, pre-recorded video content is continuing to be overshadowed by live video. In 2016, Buffer ran a survey that provided some insight into how marketers see video changing, and over 80% said they want to create more video content (42% specifically wanted to create more live video).

So, why the draw?

Well, Facebook video sees an average of 135% more organic reach than images. Facebook users spent 3x more time watching live videos than versus a video that is no longer live. Viewers also comment 10x more during live videos.

The good news is that live video can work for almost any business, whether it’s a closer look at your products or a behind-the-scenes look at your company culture. Start working with live video now to both capture your audience’s attention and engage with them directly. If you act quickly, you have a unique opportunity to take advantage of live video before your competition catches on.

While the trends I’ve listed are only a few of the many content marketing ideas out there, they are some of the most significant. Nevertheless, you should do your own due diligence to see how they can improve your own content marketing strategy for 2018.

Just remember: trends aren’t everything. Rather than constantly chasing trends, do your research, keep an eye out for top performers in your space, and use your findings to shape your strategy. 

Which content marketing trends do you plan to incorporate into your strategy?