In the beginning, content marketing was more like a trending buzzword, and companies were adopting it for marketing as an experiment. Fast forward to today, content marketing has become a necessity for a brand's marketing strategy. It has developed into a proven marketing channel for maximizing ROI. It has evolved to include a variety of other channels and analytical tools to test and prove what works and what doesn't. Buffer, the popular social media brand used guest blogging to boost their growth initially—publishing content multiple times a day, on high performing websites. This was one of the critical growth hacking strategies that helped Buffer attract its first 100,000 users. On its blog, Buffer attracted individuals who influenced their customers by creating high quality and highly shareable content. Currently, with around 400,000 users and approximately a million followers across multiple social channels, Buffer is a trusted brand with four blogs, including the Transparency blog and Open blog, where they share their failures and successes over the years.
It’s clear how Buffer has utilized several advanced content marketing tactics and strategies built on proven growth frameworks to help them achieve unparalleled success over the last few years. The way they have used guest posts to help gain traction and brand awareness by borrowing other audiences to their websites is worth following. They have also curated and repurposed content to create value for readers.
This article takes you through the current content marketing practices that are trending, how they are coherently working with traditional methods, why data-driven content marketing will become more critical in 2021, new advancements in the industry, and more.
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Content marketers today are exploring newer forms of content, and businesses are willing to try them out because they see value in them. While written, printed content is losing its charm, online audiovisual content like videos, live streaming, and webinars are drive results. Written forms of content like eBooks, infographics are also emerging as valuable assets in the content marketing arsenal.
With newer ways of marketing being explored ever so frequently now, missing out on one or a few content marketing channels can result in loss of leads and business opportunities for companies. For this purpose, we’ve compiled the top content marketing trends you should watch for in 2021, and some of the job opportunities that are emerging because of them.
1. Dynamic, Personalized Content
The modern consumer wants a highly personalized user experience and almost instantly rejects generalized information that's not relevant to them. CMI's 2019 B2B report indicates that prioritizing customer's needs was one of the successful marketing strategies last year. Customers prefer informational, trustworthy, and messages that can guide them throughout the buyer journey and help them make informed decisions.
2019 Trends in Personalization Survey Report from Evergage suggests that personalization helps advance customer relationships, with 70% marketers claiming it has a "strong" or "powerful" impact. About 85% of the respondents agree that their customers and prospects expect a personalized marketing experience. When asked about the benefits of adding personalization to their content strategy, marketers said that it helps in delivering better customer experiences, increasing loyalty, and generating measurable lift/ROI. The email was the most personalized channel in 2019, followed by website, in-person, online advertising, mobile app, and web applications.
With businesses focussing on creating new and engaging ways to communicate with and retain the attention of their customers, this trend of personalization will continue in 2020 as well.
2. The Rise of Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Chatbots, and Interactive Content
Visual-forward platforms with augmented reality and virtual reality will continue to be a hot trend in 2020. AR (augmented reality) amplifies the real world around you, enabling users to see virtual items or information while looking at real things. Snapchat's lenses that take a selfie is an authentic example of AR.
Virtual reality, on the other hand, allows you to immerse yourself in a totally-new, made-from-scratch virtual world. VR technology is more expensive than the AR, and that's why it is still lagging. Currently, marketing opportunities for using AR and VR are still nascent, but exciting applications are being created every day. This can be seen as an opportunity for creative content marketers. As VR becomes popular, immersive ads will be treated as a truly unique way to get your message delivered to prospective customers.
It is believed that chatbots will handle a vast majority of one to one conversations with customers by 2020. In the future, chatbots will become more robust with the advancement of AI, natural language processing, and machine learning. A Mobile Marketer study indicates that chatbots will drive $112B in retail sales by 2023. The main benefit of chatbots is their 24/7 availability at customer touchpoints. So as we near 2020, a significant parameter for the success of AI-enabled chatbots will be humans working behind-the-scenes on the scripts, language–using natural language processing (NLP) tools, and queries the bots can deal with. A chatbot is created to communicate with a customer via auditory or textual methods. They are often utilized as customer service agents on a website's home page or to give automated voice responses on a business' phone line. Chatbots have machine learning capabilities that help them create future conversations from previous conversational data.
Businesses can utilize the power of chatbots to build and engage in a trustworthy relationship with their customers. At a time, a large number of visitors may be visiting your website, so it's advantageous to have a machine that can answer hundreds of customers at once instead of having a handful of customer service representatives. Moreover, chatbots are faster, less invasive, and cost-effective.
3. Video Content and Podcast will Become Strong
As it is said, "seeing is believing, "video remains a crucial component at every stage in the customer journey and creating brand awareness. Indeed, users don't necessarily watch a video with the intention of buying, but they're open to discovery. And, videos can kick-start action and sometimes purchases too. Today’s users prefer video over all other forms of content to acquire information on new products and services. Increasingly, live video is being integrated with interactive content like polls and session feedback.
Although the number of podcast listeners has nearly tripled over the last ten years in the US, podcasts are not very much in use presently. And a majority of businesses are unaware of the true potential behind podcasts. Podcasts are a perfect combination of information and entertainment with light-hearted banter. They are undoubtedly engaging and a useful medium for businesses and listeners alike. Here's an example of a podcast of a webinar:
A great example of a highly captivating podcast is Marketing School by Neil Patel and his co-host, Eric Sue. Patel's podcasts touch all aspects of digital marketing including, inbound marketing, account-based marketing, influencer marketing, search engine optimization, conversion optimization, content creation, social media marketing, and more. Marketing School posts new episodes every day, and each episode is only about 5 minutes long but packed with tips, tactics, strategies, and insights on a particular topic.
4. Voice Search and Long Tail Keywords on the Rise
According to Mary Meeker, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Mary Meeker, voice and image searches will account for at least half of all searches by 2020. And that equals to about 200 billion voice searches. Now that's huge! As technology evolves, companies will become more focused and capable of catering to voice searches via smart devices.
With the increasing popularity of voice search devices like Alexa and Google Home amongst consumers, businesses are now developing a voice strategy to be incorporated in their digital marketing plans. From playing your favorite song from the 80s to switching off your living room light from the bedroom—the opportunities for voice search are endless. To stay relevant to this changing user behavior, companies require to modify their content strategy by SEO optimization for voice search. Both Alexa and Google Home can differentiate between voices and can deliver personalized and accurate results. Voice search interactions are less time consuming than text searches, and that’s why an excellent choice for busy consumers. Companies that create regular, highly relevant, top-quality content are getting prime spots in these search results. If your brand is regularly publishing well-written, authoritative content that touches and resolves your audience’s primary needs and challenges, you’re already 80 percent done. The rest 20 percent will be from optimizing your SEO strategy to better optimize for voice search trends through incorporating long-tail, semantic keyword phrases to create ultra-personalized content. Producing long-form, FAQ inclusive content targeted towards the middle and top of the funnel will also benefit the brands. Here it should be kept in mind that people use more ‘natural’ speech while voice searching. You have to think about how people speak, and using long-tail keywords is a must. For example, instead of ‘top content marketing tools 2020’, using a long-tailed keyword like ‘what are the top content marketing tools in 2020’ will drive more results. Another tip is to list down the type of questions customers ask you and create long-form content based on those.
Another great way to use this collected data is by creating FAQ pages that emphasize those long-tail keyphrases. List down common questions on the same page, and write as naturally as possible. If you need to create multiple pages to sound more natural, go with that approach. If you want the search engines to pull answers/information from your site, write direct, long-tail questions. This will not only help your website to show up in voice search results but at the top of any text-based search as featured snippets, increasing web traffic, and beating the competition.
5. Data-Driven Content Marketing
Today's content is just not creative; it's a blend of creativity and data. Data-driven content strategy can help your data analysis in two ways:
- Post-distribution content effectiveness metrics
- Data that informs content creation itself.
What does this mean? You have not only to keep in mind how data will help you determine whether, and how much your content is connecting with its audience, but also how this data and metrics can lead your content creation process upfront. You need to keep a record of the traffic, engagement rates, and conversions.
This has also resulted in the creation of tools that offer great value in terms of automation, insights, campaign tracking, etc. - With these tools, the dependency of external agencies is coming down. Instead, businesses are now partnering with these products. Google Adwords, Google Analytics, MailChimp, Asana, BuzzSumo, MeetEdgar, Buffer, Hootsuite are examples of such tools.
The Content Marketing Team Structure is Changing
Content marketing is no more restricted to copywriting or publishing blogs. Today's content marketing team is a hybrid one where the roles and responsibilities are aligned with business outcomes.
With the advancements as mentioned earlier in terms of new digital media, content formats, tools, analytics, and integration of offline with online (e.g., live video and streaming)—the construct of content marketing teams is changing—individuals need to understand all aspects of marketing, yet be experts in 1 or 2 domains. Strategy development, editorial planning, content creation, design, SEO, Email promotion, social media, audience acquisition, data analysis, research are some of the most in-demand skills that companies require today.
The modern content team owns and performs the following tasks:
This team requires a content strategist who is responsible for designing the overall content strategy, including listing down the goals, persona development, creating a brand style guide, primary content calendar, methods for data validation, and measuring success. The CMO or the marketing head reviews the content strategy and works closely with the strategist to ensure higher-level inbound marketing initiatives are achieved.
A content manager is responsible for making daily decisions about what should be written, how, and when. They should be able to explain the reason behind creating a content piece for content creators and stakeholders. Content managers must have a working expertise in SEO and keyword research and should be able to identify topics and opportunities for improving organic traffic. They have to find topics that will perform well for various channels (social media, email, blogs, etc.). The content manager is aware of all aspects of the content calendar, the daily tasks of each content creator, and manages the workflow to oversee that content gets completed and published within the timeline.
Content creators are responsible for creating all forms of content pieces your brand uses—blogs, emails, webinars, social media posts, advertisements, eBooks, case studies, whitepapers, collaterals, and more. Content writers, graphic designers, video producers, photographers are all content creators. You can either have a big team of content creators or can outsource freelancers. But A solid content strategy is critical for the success of any content marketing team.
A content editor strictly looks at written content. For visuals, the art director or coordinator is responsible for delivering high-quality and error-free content that reflects the brand’s voice and meets the goals set in the content strategy. He should also find ways to make a post better optimized for search engines.
5. Publish and Promote
A digital marketing specialist takes up this responsibility. The digital marketing specialist also creates the promotion strategy for the published content—which content goes where?
The PESO model is usually an excellent way to base a digital marketing promotion strategy on;
Data validation has become more important in content marketing than ever. A content analyst or a Google analytics expert masters the analytics and creation of reports that help marketers drive the content strategy for long-term results. The content analyst is responsible for tracking the progress of every content campaign. This helps the entire team by letting them know what works and what doesn’t. Today companies want to build a content team that doesn't just great create content but also knows how to analyze data, performance metrics, and devises data-driven content marketing and digital marketing strategies.
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Content marketing is evolving at a rapid pace. In addition to the roles mentioned above, channel experts (social media, email, print, video, etc.), librarians, translation, and localization experts, dedicated editors, are all finding critical roles in modern content marketing teams. While data-driven content marketing will continue to rule in 2020, AR, chatbots, personalized content, brand authenticity, storytelling will together contribute to making a sound content strategy. The future of content marketing is undoubtedly being transformed by technology. Big data, AI, machine learning, automation, immersive technologies, and smart tech are changing the way brands receive and analyze customer data and interact with their modern audiences. Customers today are getting savvier and expect a genuinely personalized experience.
To stay ahead of the curve and increase conversions in the future, you'll need to get better at creating personalized, interactive, and engaging content—especially audio and video content— and be able to track the conversions. Upskilling with content marketing courses can help you master these skills and stand apart from your peers. 2020 is definitely going to be an exciting year for content marketers—one ripe with opportunities for those who are enthusiastic about learning and willing to adapt to the ever-changing world of content marketing.