Top 6 Content Marketing Trends for 2018

Dec 5, 2017

Narrative’s Content Director Robyn Daly stares into her crystal ball to predict content marketing’s big hitters for 2018 and beyond.

Our world moves ever faster, our appetites for content grow with no sign of satiety in sight, and the competition for customer attention just keeps on getting fiercer… As brand marketers, you might want to just say, stop! Enough already. We can’t compete. I say no. Content has become like oxygen. We’re on our mobiles more, we’re consuming more, engaging more, connecting more. The need is still growing. More than ever people are primed and wanting to connect with content and if that comes from a brand, great! And if the content links a great story to a product your customer wants, you’ve got a sale. It’s that simple. The key is to deliver what customers want – always. Keep an eye on these trends for the year ahead; they are the litmus test to what your customers will get excited about.

1. Personalised experiences

Customers want relevant content – relevant to their interests, life stage, culture, gender, and so on, so brands that are able to tailor their conversation to individual customers will have the competitive advantage. Personalisation of websites should be a no-brainer; once you know the profile of the person visiting your website, you can serve them targeted messages, content and product suggestions. Amazon does it brilliantly of course. And it’s not as difficult or cumbersome to do as you might think.

Location-based mobile communication or beacon technology allows your mobile to alert your apps when you move into a certain area. It’s perfect for retailers to tailor content as the technology tracks customers in real-time, and then sends relevant messages and content to them, when they are, for example, in the shoe department at a clothing retailer, or the paint department at a tools and hardware retailer. Get the nitty-gritty on this from Dimension Data.

2. Social video

Video is the darling of content marketing and will continue to be so. In fact, that love affair will deepen as video is expected to claim more than 80% of web traffic by 2019 (Hubspot).

“Video is a mega trend. In a decade, video will look like as big a shift in the way we share and communicate as mobile has been,” says Mark Zuckerberg Co-founder and CEO of Facebook. Words not to be taken lightly.

The wonderful thing about video is that it has so much potential for brands to create fresh, fun, eye-catching and engaging stories. From explainer videos to stop-motion animation, there are myriad techniques and genres to tell your story and delight your customers. And as content agencies become video-production houses in themselves, the cost of making videos becomes ever-more affordable. Here are some of the trends in video:

  • Customers are lapping up anything that moves, even a little two-frame video loop can get you more engagement on social channels than a static image.
  • Brands are wanting a volume of quick-turnaround videos at around 30 to 60 seconds in length.
  • Use of stop-motion animation is on the up as it brings product to life in an affordable form of video.
  • Live video is taking off because of the desire to have authentic content experiences and Facebook says people are spending three times more time watching live videos than pre-recorded ones. That figure will be lower in South Africa due to data and connection speed, however this sphere is great for brands that are willing to let go some control over the content. Your quick win is live video at events and workshops, or behind the scenes.

3. The social media content publisher

Until recently the content experience on Facebook was heavily link-driven, taking users away from the platform to engage in brand content housed on websites. That’s changing with the advent of Instant Articles and Facebook Canvas, which offer engaging storytelling completely within Facebook. These are not available on desktop but, since 69% of digital media consumption happens on mobile platforms, there’s enough reason to have in-app content features. And audiences are lapping them up. Facebook reports that people are reading 20% more Instant Articles, they are 30% more likely to share this content and 70% will read all the way to the end. Instagram has always been geared to keep users within the app, and recent Stories features include the ability to swipe for more content. With all this in play, the trend is clear: social media channels are going to shift from being content-channeling platforms to being content publishers themselves.

4. Instagram

Three years ago I was asked by one of the marketing media publications to list my trends for 2015. Instagram was at the top of that list. Since then it’s become the platform on which customers are most likely to connect with brands. And because it’s a very visual platform, it’s an effective way to entice customers into your space. Instagram has launched a number of storytelling features which have even more potential for brands and customers to connect. Instagram Stories have taken off, with one in five generating a direct message from a follower — that’s a sales lead. The big thing to watch for is shoppable Instagram, which began trialing in the States a year ago. Of course it’s taken off there: the interactive shopping experience is far superior to and more inspirational than shoppable Facebook. See a beautiful image, like a product in the image, tap it and up pops a shoppable tab. This feature is currently only available in the US but, since about 80% of Instagram users are outside the States, we can be sure it’s coming… South African brands that aren’t on a serious audience-development drive need to get cracking… so they’re primed and ready to reap the benefits of the shoppable future closing the loop between micro-blog storytelling and sales.

5. Always on

Content marketing by its very definition is always on – it’s about consistently connecting with customers through storytelling. Always on takes care of the many days between the campaigns by continuing the conversation and building trust. More and more brands are recognising that a relationship with their customers is developed through consistency. And so, while content can and should be part of a campaign plan, it is the cornerstone of brand communication and marketing and the arbiter of brand messaging. Always on is no longer a box you can simply tick with a daily blog or social media post. People are voracious consumers of content with an appetite for a variety of fresh, authentic and ephemeral content. The buzzword for 2018 is ‘ephemeral’ – here today, gone tomorrow. And because it’s not going to be around, audiences see value in it. The trendsetter: Instagram Stories. Just one point here – the piece of content might be ephemeral, but your conversation needs to be lasting, in other words, always on.

6. Virtual reality

Hand in hand with the video trend is virtual reality. Audiences want to be able to influence their world, not least to be able to create their own reality. Cool as it is, AR and VR are still hugely expensive. But interactive videos are within the average brand budget reach and can be very affordable if done cleverly. The hook is to offer audiences a way in which they choose their own story journey and then link the story to marketing objectives.

2018 TREND WATCH CHECKLIST

  1. Personalised experiences – develop a deeper relationship with your customers by personalising content.
  2. Social video – create more video, house it on YouTube and leverage it on all your platforms.
  3. Social media publications – exploit the potential for greater engagement of in-app social media content offerings to grab and hold your customers’ attention.
  4. Instagram – prepare for Shoppable Instagram by building your audience and using content to establish a relationship built on trust. Start now to be an early adopter.
  5. Always on – go the distance with your customers by creating a variety of fresh and engaging content that will keep the conversation going between and beyond campaigns.
  6. Virtual reality – give your customers the opportunity to be authors of their own content. If VR is beyond your reach, go the interactive video route.

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