2018: what's in store for content marketing?

It’s that prediction-picking time of year. What will be the content marketing trends of 2018? I’m often reluctant to have a go at this, because hole-eee things more pretty fast these days, it’s hard for anyone to know what is actually going to be around the corner (like, jeepers, who saw fidget spinners coming?).

BUT, because several of you have asked, I’M DOING IT, HARRY. So, here are my picks:

Less Facebook facetime

OK, so this was a late addition as Facebook have literally just announced a reasonably big change that could affect your Facebook business pages. Business page content is being demoted, shifting your newsfeed focus back to friends, family and groups. There’ll be less public content - like posts from businesses, brands and media - with the aim of encouraging more meaningful interactions with people. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Facebook has really been a pay-to-play platform for businesses for a while now if you really wanted to get good engagement. If you’re a business who leverages Facebook, it will pay to think about how you can build a community with very engaging conversations around important issues relating to your industry.

Employee advocacy on the up

While 2017 was the year of the influencer, 2018 is shaping up to be a little more real. Less curated content from paid ‘Insta-celebs’, more real-world, real-people brand advocacy. Thought-leading employee-created and -promoted content will be hot for businesses to build their brands and cut through the noise online with more genuine and trusted sources. Leverage and build personal brands within your business and consider educating your employees around the benefits from their perspective, too.

Laser-focused segmented and targeted content

Targeted content is not new, but with the rise of AI to help the process, more businesses will focus on segmenting, prioritising user-specific content over virality and reach. It’ll be less about the views, comments and likes, and more about relevance and engagement with very curated content. Most of us don’t have the money and might to access high-powered AI tools just yet, but no doubt they will become more and more accessible and easily integrated into existing systems.

Diversification of content formats

We can see it already, but we can definitely expect that more businesses will be experimenting with different content formats to reach their audiences. Less finesse, more just getting it out there. Live streaming, social media stories, video, audio and podcasts will take centre stage, expanding beyond traditional online content approaches. A focus on video production, animation, voice-activated sites and unique user experiences will continue; content ain’t dead, it’s just less about the written words and more about user interactions.

Interactive content on the up

With the previous point in mind, the use of interactive content will increase. Why are you still asking website visitors to download lengthy whitepapers and ebooks? Choose-your-own-path-style microsites, interactive graphics, dynamic content, augmented reality, VR, chatbots and personalised journeys are all types of content that brands will be experimenting with, with the aim of standing out in a crowded online marketplace.

The influence of the Internet of Things

We’re no longer just accessing information through our laptops or phones. We’re now connecting with content in all sorts of ways - from our watches to our refrigerators to concerningly smart little virtual assistant tools that help us run our lives. The IoT has forced a shift to smart, highly contexualised thinking around content and how users are going to experience it. We had to do it when smartphones took over, but it now takes a little more thinking given the wide range of interconnected devices already. You’ll have to look to data - good data and lots of it - to achieve deep insights into your users and their habits so you can deliver personalised experiential marketing not only through a screen.

While new trends are exciting and sexy, don’t forget about all the fundamentals that you have to get right first! Before you go down the path of videos, voice-activation, machine learning or whatever other marketing trick you want to try, check your basics: make sure that you’ve got your site responsive and optimised, analytics set up and tracking metrics, streamlined UX interfaces or sales process on your website, a clear message and compelling copy, headlines and calls-to-action. Too many businesses want to jump on the new latest thing, but haven’t yet got the basics right. Trends will change but it’s this stuff you need to nail for the long-term success of your website.