10 Content Marketing Trends to Watch in 2016

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If you’re an experienced content marketer, 2015 is your time to shine. The traditional “sell don’t tell” mantra is giving way to “tell don’t sell,” and businesses are looking to content marketers for creative ways to drive engagement and audience growth, raise brand awareness and close sales. As you make plans to take the spotlight, consider these trends in your 2015 content marketing strategy and execution activities:

1.  Increased focus on distribution. The last few years, content creation has been at the forefront, but the real value of content is in its ability to reach people. One in four marketers are investing in content distribution while over half report that it’s a need. Expect to see more investments in tactical partnerships and software to help serve mobile content, interject content in less conspicuous ways, and optimize existing distribution channels across paid, owned and earned media. Get tips on boosting distribution here.

2.  Bigger budgets to manage. A deluge of marketing dollars will flood content teams to improve all portions of the content process from persona identification through placement and measurement. Though a welcome tide for teams, these substantial budgets will challenge formerly cash-strapped teams to selectively balance how and where to best spend new money for long-term, quantifiable impact.

3.  More accountability for content effectiveness. As budgets swell to support the increased emphasis on content marketing, business leaders will demand more insight into the dollars they’re spending to get better ROI out of the content budget. To get in front this trend, smart marketers are proactively seeking out tools and resources, like social listening tools, big data analytics and custom dashboards that allow maximum visibility and accountability in the content process.

4.  Growth of marketing automation. Systematically delivering content in an organized manner will be crucial to maximizing increased budgets and improving content effectiveness. Marketing automation tools can help teams easily personalize and serve content to their various personas at different stages of the buying process.

5.  Content marketing masters social media. As the primary channel for awareness-level marketing, social media has baffled marketers. This year, will find marketers closing their social media circles to focus optimizing high-value, high-engagement channels like LinkedIn and Google+ while investing less in massive, consumer-oriented channels like Facebook and Twitter. This shift creates an opportunity to enrich organic social tactics and explore new paid social media ad opportunities.

6.  Native advertising takes the stage. Native ads offer a less disruptive experience placed alongside editorial and news content. Experimentation with native advertising-sponsored content and in-feed ad opportunities from respected outlets like The New York Times, BuzzFeed and Bloomberg give marketers a new channel opportunity. Spending on native display ads have soared from $4.7 billion in 2013 to a projected $10.7 billion in 2015. The challenge with this new channel will be finding the line between advertising and journalism without turning off readers or losing credibility.

7.  Tying Content to Search Engine Optimization. Quality content is a proven way to improve search rankings. Fluff articles and SEO baiting are over. Successful marketers will invest more in developing value-driven content. Long-form content and social media content that garners a lot of interaction ranks highest for raising search engine credibility. SEO will find its way into the content planning and creation process earlier as opposed to being a last thought it was in the past.

8.  Owned media competes with social media. Off-platform experiences, microsites and campaign-specific projects will be utilized to reach niche and hard-to-target audiences. However, the value for brands like Heineken’s World Cup campaign or Nike’s Nike+ site is huge – Heineken scored 1.2 billion media impressions and increase purchase intent by 7 percent with that campaign. If you can put forth the resources to build your own platform, create your own content and build a sizable audience, owned media initiatives payoff in brand awareness and consumer loyalty. Focus efforts on branded social content tools to publish and curate user generated content – a tactic that saw a 47 percent jump in consumption in 2015.

9.  Getting serious about persona development. Up to now, most persona research was done ad-hoc, in the office by people too close to their market, their product and their value proposition to be objective. In 2015, we’ll see more serious, third-party persona development to help content marketers use data-driven, behavioral data to find new ways to reach target markets. Tedious persona development methodology will prove key to teams’ ability to maximize content budget and demonstrate success across targeted buyers.

10.  Email marketing makes a comeback. Social media was once touted as the email marketing killer. In reality, email grew up into the strongest workhorse in the content marketing toolbox. Approximately six out of every 10 marketers are planning to increase 2015 email marketing budgets. Mobile user habits are also fueling new attention on email – where one in seven online adults send or receive email on a weekly basis.

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