7 Trends Dominating Content Marketing in 2018

Whether or not we're truly in the Golden Age of Content Marketing, one thing is for sure: the once-uphill battle for content marketers to get client or internal buy-in for content strategy, creation and deployment has leveled off.

People not only want content, they know they want it, and they're willing to reward brands that give it to them. This realization is coming at an exciting time, as the platforms, technologies and opportunities for consuming content are more robust than ever.

So what are the big trends driving content marketing today? Let's explore how brands can cut through the noise and deliver their audiences value-driven content that they will engage with and share.

1. Content Built for Voice Search

According to TechCrunch, voice-enabled smart speakers will be in a whopping 55% of households by 2022. Clearly, we’re in the midst of a voice search revolution.

Because of that looming penetration, creators are scrambling to figure out how to provide actual value with this burgeoning interface. Personal genomics companies such as Veritas have trotted out impressive demos showing the potential integration between voice and next-generation healthcare.

For Alexa, it's the use of the Skills functionality that's going to allow 3rd-party companies to unlock the true power of the interface. With that kind of access, it's only a matter of time before someone unleashes a truly killer app that goes past mere voice functionality and actually gets into content marketing. It’s no wonder VanynerMedia's VoiceCon in NYC explored voice-based opportunities for marketers and brands earlier this year.

2. Automated Content Delivery

The idea of one golden megaphone or mono-message for a brand is becoming increasingly old-fashioned. This new world of multiple audiences and use cases, targeting and retargeting capabilities, and automation services from companies like HubSpot and Sharpspring offers marketers the opportunity to create individual content programs for much smaller audience segments.

It also allow marketers to serve up key pieces of content at critical parts of the user journey. Meet the consumer where he or she is at, rather than firehosing a bunch of generalized content at a single newsletter list.

While it will probably never get to be as ultimately targeted as what Skittles did with their Super Bowl ad for a single person, we're confident we'll see brands exploring the happy medium between Marcos Menendez's private commercial and a generalized billboard on I-84.

3. Live-Streaming Everywhere

While live-streaming was pretty novel way back when Facebook Live was opened to the public in 2016, you've got to do more than simply point and broadcast to stand out these days.

The last few bits of monoculture we have left — sports, awards shows, and event television such as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead — have created cottage industries of instant recaps, blogs, and yes, live-streamed instant takes of the preceding episode or game. There's no more waiting until Monday morning to find out what your favorite critics thought of last night's season finale. Pop-culture outfits like The Nerdist and Bald Move are probably live-streaming their hot takes on this very blog post...right now! (Spoiler alert: they found this blog stylistically interesting but ultimately predictable).

So, how are brands capitalizing on these viewing trends? Like their pop-culture counterparts, brands that are successfully harnessing live-streaming are tapping into feelings of exclusivity and access. Dunkin' provided both with their company tour video from a while back. And Wistia has gone behind the scenes as well.

In addition to seeing more brands using live-streaming for their own content-creation efforts, look to see more deals pairing brands with individual gamers and esport teams as platforms like Twitch continue to gobble audiences' attention. Remember when your mom told you to stop wasting time with video games? Tell that to these guys.

4. Augmented Reality

If you've been on the Internet you've heard about augmented reality, or AR. Perhaps the biggest crossover AR hit thus far was when Nintendo and Niantic scored big with Pokémon Go in 2016. But don't take our word for it; just look at this guy:

Universal Studios and Montreal's Ludia made another big splash recently with the Jurassic Park Alive app. Ever wanted your own dinosaur, but can't get past that "no pets" clause on the lease? AR is knocking on your door right now with a baby einiosaurus in a basket.

In the Jurassic Park Alive app, players can capture, collect and battle dinosaurs. And be reminded about the new film: Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom.

But it's not just about giant global companies. The technology has gotten to the point where emerging brands such as Bareburger have found ways to personalize the augmented experience. Nabeel Alamgir, Bareburger CMO, said "with Bareburger's Snapchat AR campaign, we gave away 5000 burgers via our to-go bags." To redeem, customers had to return to their local Bareburger restaurant. According to Alamgir, it was the company's most successful promotion to-date.

Bareburger gave away 5,000 burgers during a recent AR campaign.

We can also expect a bigger AR presence in the retail space. "In retail, it has gone beyond the point where customers are interested shopping with brands that offer these immersive experiences; they are starting expect and demand it," says Steve Curran, CEO at ROAR AR. "For the younger generation of consumers, immersive media (AR & VR) is the transformational technology of their generation — like the mobile phone was for Millennials, and the home computer was for Boomers and Gen X."

5. Increased Investment in Content Strategy

Brands and agencies are investing more and more in having a comprehensive content strategy.

At some point in the last few years, it feels like having a documented content strategy moved from a “nice to have” to a “must have.” Whereas content used to take a backseat to other pieces of the marketing budget, we're seeing increased attention, forethought and resources being focused on content marketing strategies.

"With a constantly evolving world of options for creating and distributing content, a documented strategic approach is a must have," says Luke Garro, EVP/Content Director for GYK Antler. "That requires defining your vision of what success looks like, then working towards it by aligning the effort with the resources you have to work with. You’re more likely to find success by focusing on a niche audience, channel and content theme."

6. Everybody Wants a Podcast

HubSpot's The Turnaround focuses on inflection points in companies' histories, with Hubspot acting as the mid-roll sponsor.

With 550,000 active podcasts out there, the day of streamable audio content is truly upon us. While traditional ad spends for pre-roll and midroll ads continue to spike (anyone need a mattress), a new wave of content creation by brands has emerged.

HubSpot's The Turnaround is an engaging business documentary series that never comes close to veering into inbound marketing infotainment (seriously, it's really good), and GE's audio drama hit The Message performed well enough to keep the company serious about investing in the medium.

As more brands head in this direction, we hope they can follow the lead of HubSpot and GE by committing to creating great content rather than long-form radio commercials.

7. Lots of Bad Content

Finally, the downside to all the new-found content marketing attention: bad content. Although poorly done content marketing efforts can be catastrophic, most miscalculations will end up being just kinda bad. This is an unfortunate effect of brands clumsily executing content plans, or of selling off their goodwill for quick traffic.

Whereas content creation used to feel like an underground religion with a few, strange emissaries trying to convert the uninitiated (and capture their marketing spends), content marketing has become an oft-used (and misused) buzzword. If conversations are starting off saying things like "We should make an infographic" or "we should make a video" then that could be cause for concern. As a brand, what story are you trying to tell? Where does your expertise lie? What do you want people to feel?

We're looking forward to where content marketing is headed through the second half of 2018 and beyond, and this list seriously could have been five times as long. What content marketing topics would you like to see us cover next?

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