By Joe Pulizzi published December 22, 2010

The Best Content Marketing Predictions for 2011

Our 2011 content marketing and social media predictions roundup was pretty amazing this year.  Well over 150 predictions from more than 100 of the leading marketing thought leaders in the business.

Content Marketing Predictions[Download the Entire Predictions eBook here.]

As I reviewed the predictions from this year, I pulled out some of my favorites.  Hope you enjoy. See all 100+ predictions here.

Russ Henneberry

Unfortunately I think most brand marketers will attempt to replicate viral content like the (admittedly hilarious) Old Spice campaign.  Of course the value provided with the Old Spice content is humor.

My prediction is that in 2011 and beyond it will be those that create content that educates, protects, makes people money or saves people time that will build the most loyal communities around their brands. Communities are difficult to form and sustain around humorous content.  For brands wanting more than a “flash in the pan” success story, humorous content should take a back seat to content that provides lasting and meaningful value to members of the community.

Kirk Cheyfitz

The current mechanistic obsession with media channels and “consumer channel preference” will go away, mercifully, and the ad world will come to understand that content (story) is what determines the audience’s channel choices, not some abstract preference for a one channel over another. In other words, when it comes to messages, what it’s about is always more important than what channel it’s on. This has been verfified by both research and common sense. Think: If there’s a great argument going on in the next room, you will press your ear to the wall and strain to pick out interesting words, ignoring the 52″ LCD screen and 5-way speakers in front of you. That’s a channel choice dictated by content. It’s how we all make our choices. Plus, there’s the fact that any content worth our attention will find its way onto multiple channels and will become social as we share it with others. So the focus on channel preference, so popular today, will be discarded as not useful.

Brian Massey

Twitter will begin to fade into the background as the public embraces a new social application that is built on Twitter. The largest social network on the planet, email, will once again out-perform Facebook and Twitter as an effective content marketing platform. Google will purchase its first print publication, probably a newspaper. A woman in Sheboygan, WI will be the first person to be officially pronounced dead due to “complications from use of Facebook.”

Dianna Huff

Facebook, Facebook, Facebook. Love it or hate it, Facebook is becoming more important to brand marketers with regard to distributing content. From posts announcing new products / services to those that link to new videos and other content, the Facebook “Like” button and FB (Brand) Pages are now ubiquitous. (In fact, I keep wanting to hit the “Like” button when reading people’s Tweets.) The danger, however, is using FB as simply another mass broadcast medium versus a very powerful and personal one-to-one marketing platform. Don’t like a brand’s posts? Just hit the “unlike” link on their Page and no more messages.

Andrew Hanelly

The novelty of social media will begin to melt away and with it the undue animosity hurled at it on a daily basis. It will shift out of the spotlight and into the trenches to get the real work done. It won’t be lauded less as a “game-changer” and more as an obvious channel. The amount of attention received will begin to more closely align with the amount of budget it receives. It will gain acceptance and lose glamor. It will walk off the main stage, away from the cheering and the jeering of the crowd, and quietly get to work. The bandwagoners will jump off and head toward the next gold-rush. The flakes will flake out and what will be left are those who believe in doing things right. And they will quietly continue their work.

Lisa Petrilli

I think 2011 will be the year that brand marketers – and C-Suites for that matter – will begin to finally “get,” and ultimately embrace, the idea that it is much better for their customers to tell their stories and share their stories than for them to continue to try to control the entire message. I saw the inability to truly grasp this hold a number of companies back this year.

Relinquishing some of that control will be on the agenda in 2011 as content will begin to finally reflect, and respond to, the needs of the customer and the enthusiasm of brand ambassadors rather than a company’s “features and benefits.”

Beyond that, marketers will begin to budget for the ability to explore mobile opportunities and to create mobile websites – not mobile “optimized,” but real, strategic mobile websites.

Jay Baer

2011 will be the year that we begin to have a unified view of subscribers, fans, and followers. API-driven advances in CRM and databases will enable companies to better understand the full array of their digital marketing and social media relationships.

This will allow brands to communicate more coherently, and with context and relevance. Being able to send an email only to people that have clicked a particular bit.ly. Sending a Facebook status update only to people that have visited a particular product page on your website. That’s the future, and it starts in 2011.

We’ve been talking about “one to one” marketing for 20 years. It’s finally here.

Josh Gordon

In 2011 brand marketers will confront the issue of content commoditization. As brand marketers embrace the benefits and of creating and distributing their own content they will come to grips with relatively new, but huge problem professional publishers have been dealing with more directly for the past three years: as content creation and distribution volume increases dramatically worldwide, it becomes a commodity. Proud of that great interview your brand website/newsletter/digital magazine just published? Do a search and you will likely find similar content elsewhere on the web. I predict shift in the dialogue on content creation will occur: It will no longer be enough to create content, or even create high quality content. The goal will be to create content that stands out and is unique.

Mark McClure

Magalogs for tablet devices (iPads) start to appear… both paywalled and free. Laid off print media journalists and designers who cross the digital divide begin to find their services in demand once again.

Josh Healan

What is old will be new again, only better! Digital and social will continue to grow but “old school” formats such as print and even direct mail will make a come back. Marketers have realized, and will finally accept that, just because you can measure something more effectively, does not make it more effective. We will see marketers that in recent years shifted entire budgets to online media, begin to reallocate parts of their budgets to offline media. We will also see much smarter approaches to integrated marketing, customer segmentation, and the use of variable data.

Trish Jones

If they have any sense, I think brand marketers will focus more on what can be done internally to engage their clients externally. In other words, there will be less outsourcing of SEO and more quality data gathering internally that can be turned into content and used to ease their clients pain. Customer services and sales will communicate and consolidate questions that both clients and prospects ask frequently and these questions will be answered in the form of published content and distributed via the social media sites. The era of “What can I sell you,” is going to be replaced with “seriously, what can I do to help you?”

Kristina Halvorson

In 2010, I think companies really started to understand that content isn’t “just copy”: it’s complicated, it’s a commitment (not a campaign), and it requires dedicated resources to get it right.

And so, I think that 2011 will see brand marketers begin to approach content planning much more strategically. They’ll recognize the need to work with experienced content strategists to create a viable plan to create/curate, share, and govern the content. Marketers will also start asking for the resources to invest in dedicated editorial staff to continually audit content, measure results, and iteratively improve the customer’s content experience.

In 2011, brand marketers are looking at an *unprecedented* opportunity to invite SEO, social media, user experience design, and content strategy experts to sit at the same table and ask, “Why are we creating/curating this content? What will it do for our business? How will it help our users? What is the best way we can put this content to work for everyone? What needs to happen for that to work?” When those practitioners can begin to formally collaborate within the framework of content strategy–with the endgame being valuable content for our end users (i.e. content marketing)–I think we’ll have…world peace!! Or, at least, awesome content.

Robert Rose

2011 will be the year of “curation”.

It feels like 2010 was the year that content became truly important to brand marketing again. Content Strategy hit its stride, Content Marketing became a household (or at least cubicle-hold) word and the giant “E” that seems to never go away from digital marketing, this year stood for either ‘engagement’ or ‘experience’.

So, it feels now that if brand marketers can produce content with ease – then the real value will be in curation of content. So, look for:

* outsourced curation services to provide editorial, writing and “filtering” services for brand marketers.
* an explosion of online services that allow bundling, packaging and curation of content for marketing.

Brands too will look for other engagement metrics to associate loyalty and engagement. So, look for loyalty programs for content consumption (e.g. badges or status in exchange for engagement).

And, finally, watch for the function of governance in social content and conversation management to finally get the attention at the management level.

Clare McDermott

(Editor of Chief Content Officer magazine)

In the last few years, marketers jumped on content marketing simply because “everyone is doing it.” With more experience under their belts, brand marketers will become more sophisticated in their use of content to reach customers. For example, matching content to the sales cycle, designing and distributing mobile content, and realizing that certain functions (ie. marketing automation) are best outsourced to experts.

And here’s the part that is less about prediction and more about dreamy hope: Let’s hope that 2011 gives us more examples of B2B marketers taking risks with content. That means having uber-intelligent, fresh points of view about issues in your industry; publishing content that is smart and at times wickedly funny; hiring talented designers to infuse your content with personality and edge; using your employees as the face of your business in blogs and video; finally, thinking long and hard before adopting an e-newsletter. Let me turn that last one into a prediction: hordes of businesses will abandon the e-newsletter format because no one is reading them.

Thanks to all our contributors for this year.  Can’t thank you enough.  To see ALL the 2011 content marketing and social media predictions, click here or go to the full predictions roundup on the content marketing institute site.

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

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  • http://www.tmcinteractive.com/blog Greg Taylor

    Thanks, great read seeing what everyone is thinking for 2011. I think in 2011, we will see various attempts of brands trying what I call “contrived authenticity.” These brands will wonder why other brands are so far ahead of them by merely being authentic and will far even further behind.

  • http://parthenonpub.com/blog Matt

    I hope Kirk Cheyfitz is right.

    Every couple of months it’s something (a FB page, an iPhone app, a Twitter account) that brands absolutely have to have because, well, everyone else has it! My fear is that in 2011 it will be an iPad app.

    But, as Kirk put it, my hope is that people will step back from the medium and spend more time thinking about the message.

  • Pingback: Pulling Content Marketing Rabbits from Social Media Hutches | SamuraiWriter.com/blog()

  • http://www.socialmediamessenger.com Jay Baer

    I love this project. Thanks for including me. I agree with a lot of this. I think Robert is dead on about curation. Although, I see that as a fairly short term window of opportunity. Once everyone is a curator, we’ll have killed that golden goose, and will have to move to something else that provides more blue ocean.

  • http://www.tshapesolutions.com Scott Taback

    Nice Post. I believe we still have a long ways to go in this space and to talk about what’s going to be the trend this coming year makes for good debate but reality is that nobody has mastered the content game yet. As more and more companies catch on to this “content movement” I fear that the effectiveness will become diluted and inbound marketing will become as ineffective as PPC or the Banner Ad. Let’s hope not.

  • http://www.marinofadda.it Marino Fadda

    Great predictions! I hope especially that Kristina Halvorson’ prediction is right because:
    – Content isn’t “just copy”;
    – Content is strategic;
    – Content needs resources;
    – Content needs the collaboration of many experts: SEO, social media, content strategy ….

  • Neil Vose

    All these predictions are useful but without teeth unless brands invest in strategic content development. We need to see corporate/marketing/sales/CRM silos being broken down and resources put in place that manage the content dynamic across all consumer touch points. But how many orgnasations are set up to in this way? 2011 could be the year for the CCO, Chief Content Officer, who will work at the highest level in the corporate structure.

  • http://www.informing-arts.biz/blog/ Christine Thompson

    I was going to make a comment similar to Neil Vose: many of these predictions are lovely, but strike me as wishful thinking until some of the practicalities are sorted out. Who is responsible for setting and enforcing content strategies (architecture, policy, guidelines, training standards, etc.) — especially when content spans media types (web, print, mobile, podcasts, etc.), devices and purposes (product vs brand vs investor relations, etc.)? Who budgets for this transformation? Right now, I’d venture to guess, budgets for content development (AKA collateral, sales tools, sales enablement, etc.) are scattered broadly across organizations — lots of little chunks, but few big chunks that could easily fund anything but the early pilot.

    Who is the buyer, if you’re an outsourced service provider?

    Who sets (and enforces) the meta tagging strategy so content chunks can be found, reused, adapted or redeployed?