By Ann Gynn published September 4, 2015

Content Forecast Calls for Users, Search Engines, Customization, and More

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Content marketers need to be more like meteorologists than fortune tellers. Instead of gazing into a crystal ball to predict the future trends of content creation, we must make educated forecasts, monitoring the available data and adjusting as necessary. We won’t get it 100% right, but we’ll do a lot better than we would asking the Magic 8 Ball for help.

To help with your content creation trend forecasts, we asked the presenters at Content Marketing World to share their well-informed predictions for content marketing.

Develop systematic approach

The biggest trend that we see in content creation is the idea of scale. Today, content is created in almost every part of the organization – from marketing, service, support, and training. All of this content influences purchase decisions and customer loyalty. Unfortunately, most companies don’t have a unified content strategy across these functions and they struggle with having a single brand style and tone. Successful content teams will have a much more holistic look at every content experience; from the home page to the help page.

Steve Rotter, chief marketing officer, Acrolinx | @sjrotter

Automate it

The Associated Press went from publishing 300 earnings reports per quarter to 3,000 per quarter by automating the writing through Automated Insights’ Wordsmith platform. Storytelling is, and always will be, a predominantly human endeavor. But, when it comes to data-driven content (e.g., earnings reports, fantasy sports, athletic game recaps, survey results, analytics insights), machines are more efficient and accurate. When the directive is, “Give me data, give me context, and give me insights,” machines will win.

Paul Roetzer, founder and CEO, PR 20/20 | @PaulRoetzer

Cook up a few bites

Developing “spreadable content” – writing one to three really great foundational pieces that are atomized into “snackable” content – will change the way content is produced.

More companies also will look at creating and/or enhancing their blogs to target specific personas.

Mickey Mencin, director of corporate communications, Hyland | @mmencin

Get into the pictures

Brands really need to figure out the visual-storytelling aspect of content marketing. We’ve been talking about it a lot, but not too many brands do this well. The trick? You have to hire some talented folks in design and video production. We have amazing designers with a ton of talent who have helped make our content marketing look amazing. I also love what the folks at Wistia are doing with video, as another example.

Michael Brenner, head of strategy, NewsCred | @BrennerMichael

Wrap around the people

Consumers now rely on peer-to-peer connections and less on messages directly from companies. User-generated content will become keystone to your content marketing. There is a reason why influencer marketing is effective. Peer-to-peer communication is perceived as authentic and helps brands extend their reach into niche markets.

Juntae DeLane, digital brand manager, USC; founder, Digital DeLane, @JuntaeDeLane

Look at us

It’s not new, but the trend toward user-generated content shows no signs of slowing. Your audience wants to be involved. They demand it. They’re ready to engage if you’re willing to find ways that make it possible. And that promises to keep things exciting.

Jeannine Rossignol, vice president, global marketing for large enterprise operations, Xerox Corporation | @j9rossignol

Get real

All content marketers must realize that ultimately their work – even great content – is inherently distrusted by customers and prospects. The future of content creation is user-generated content and employee-generated content. The best content programs will be those that are architected by marketers, with the content itself created and distributed by real people.

Jay Baer, president, Convince & Convert | @jaybaer

Dwell on it

Google’s continuously changing algorithm is focusing more on user experience. We need to consider this when creating our content. For example, one measure of user experience is dwell time. When someone clicks on a search result and lands on a blog post, how long does he spend on that post before returning to Google? If the return is immediate, that signals to Google that the content didn’t deliver what the user wanted.

Ian Cleary, founder, RazorSocial | @IanCleary

Long live the users

At the Research Triangle Park, we built our entire website around trusted users, who have carte blanche to post whatever they wanted directly to our homepage – no approval process. We did this by vetting the users, not the content. No roadblocks. Just real-time, delicious content.

Erin Monday, marketing manager, Lenovo | @ErinMonday

Hold up an automatic mirror

As image recognition technology becomes more sophisticated and widely available, brands will be able to find and utilize user-generated content that contains images related to their brands. Content marketing will become a sort of cooperative effort between customers and marketers. It will be a merging of the automation of programmatic technology and the platform-specific niche attraction of native advertising, all while building a stronger relationship with customers on a more personal level.

Ben Plomion, SVP marketing, GumGum | @benplomion

Wink and nudge

I only spot trends when they’ve passed. I do think this internet thing is going to go big, though.

Maybe the content deluge will force content to get increasingly granular and more personalized. Oh, and brands will have to learn how to integrate content more naturally and organically through the whole stumbling, tripping, groping path we call a purchase journey.

Doug Kessler, co-founder and creative director, Velocity Partners | @dougkessler

Stop talking

All of the challenges we’re seeing in the digital ad space – viewability, fraud, declining attention – only are going to make content more valuable. We’re reaching an inflection point where we finally create content for consumers rather than just talking at them.

Julie Fleischer, senior director, data + content + media, The Kraft Heinz Company | @jfly

Personalize without a name

It’s not a one-size-fits-all world. You need to think about ways to personalize your content by focusing on a role, industry, or challenge that’s unique to a particular audience segment. In some cases, marketers are using automation tools to better understand which formats are used most by which audiences.

For example, if the last three pieces of content that a person read were short blog posts, you may not want to send that individual a 15-page report. Past is prologue.

Brian Kardon, chief marketing officer, Lattice Engines | @bkardon

Go for fun

The expected content fare – such as how-to topics, customer stories, and research findings – will not, and should not disappear. However, the fun and interactive stuff will continue to rise. Quizzes, games, and contests get people excited. In certain niches the straight and narrow may work, but in the mainstream battle for attention, you need to amp up the fun if you want to create … I guess I have to say it … buzz.

Barry Feldman, founder, Feldman Creative | @FeldmanCreative

Google says

The biggest trends come from whatever Google seems to want. We’ve seen a lot of content trends come and go, and they all seem to be based on Google algorithms. The best trend, however, is to simply just write great content and not to worry about “what’s hot” today. If the content is great for your audience, do it, regardless of what Google wants today.

Stoney deGeyter, president, Pole Position Marketing | @StoneyD

Want to dive deeper into analytics? Don’t miss Content Marketing World 2015 September 8-11 in Cleveland. Register today.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Ann Gynn

Ann Gynn edits the CMI blog. She also serves as the Tech Tools editor for Chief Content Officer magazine. Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. Former college adjunct faculty, Ann also helps train professionals in content so they can do it themselves. Follow Ann on Twitter @anngynn or connect on LinkedIn.

Other posts by Ann Gynn

  • MsGravzdigga

    Absolutely love this post. We’re always looking for ways to engage and reach our audience. As an host sometimes I forget that people are also interested in you as well so it’s a challenge knowing who my audience is?

    • Ann Gynn

      MsGravzdigga, you’re right, it can be easy to forget. But it also can be hard to find the right balance the personal/human side with the business perspective. The important thing is to first be aware that the question should be asked!

      • MsGravzdigga

        In terms of talk radio at times, I feel there is more than one audience. You have listeners who tune to hear the music or they tune in to listen to you? So that is part I find challenging.

        • Ann Gynn

          Talk radio is like the forerunner to social media in terms of the squeaky-wheel voices being heard loudly. The key is to take the pulse of non-callers periodically — focus groups, casual conversations, special opportunities to connect with the masses (e.g., remotes) and get their feedback. Fortunately, you usually know who the frequent callers/complainers are so you can distinguish between the two groups.

  • http://robertgibb.me Robert Gibb

    I am really liking these interview-style posts, Ann. Something in them always inspires me to take a certain sort of action to improve our content marketing efforts. Obviously every interviewee’s repsonse doesn’t vibe with me, but that’s the beauty of these. What doesn’t vibe with me probably vibes with someone else, and vice-versa. There’s value in these post for, dary I say, LITERALLY every content marketer.

    I have just put together a similar post, on behalf of the company I work for, and will let you know how it goes. I’m pretty sure it will be one of our most successful yet. Thanks, Ann!

    • Ann Gynn

      Thanks Robert. I always love writing these posts because the experts have something valuable to say — and some may even contradict each other. I find it’s helpful to share diverse viewpoints/insights in one place (perhaps that’s because I don’t always take the time to read a lot about one topic to gain those multiple perspectives :-) I like one-stop shopping.

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