Where do you see yourself in five years?
Do you hate that question as much as I do? While I’m not a fan (perhaps because I’ve never had a great answer), I understand why it’s asked. The interviewer wants to know that the job candidate has considered the short-term future and wants to see how the candidate’s potential path for success fits with the company’s.
With a professional twist, we asked the experts presenting at Content Marketing World what they see in the next five years as the biggest changes in content marketing. This isn’t a list of predicted tech advances or outlandish guesses – it’s practical and proactive. You could take one or all 25 and begin working on them today (if you’re not already) – to plan strategically for short- and long-term success.
We’ve segregated the answers based on the five emerging themes – personalization, formats, implementation, voice-activation, and data.
As you’ll see, the impact of artificial intelligence is a theme that runs through all the categories. Ironically, Michael Brenner points out, it is technology that will help us better connect with people. “We are in a quick march to deep content personalization, add machine learning and AI to help us predict what to create, for whom, where, and how often,” says the CEO of Marketing Insider Group.It is technology that will help us connect with people, says @BrennerMichael via @AnnGynn. #CMWorld Click To Tweet
Make it personal
Publish one-on-one websites
The variable content option available now in email marketing will be an option for all marketing content. We can have a website or blog that creates itself on the fly for each visitor based on contextual knowledge of that visitor (i.e., what they’ve searched before arriving, how often they’ve come to the site, and what they clicked on once they were there).
Jessica Best, director of data-driven marketing, Barkley
Craft seamless experience
The biggest change is the ability to deliver contextually relevant information seamlessly that’s personalized based on device, location, and preferred format. (To this end, read Rebecca Lieb’s new book Content: the Atomic Particle of Marketing.)
Heidi Cohen, chief content officer, Actionable Marketing Guide
Meet your very segmented audience
I expect to see continued fragmentation of audiences. We’ll need to meet our audiences in more places moving forward (evaluating each place strategically, of course). Getting the tone right across the right channels as our audiences splinter will be a challenge for brands.
Amanda Changuris, associate director of corporate communications, BNY Mellon
Structure implementation smartly
Be prepared, be very prepared
The dream of real, private, one-to-one conversations between brands and people will be realized as AI, machine learning, natural language recognition, and other technologies come into their own as bots and digital assistants. The people, of course, will lead those conversations and the brands will respond.
This dream will only come true if the technologists have the help of content people – gifted writers and creatives – who can structure conversations and devise great dialogue to give the machines tales to tell and stuff to say. This means (1) many more true scriptwriters in content marketing and (2) an enormous leap in capabilities needed to build the APIs and structure the data needed to support billions of real-time conversations with millions of people every day.
Kirk Cheyfitz, co-founder, Story Worldwide
Cross into sales
Traditional marketing teams and content are already going away, and the lines between sales and marketing will blur until both of those become one. By 2022, content marketing will really be “content selling. If your content isn’t driving sales, then why are you creating it?
Skyler Moss, director of digital marketing, HCSS
Go to each sales place
Content is going to be essential to bringing a convergence of the marketing messaging and sales training content that salespeople need to be effective across selling situations. Integrated, interactive playbooks (that match message to selling situation) will make this happen. The technology is here for that, but the content needs to catch up.
Tim Riesterer, chief strategy and marketing officer, Corporate Visions
Recognize that all employees are marketers
The marketer of tomorrow needs to have a diverse skill set and a good understanding of the channels that fit the brand’s needs and prospective audience’s interests. The team also needs to work within the rest of the company rather than as a silo within it. Encouraging other employees to think and act like marketers is a secret resource. Other employees are engaged in all parts of the buyer’s journey, which are valuable insights in creating quality content, especially when you need to create content to encourage your clients to become brand champions.
Colleen Weston, marketing director, Britton Gallagher
Engage in sprints
Content teams will grow exponentially as more organizations understand the need for top-notch, in-house content creators to lead their efforts. Within long-running content marketing initiatives, we’ll also see more experimentation and Agile iteration, all of which will be enabled by a jump in the number of content teams using Agile approaches to manage their work.
Andrea Fryrear, founder and chief content officer, Fox Content
See the shortcomings
We’ll have an entire generation of marketers with NO direct response marketing experience whatsoever. This will be a much bigger problem than many organizations anticipate.
Jonathan Kranz, principal, Kranz Communications
Don’t get comfortable
I read an article about a company in the U.K. that began to use Albert (an AI-based marketing platform) for its search engine marketing – PPC, AdWords, social advertising. It did so well, they ended up letting their agency go. This is going to become commonplace quickly.
Gini Dietrich, CEO, Arment Dietrich
Evolve your formats
Don’t show, do it
Instead of showing people how to do something we’ll have to move our content marketing to helping people do it. For example, rather than writing an article about SEO, Neil Patel created a utility to review SEO on a website. Today, we write long, detailed content because these pieces get shared and linked to more and therefore rank well in Google. But most people don’t read long blog posts so the content is not actually delivering on the value because readers (potential customers) don’t implement what we write. We need to make it a lot easier for people to implement what we share, and help people do instead of showing people how, to have a better impact.
Ian Cleary, founder, RazorSocial
Engage in real time
The rise of the live experience – this isn’t just the broadcast to a passive audience, but really leaning into participation to build stronger communities. This is how brands can become hubs, similar to how retailers become community hubs by using their spaces to provide deeper experiences for their customers. This can happen in the B2B world beyond the confines of a social media space – higher engagement can happen with the live blogging experience and making everything a lot more face to face rather than behind a screen.
Mark Masters, managing director, The ID Group
Blogs won’t be nearly as big as they are today. Google’s algorithm will increasingly value real-time and short-form content such that content producers will follow suit.
Matt Heinz, president, Heinz Marketing
Favor the more practical, not the shiniest
I see the renaissance of podcasting. We all thought that audio content died with the coming of visual content. However, audio has a huge upper hand when it comes to saving time. Everyone is multitasking these days. For example, you can always listen to a podcast while commuting. Moreover, we are seeing a more driven generation who would rather listen to tips and hacks to make their lives better instead of listening to music.
Srinivasa Raghavan, CEO and founder, Animaker
The behavior change will be to switch from constant acquisition mode (get in front of people, acquire followers, readers, subscribers, etc.) to retention mode (be memorable to people, hold attention over time to gain trust and loyalty and trigger actions).
The tactical change will be shifting from piece-by-piece publishing to more prevalent use of original series – videos, articles, podcasts, social posts, anything. These overtly named entities focus on your brand owning one important idea in the audience’s mind, cementing it over time. Original series use the right storytelling or educational mechanics to keep people coming back in an era where we spend little time with any one thing.
Jay Acunzo, creator and host, Unthinkable
Immersive multimedia storytelling is going to catch fire. What do I mean by that? I always return to The New York Times snowfall example as it transcends the text-with-pictures model to create an experience as the viewer reads and scrolls down. Detail-oriented reporting and information gathering is a must. Together, anecdotes and quantitative information are powerful. Visuals are a must. Thinking through how the audience is most likely to stick with you through a 4,300-word story (yes, I did) is a must.
Michelle Park Lazette, writer, Federal Reserve Bank
Get in front of your audience
Go on your own
Modern brands will adopt an owned-media-centric marketing model and leverage paid media only when necessary vs. today’s paid-centric model.
Dan Curran, CEO, PowerPost
Be the gathering place
Distribution will get expensive for companies that don’t own channels people pay attention to. In 2022, it will be hard to build followings because audiences are going to tire of the massive amounts of content and only go to a couple “water holes” for content. If you aren’t one of them, you will have a big challenge.
John Hall, CEO, Influence & Co.
Act like a publishing company
We’ll see more content marketing teams run like media outlets. This would mean centralized people and platform management, with freelance and remote content marketing specialists executing against the content strategy.
Erika Heald, consultant, Erika Heald Marketing Consulting
Specialize and/or spend a lot
Content distribution will be difficult. Browsers will have built-in ad-blockers and more of our advertising budgets will go to some of the giant forces like Google and Facebook. The clutter will be even thicker and harder to cut through, and will leave content marketers with two options: (1) Have a huge budget or (2) be specific about the audience you are talking to.
Joakim Ditlev, content marketing specialist, Content Marketing DK
Answer the call of Siri and Alexa
Give direct answers
By 2020, there will be over 200 billion voice-search queries per month, according to the Trends Report. That volume will make up half of all search queries. As the use of Alexa, Echo Dot, Google Home, Siri, and other non-screen search devices will increase. The newer devices and advanced technology make it very easy for searchers to ask questions.
Content marketers will need to take this into consideration as they create content. Voice searches are more direct with the searcher looking for a quick answer. The answer to their query will not need additional context.
Andy Crestodina, principal and strategic director, Orbit Media
Evolve your content
By 2022, content marketers will need to reshape their content format, tone, and style for a voice-activated, connected world where content is consumed in new environments on the go. Effective content will fall into three camps: Practical (help me get what I need), educational (teach me), or emotional (entertain me). There will be little room for the current undergrowth of content marketing noise.
Heather Pemberton Levy, vice president, content publishing, Gartner
Make new friends
Voice-activated search is going to be the next big challenge for content professionals to solve. Make friends with content strategists and linguists so your content is ready for this challenge.
Ahava Leibtag, principal, AHA Media Group
With each passing year, society is more connected and companies are providing more insights and data. The biggest change I see is the amount of data we pay attention to, not only to prove ROI, but to help us better understand our audience.
Jason Schemmel, social media manager, Harper Collins Christian Publishing
Break it down
I think “big data” will have to become “small data.” We’ll need to do a much better job of taking the huge amounts of data we’re gathering and distill it down to essential pieces of information that help us better identify the day-to-day problems people face and how we can help solve them.
Ryan Knott, public relations specialist, TechSmith Corp.
Where will content marketing be in five years? Continually evolving.
These experts share great insight on where content marketing is headed – more personalization, cross-functioning content, relevant formats, and voice activation. But the single most important takeaway is that your content marketing program must be structured in a way that it can adapt whether the change comes from technology, audience preferences, or even a change in your company’s business offerings.
Now, where will you be in five years with your content marketing programs? Share in the comments.
You can meet and learn from these experts as they present at Content Marketing World 2017 Sept. 5-8 in Cleveland, Ohio. Register today and use the code BLOG100 to save $100.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute