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Content Marketing | Aug 26
Jessica Malnik on August 16, 2021 • 14 minute read
If you found this article, there is a good chance you are looking for what’s working in content marketing today.
Understanding the key trends that are working well for brands today can inform your content marketing strategy.
However, jumping on every trend is inefficient and a surefire way to waste your marketing budget and resources. It is important to understand the trends and then lean in on the ones that make sense for your goals.
In this post, our community of experts recommended following these 11 content marketing trends:
This isn’t a new trend by any means. The rise of video content, especially for top-of-funnel content designed for social media channels, has been a thing for years now.
“Video has seen a huge uptick over the past year,” says Meisha Bochicchio of Wistia. “At Wistia, we saw an 80% increase in video uploads to our platform last year. And, people watched 12.2 billion minutes of video last year on Wistia. That’s a lot of video content! Both trends are continuing well into 2021 as brands continue to adapt to a remote-first world. The good news is that video is more accessible than ever. Audiences are way more forgiving of low-production quality and actually feel that unedited, raw content is more human and authentic. It’s never been easier to start making video content. And if you haven’t started investing in video, you could be falling behind.”
In 2020, we saw a lot more brands lean into live video content in the form of live streams, virtual events, and webinars, largely driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. Brands were looking for new ways to engage their prospects and customers without having to be face-to-face.
Editor’s Note: This Wistia dashboard can help you track plays, loads, and visitors. Download this free template to see which videos are most popular with your following.
“Video has always been king in content marketing, and live video is even better in terms of engagement,” says Zachary Hoffman of DigitalPR. “Live video and webinars allow customers to interact with a brand directly. Live video and webinars provide more time for a company to establish trust and build authority in a non-salesy or overly promotional way. Customers join webinars with the intent to learn something, and if they find the content valuable, they’re much more primed to make a purchase.”
Andre Oentoro of Milkwhale adds, “Since the pandemic, webinars and virtual conferences have become the norm. Content marketing isn’t just limited to blog posts. Today, every content marketer should consider expanding their reach by hosting webinars or attending podcast interviews to expand their reach and maintain relevancy.”
One channel where brands are producing a lot more video content in 2020 and 2021 is TikTok.
“We have been taking advantage of how popular TikTok has become by utilizing our own account,” says Matt Seaburn of Rent-A-Wheel. “Video content, in general, can be really effective in getting people’s attention online, and TikTok is a great way to capitalize on this method. Furthermore, TikTok only allows videos which last up to three minutes, so they have to be short and quick which usually encourages people to make them as engaging as possible in order to catch people’s attention right away.”
If you sell primarily B2C, then social commerce is a growing trend to pay attention to.
“More companies are beginning to sell through social media to reach customers where they hang out online,” says Harris Rabin of R3SET. “And with shoppable photos and interactive videos, shopping online will be even more effortless. Forget the clicks. It’s the swipe feature and embedded product links that will turn user interest into quick conversions.
With automatic product tagging, your business’s social platforms can connect seamlessly to your eCommerce platform and tag images of your products in your posts for direct purchase. And using data you gain by tracking your customers’ interaction with your social media, you can create a better user experience for them the next time they visit your brand’s website.”
One of the most effective strategies for both UGC and social commerce is influencer marketing.
“Influencer marketing is continuing to grow in popularity, as is showcasing user-generated content,” says Sara Shah of Journ. “This content is the most authentic kind a brand can use in their marketing strategy.
Utilizing TikTok to create videos featuring both influencers and user-generated content, through paid ads or not, can help brands reach a captive audience. Search for trending hashtags, sounds, creators to duet, and pop culture conversations that your brand can be a part of. Use this research to craft your videos.
With the launch of Spark ads on TikTok, brands can even sponsor organic videos that they feel aligns with their products or services without having to create anything themselves. There’s never been a better, or easier, time to start using TikTok to grow your brand!”
Alec Pow of The Pricer adds, “This year’s most popular content marketing trend is to use influencers to promote it. For many years, numerous cosmetics and luxury firms have used influencers to promote their brands, but now every brand is looking for influencers with a large following on various social media platforms. The key reason for engaging with influencers is that marketers are now concentrating on delivering their message through a channel that is more reliable and authentic than any other kind of advertising. We can conclude that paid commercials are becoming less effective, based on the prevalence of influencer marketing.”
Editor’s Note: Want a simple way to see how much traffic influencers drive to your website? Use this Google Analytics Social Media Dashboard to get real-time insights on traffic by social media channel, goal conversions, and more.
Let’s call this, “The Netflix Effect.” Today, people expect to read content that is relevant to their interests or goals.
At the bare minimum, this is creating relevant and helpful content for each stage of the customer journey.
Jeff Goodwin of Orgain says, “In content marketing, the most important “trend” I noticed that will continue to stay is maintaining content for each part of the sales cycle, especially for after purchase. Companies are becoming more aware of the power of branding after purchase, so customers will continue to recommend your products. The best way to maintain that excitement around your brand is to keep creating content to engage those who already bought your products.”
Daniel Carter of Office Furniture Online adds, “To persuade your audience that you understand them, you must communicate directly with them as a brand. Brand loyalty and engagement will be difficult to acquire unless your material is relatable, interactive, engaging, and individualized. Get a sense of customer preferences and the kind of content that has previously been done successfully before strategizing.
Paper Boat, one of the best examples in this category, creates content based on nostalgia, especially during the summer.”
This shift is also requiring many companies to rethink how they measure content marketing, such as shifting away from arbitrary metrics, like MQLs, that doesn’t necessarily tell you a lot.
“Lead gen is being phased out by brands that have realized how low the conversion rate on lead generation campaigns is… even with “nurturing,” says Trina Moitra of Convert.com. “This is ushering in a change for Content Marketing (and content marketers) as well. We are going from gated assets put together to identify members of the ICP to exhaustive and genuinely helpful educational content geared to lead high intent buyers back to the brand & create awareness in 99% of the market that isn’t ready to buy yet. The metrics are no longer leads collected or MQLs. They are content pieces consumed, branded keyword queries increase & increase in website sourced revenue, to name a few.”
Similar to video, this is less of a trend and more of an expectation at this time if SEO is a big part of your content marketing strategy.
“The one thing we’ve found has boosted our own content marketing strategy is creating more in-depth, long-form content,” says Sam Orchard of Edge of the Web. “Don’t churn out short articles for the sake of it, instead put your time and effort into content that is actually relevant and valuable to your readers. Over the last 12 months, we’ve seen a growth in topic clusters – content marketers are spending more time creating well-researched, thorough, original content around a particular topic in order to provide a valuable resource to their customers. And, it’s working. We’ve found that long-form content tends to perform well in the SERPs for longer. Plus with a long-form piece that tackles multiple sub-topics and answers questions, you’ve got more opportunities for featured snippets, which means more exposure for you and your business.”
Ryan Rottman of OSDB Sports adds, “When it comes to successful content marketing, it’s like blending science and art. After all, there’s the data with which to contend, but also the appeal to your human audience. You can’t rely on one, without the proper attention to the other.
In 2021, we are going to see more how-to guides, long-form informative blog posts, and the marketing of this content via social media. While SEO is of the highest importance, and we must place our keywords in the right places and apply other forms of optimization, it’s also crucial to write content that actually appeals to your target demographic. Google will “magically” know if your content is written only to house specific keywords, and you will be penalized. So, write about high-quality, trending topics that will support your keywords in an organic way.”
It is no longer enough to write long-form copycat content that essentially just restates what others have already said.
Your content needs to demonstrate your authority and have depth.
“Now the authority of the author has become even more important than before,” says Kateryna Reshetilo of Greenice. “Google gets better and better at taking into account WHO the advice is coming from.
This is most noticeable in high-risk spheres (as Google calls them YMYL – Your Money Your Life) like healthcare and law. Let’s face it, you really don’t want to be taking health or legal advice from someone who is not qualified to give it.
However, Expertise, Authority, and Trust (Google’s E-A-T) of the author is valued in any area. Why should you listen to pretend experts in gardening when you can get access to someone who knows what he/she is talking about. So this means that in content marketing we can no longer rely on content written by copywriters. To create expert content we need experts (sorry for stating the obvious), so you’d have to either pair experts with copywriters, turn experts into writers, or vise-versa. And you also need to make sure that everybody sees why your author is qualified to talk about the topic at hand.”
Another way to demonstrate your expertise is to interview and curate experts in your space. Your writers can be reporters instead of columnists.
“Expert-driven content in saturated spaces,” says Alex Birkett. “Google seems to be figuring out that a large amount of content produced is, by and large, BS. It’s rehashed fluff from people who haven’t *done* the thing they’re writing about. Similarly, audiences are craving content written by practitioners. But here’s the problem: practitioners often don’t have the time or skill to write.
So here’s what I’m seeing: companies are hiring editors or agencies to source the insights and material for articles from true practitioners and filtering those insights through a robust editorial process. This way they get truly unique insights (nothing you can just Google and find on the first page), but the editor or agency makes sure it’s actually readable and findable via search engines. Outreach / Sales Hacker does this well, as does Intercom. You’ll see more of this in the future.”
Podcasting isn’t new, but more brands are starting to create their own shows and/or sponsor podcasts in their industry.
For example, Kim Purcell of CIENCE says, “You can translate this into social media posts, blogs, webinars, etc., and connect with similar-minded experts who are passionate about all things marketing-related.”
With GPT-3 and more AI developments than ever before, savvy marketers are finding all kinds of ways to use this to be more efficient and improve their marketing.
“The top content marketing trends to watch out for in 2021 are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automated chatbots to help customers and leads and help them interact and learn about the products and services,” says Caroline Lee of CocoSign.
Jeff Moriarty of Moriarty’s Gem Art adds, “One of the most promising we have seen is with email subject lines. Using AI to figure out the subject lines with that result in the highest open rates. We believe this will be just one way in which AI will help your advertising, especially in email marketing, improve drastically.”
Maximizing the reach and life of the content you are creating shouldn’t be a trend. It should be expected.
“Content repurposing is making a big comeback, especially since people want different styles of content now than in the 2010s,” says Kelly Maxwell of Seniors Mutual. “One big trend that has seen huge success is repurposing old content into a new style of format, or making a blog post into a video on Youtube. It can be done fairly quickly as well since you already have the bones of the content in place.”
Facebook, Google, and Apple can change the rules at any time. They all have on numerous occasions.
There is a growing awareness of the need to shift more of your marketing to owned channels, like your website, email, and branded communities.
“The one important content marketing trend that I’ve noticed over the last 12 months is building communities,” says Abdul Ahad Qureshi of MakeWebBetter. “With so much competition in the digital world, one needs a way to be noticed and building communities can achieve this. I believe community marketing today is a necessity as it is a great medium for giving your audience a voice and in return, you get quick responses from them.”
However, building your own branded community is time-intensive and resource-heavy. It can take a year or longer before you see any ROI from the activity.
If you don’t have the budget or resources to launch a full community, you can hedge your bets in their direction with community-lite activities, like starting a newsletter or investing in video-on-demand.
Carla Dewing of Copyhog.com adds, “There is a growing trend in content marketing towards seizing greater control over owned content, especially with so many companies utilizing live streaming. Instead of posting videos on YouTube and monetizing with ads, marketers are using VOD (video-on-demand) platforms to build their own streaming platforms and monetize their live streams to retain greater control over their audiences, marketing campaigns, and revenues.
Platforms like Uscreen are putting the power back into the hands of content marketers that want end-to-end control of their content, their data, and their communities. In 2021 and 2022, this will continue as brands focus more on the retention and conversion of communities on their core properties as opposed to their social communities (for higher demand and revenue creation).”
In sum, these are trends that we’re seeing across the content marketing industry. Just like any trend, it is best to educate yourself on what’s happening. Then, strategically lean into the trends that make the most sense for your business and marketing goals.
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