We're more than halfway through 2017. I know that sounds almost impossible because the year has flown by so far. (My youngest daughter just became a 1-year-old. I feel like I just blinked, and now she's taking steps to keep up with her sister. When did that happen?)
Anyway, it's true: We've reached the halfway point, and preparing and budgeting for content marketing in 2018 will be here before you know it. Whether you're a C-suite executive, a marketing leader, or a content creator yourself, here are seven content marketing trends to keep on your radar as you prepare for 2018:
1. Investments in content are paying off.
More than 60 percent of B2B content marketers are reporting that they're more successful now than they were the year before. Their efforts are finally paying off, and things are looking up for the majority of marketers.
Now, some people were surprised by this information; I certainly wasn't. Unlike some other marketing tactics, this approach requires your long-term investment and commitment to content marketing; it just takes more time before you see substantial ROI. This used to mean that companies would pull the plug on their content before it ever had the chance to take off -- but for those who stayed dedicated to engaging, high-quality content marketing, their investments are starting to pay off.
2. Content distribution tactics will determine the difference between valuable and wasted investments.
"There's just too much content out there." I've heard that for five years, and it's just not reflective of reality. There's a lot of content out there, sure -- but all that means is that the ways you distribute your content to the right people are even more important.
Think of it like this: With tens of thousands of people in attendance in different areas all over the city, SXSW is huge. (One might even say, "There's just too much out there.") However, that doesn't mean you can't leverage it to your advantage. I've found a lot of value by just targeting the right people at select events.
The same thing applies to content. If you put together a social distribution plan, target the right people, and engage them with content that's relevant to them, the noise around you doesn't matter. To keep up, there will be more investments in distribution from the content marketing budget than ever before.
3. Publications are becoming more focused.
As content marketing grows, online publications continue to adjust their models to accommodate this change. Even over the past year or so, I've seen more publications shift from covering a variety of broad topics to publishing only niche and highly focused content. Kissmetrics, for example, is focusing more on data, analytics, and growth.
Some marketers might see this as a challenge or restriction, but it's really a huge opportunity. Focused niche publications tend to attract engaged readers, so when you target those publications for your guest postings, you're more likely to reach an audience that's interested in what you have to say -- and more qualified.
4. Content will continue its evolution into other areas of the company.
Companies may see their content as more successful than in the past, but it's not like content is magically becoming more effective just because time has passed. Yes, it's a long-term strategy, but it's what marketers do during that time that really pushes it forward. Leveraging content across departments and allowing it to naturally evolve into other areas of the company is critical to success, and it will only become more important as the industry continues to advance.
That's because audience engagement is valuable across your entire company. Whether you're trying to reach potential clients, partners, or future employees, engaging your audience is key -- and content can help you do it. To ensure their content is its most effective and impactful, more companies will start using content marketing tactics for recruiting, internal communications, investor relations, sales enablement, and more.
5. You want to be the company with the watering hole advantage.
What do I mean by "watering hole advantage"? Simply that your brand is top of mind for others in your space to regularly go to for information, resources, and opportunities. To achieve that, you've got to use the right content marketing tools that allow you to build out some sort of owned media in the form of a robust social channel, a company blog, an email newsletter, etc., that effectively turns your brand (and your content) into a watering hole of insights.
Aside from being a general industry resource that your audience trusts, this watering hole advantage can be used to help you communicate your brand message to a group of advocates, too.
6. Microinfluencers will continue to move the needle on amplification.
Social media and mobile trends have changed how we talk about influencers and influencer marketing. We're not just looking to celebrities anymore; influencers can be anyone -- with digital, every person has the power to amplify his message and influence an audience.
Sometimes, all it takes is one person sharing a piece of content for the right publication, group, or individual audience member to amplify it significantly. Everyone has access to some channel or platform that could get their content into the hands of the right people.
7. Brand blogs could be the next big thing.
Instead of posting random company updates and news no one outside your own circle of employees cares about, a lot of companies are investing in their blogs and turning them into their own publications of sorts -- complete with engaging, high-quality content and a following of engaged readers.
This change is obviously good news for audiences (fewer "blog posts" about irrelevant company updates), and it's also great for content marketers. By including company blogs in the list of outlets and publications you contribute to, you could reach a targeted audience and expand your content. Plus, you can build partnership opportunities by working with those brands to create and publish content that reaches an audience you share.
As quickly as it feels like we reached the halfway point of this year, I'm sure the rest will move even faster. As you start thinking about what initiatives your team needs to prepare and budget for to set yourself apart from competitors and engage your audience, let these content marketing trends guide you. What other content trends have you noticed? Let me know in the comments.