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Top content marketing trends for 2017

December 21, 2016 | By Gilad de Vries, VP of Brands and Agencies—Outbrain @giladdevries

Content marketing continues to mature and is now used by over 85% of all marketers (B2B and B2C). But with that maturity comes the hard realization that reaching meaningful results—for example, a significant lift in site visitors, increase in conversions or in brand perception—requires continuous learning and improvement.

Source: Doug Kessler, Velocity Partners Ltd
Source: Doug Kessler, Velocity Partners Ltd

It’s not a shiny magic tool that solves all business challenges. It’s a daily struggle that requires tremendous investment. CMI’s Joe Pulizzi has said “the industry is in the middle of “downhill slide (as part of the Gartner Hype Cycle) into a ‘trough of disillusionment.’”

By now, most brands have tried to create content. A couple of videos here, maybe a few blog posts there. For many of them, doing so didn’t really move the needle and inevitably, they have given up on their efforts.

But for the successful ones, their ability to stay on top has stemmed from an understanding that they need to address creative, cadence, and measurement in a very different way than previously.

To help prepare for what’s next, here are some of the main themes we’ll hear in 2017:

Chatbots are the new CRM
Six months after Facebook launched chatbots for Messenger, there are already over 33,000 chatbots on the platform. Why are chatbots so exciting? Because they can offer brands the opportunity to interact with consumers in a direct and personalized way. Chatbots enable brands to create a one-on-one relationship. It’s like the future of CRM—a conversation rather than blast emails.

Bots can either be scripted or based on AI. Some serve a utility function (like ordering flowers or opening a support ticket) and some can provide answers using content.

In 2017, we’ll start to see many brands who will start to create sophisticated bots that engage with audiences using a combo of their social and support teams as well as their content to enable engagements at scale.

Video Storytelling
Most online videos promoted online by brands are still repurposed TV commercials. In 2017, we’ll start to see the shift towards “made for web” videos, not as commercials but rather as stories, both long and short. When creative teams are not constrained to 15-30 seconds spots or how to create a pre-roll that isn’t skipped over after five seconds, they can really focus on storytelling and providing real entertainment or educational value.

Just as season one of “Serial” changed the world of offline listening, transforming millions to into huge fans of podcasts, “the Message” by GE is a turning point in how marketers should think about leveraging the medium for content marketing. You can become a sponsor to podcasts, but that’s just another form of interruptive advertising like commercials on radio. Conversely, you could create your own podcast, and make it great. Ebay’s “Open For Business” collaboration with Gimlet Media (the company behind podcast hits like “Startup” and “Reply All”) is another great examples of how brands can evolve from interruptive push advertising to become real content marketers.

Bring Content Expertise In-House
While it is important for all marketing endeavours, high-quality content is vital to connecting with Millennials. The challenge is how to keep the right balance between quality and quantity. Many brands are now realizing that the best way to create a scaled operation is to bring the expertise in house. Research by Curata shows that in 2017, 51% of companies will have an executive in their organization who is directly responsible for an overall content marketing strategy (e.g., Chief Content Officer, VP or Director of Content). These people are hiring content specialists (someone who may even be ex-journalists and editors) and having them produce great content that takes advantage of the in-house collective experience in the product and category while conforming to all corporate policies and regulations.

Content Analytics and Content Attribution
With the evolution of creative skillset comes the realization that measuring content marketing success requires not only a different approach, but also different tools.

Google Analytics often falls short in providing a clear map of how each channel of promotion is driving engagement with the content and how an engagement with one piece of content at the top of the funnel influences a CRM registration at the bottom of it. Moreover, it is hard to use it to see how a blog view leads to a Facebook app download or a Google search and conversion.

That’s why more and more companies are turning to solutions like Trendemon or Chartbeat to better understand and optimize their true content attribution and engagement.

It is simply not good enough anymore to ensure that your content is responsive and looks okay in mobile. The whole experience with your brand needs to be evaluated from the perspective of mobile first. If you aren’t making sure of this already, then you are way behind. In 2017, the majority of engagement with your website will happen on a mobile device. How fast does your site load? How easy is it to navigate? How is the design optimized for a mobile vertical view and scroll mode? Do you have experiences especially made for mobile, like a one-click button to call your office, or a link to open Waze to navigate easily? Most brands websites are repurposed desktop experiences, and those will just not suffice.

VR is still niche and not mass market. But don’t ignore the hype. It’s important to start thinking about how you can create content for that world, given the expectation that this tech will become mass market in 2018.

If 2016 was all about realizing how hard it is to break through the noise of content, 2017 will be about experimenting with new mediums, skillsets, and measurement techniques. With so-called disillusionment also comes breakthroughs and innovations. We hope to see more of that in the year ahead.

gilad-de-vries-picture-1Gilad de Vries (@giladdevries) is the Senior Vice President of Strategy at Outbrain. Gilad brings more than 19 years of experience in the digital media and technology fields. Before joining Outbrain, Gilad was VP of Digital Media and Principal at Carmel Ventures, one of Israel’s top-tier venture capital firms, where he was highly engaged in Carmel’s investments in digital media, Internet and mobile startups. Before Carmel, Gilad was a Senior Director of Marketing and Product Management at Comverse Technology, a leading provider of value-added services for Telco Providers. Gilad holds a B.A. in economics and business management from Bar-Ilan University and a Global MBA cum laude from the IDC Herzelia. Gilad is also a first lieutenant (reserve) in the Israeli Army’s technology unit (Mamram).

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