The path of evolution when it comes to social media has been nothing short of incredible. It had humble beginnings as a portal to connect with friends and family across the globe. Now, it’s grown into a marketing juggernaut that puts most other methods of sales to shame.
The popularity of social media has been growing exponentially and has shown no signs of letting up. Brands have been using it to good effect and have come up with several innovative strategies that they’ve used to make their mark with their audience.
So, what are developments that people should look to in the next year? Well, why don’t we find out…
Social Networking Use Has Shot Up in Past Decade
Networking through this medium has seen a meteoric rise in the past decade. If forecasts are to be believed, it should grow even further in the coming years. Humans are social creatures and this push to connect has been the key to social media developing at this pace.
Distances have diminished and people are much more connected than ever today. The number of users will grow at 8% in 2017 to a heady 2.39 billion people! To put this into some sort of perspective – the combined population of India and China is about 2.6 billion.
Having this sort of audience at the tap of a button makes social media a very attractive proposition for developing brand awareness and creating markets.
Employees Turn Into Beacons For Their Brand
If you are working for a company that considers itself “connected”, you might be encouraged to share business updates. This is because brands have now started turning to employees as brand ambassadors to further their brand image. In other words, using employee social advocacy programs has grown about 191% since 2013.
What this has done is rather than increase social reach through scaling, it integrates elements (employees) that already have a connected audience. When you pull this off correctly, it can be much more effective at enticing engagement. Consider utilizing tools like Social Toaster to turn your team into a passionate group of social advocates.
‘Real’ Real-Time Engagement
Another key area that has grown through social media is the ability to run effective client support programs. Users expect that a brand needs to have a social team on their feed to answer questions and resolve issues. Statistics from Search Engine Watch highlight this fact – 72% of Twitter users expect responses from brands they follow, within the hour.
In a domino-effect, this has caused brands to start investing heavily into cross-functional social media teams that can keep abreast with the increasing number of client pings every day. Eventually, most brands will have shifted client service entirely to their own social media accounts.
Driving Decisions Through Analytics
Much earlier, social media was more of a hit-or-miss when it came to marketing aspects and relied on “gut feeling” a lot. These days though, social media analytics has gotten more powerful, comprehensive and easier to use for the average Joe. Statistics will play an even more important role in the days to come.
There are a variety of different social analytics tools that can cater to several popular social media platforms like Buffer, Followerwonk, Iconosquare and Google Analytics to name a few. Most of them are free and can accommodate the needs of most SMBs. You can also find other enterprise-level solutions online.
Social Video Wins Again
It’s hard to miss, but perhaps you might have – Snapchat has over 10 billion daily views on its video content. Let’s wait a moment for that number to sink in. This exceeds even YouTube, a website that is built on showcasing video content and straight double of their last year numbers.
The domination of social media over video content as well has been an eye-opener for many companies and it’s only set to increase even further. Brands have evidence that video content is effective and over 76% of B2Bs use them to good effect. Expect this to dominate brand marketing strategies going forward.
The Biggest Content Marketing Trends in 2017
Here are what I believe are some of the biggest issues enterprise marketers are dealing with, as well as some thought leaders who are covering this topic at #CMWorld (hint, hint).
Note: These are not in any particular order. They are all important, depending on where you are in your content marketing maturity.
One thing is for sure: Content creation and distribution in the enterprise, outside of the content about our products and services, have become both more important and more integrated over the past year.
Creation of a real content marketing strategy
In almost every keynote speech I give, I ask the audience members whether their organizations have a documented content marketing strategy. Sadly, most do not. Our research tells us that those organizations that do have one, and that review it consistently, are more likely to be successful. Even though you (the expert reading this) might think this is basic, it’s not. We are still too focused on campaigns and talking about our products, instead of truly driving value outside the products and services we offer.
In answer to this, Content Marketing World offers a specific workshop solely on how to create a documented content marketing strategy. To get started now, this essential e-book on creating a strategy will get you pointed in the right direction.
If you are a regular listener of the PNR: This Old Marketing podcast, you know that Robert Rose and I cover native advertising just about every week. I’ve often called native advertising the “gateway drug” to content marketing (in a good way). We are starting to see a number of enterprises experiment, and succeed, with paid, native promotion of their content.
Why is this so important? Five years ago, enterprises were spending 80% on content creation and 20% on content promotion. I believe this ratio has switched, with successful enterprises creating differentiated content and putting some advertising and promotion muscle behind it.
This is the first year that we are offering a dedicated track on native advertising at Content Marketing World. In addition, we have a panel on native with some of the leading experts in the world on the subject.
If you are unsure of native and how it can help your organization, check out this post.
Influencer marketing has always been a “thing,” but in the last six months … wow … this topic has vaulted into the top five. It seems that every enterprise has some kind of content and influencer strategy, but few organizations execute a real strategy that makes sense.
The CMI team did an amazing job on the influencer marketing checklist (totally worth the download). For Content Marketing World, we have quite a few sessions on influencer marketing, including Bryan Kramer on how to create and manage an influencer marketing program.
What’s your why? Why do you create your content? Does it have a real impact on your customers and prospects? Is there a deeper purpose behind what you do, instead of just creating content as part of your sales and marketing machine?
We have a number of sessions on finding your purpose at CMWorld this year, but we specifically recruited comedian Michael Jr. to talk about “why versus what.” If you haven’t had a chance to see this video on finding your why, here’s a sneak peek.
Video and visual
It doesn’t take “Chewbacca Mom” to show us how big and important using video and having a visual storytelling strategy are. But, most brands are still hanging their video strategy on the viral video, instead of building a process and organization around the ongoing delivery of valuable information through video.
We have a CMWorld track dedicated to visual content, including this excellent session onbuilding a visual content marketing program that scales. In addition, we have the video architects behind the very successful visual/video programs at Marriott, Jyske Bank, and Foodable.TV.
I have to be honest. I don’t get Snapchat, but enough of my smart colleagues have said it is here to stay. Since Snapchat has surpassed Facebook in total video views, it’s about time we started to take notice at Content Marketing World.
Anyway, I broke down and asked Carlos Gil who heads social at BMC Software to teach us about Snapchat and the opportunities for business.
Well, most of us built our social houses on rented Facebook land, and now what do we have to show for it? Not much actually. But there is a better way, especially when it comes to promoting your content assets on this powerhouse of a channel.
Although we have a number of sessions that discuss Facebook, I’m curious about the benefits of leveraging Facebook as a way to drive your content for lead generation. Brian Carter is putting on both a workshop and a session that will help you use Facebook as a demand-generation tool.
Teams and workflow
I’ve seen so many examples of well-meaning content marketing programs die because of improper workflow and hiring inadequate people to make real content experiences.
Content strategy (pipes and process)
My take on both content strategy and intelligent content is that these core areas are about the pipes that the content moves through. Great content is one thing, but if you don’t build in a strategy that makes sense for a user experience or leverages technology in the right way, we are all doomed.
When I think of content strategy, I think of people like Kristina Halvorson, Lisa Welchman, and, of course, Ann Rockley on the intelligent content side. We doubled down this year on sessions about setting up your content marketing process for success. To work properly over time, we need our processes to scale and be personalized. Most enterprises aren’t set up to do this outside of campaigns.
Pokémon Go anyone? How many times have you heard that INSERT YEAR HERE is the year ofmobile? Well, with all audiences with at least one untethered device, that year may be now. To put it simply, if your content isn’t easily digested on a mobile device, you have significant problems.
My good friend Jeff Rohrs, CMO at Yext, is putting on a mobile moments panel at CMWorld to look at the opportunities we might be missing, while we also added a new session this year oncontent design and the mobile device. We considered having a separate mobile track this year, but so many sessions integrate mobile — it’s the natural transformation where mobile is a priority with most of the digital content we develop.
Disclaimer: Before you choose any technology for your content marketing, be sure to have a sound strategy first. OK, had to say it.
With that out of the way, it only takes one look at Scott Brinker’s mammoth marketing technology infographic to make any marketer hesitant of what technology to choose. So yes, we have a full track dedicated to technology and tools (and another 12 sessions just on different content technologies), but I’m intrigued with Paul Roetzer’s session on machine learning. This is not just a futuristic look at content anymore, artificial intelligence and machine learning are here right now, and we need to start paying attention.
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Writing still counts, perhaps more than ever. More than not, marketers are abuzz about social media and video without comprehending that most of our communication is still text- and story-based. And frankly, most marketers are really bad at writing. From finding freelancers tobecoming a better digital writer, we have more sessions dedicated to writing than ever (yes, even in this age of social media). And, of course, Ann Handley.
Integration with sales
I had a great conversation with Marcus Sheridan a few years back. While he loved our programming at Content Marketing World 2014, he made me aware of a very sad truth: Most organizations are dominated by sales, and if we don’t start integrating salespeople into Content Marketing World, marketers are going to get back to their offices and hit brick walls.
Marcus, as usual, was 100% correct, and Content Marketing World is evolving into a marketing AND sales conference. To prove that, we’ve added a full track dedicated to sales and sales integration this year, as well a workshop on how top-performing companies are integrating their sales and content led by Marcus and best-selling author of Same Side Selling, Ian Altman.
ROI and measurement
I don’t think this one needs explaining. The No. 1 question, every year, is “How do I show the success of my content marketing program?” At CMWorld this year we have more than 10 sessions dedicated to driving ROI, performance, and sales with content. In the meantime, if you haven’t checked out this post by Michael Brenner on the secrets of content marketing ROI, please make the time.
Email and marketing automation
I’ve learned a couple things about email recently. First, email is far from dead, and may be more important than ever for our content marketing programs. Second, most enterprises (99% of them) send spam disguised as content every day to our key stakeholders.
And then, as many B2B enterprises have done, they move from just email into marketing automation. I talked to a senior strategist recently who believes that marketers use about 10% of the functionality behind marketing automation (10% is on the high side). Simply put, most of us are using marketing automation the wrong way.
Here’s a great overview on how marketing automation can help your organization as it relates to your content creation programs.