Terry Pratchett's book "Interesting Times" draws its name from a Chinese curse that goes, "May you live in interesting times." Whatever else one could say about 2017, it certainly falls on the interesting side of things. As the year comes to a close and organizations start putting together their strategies for 2018, it's time to look back for a 2017 content marketing year of review.
What Did the Experts Predict in 2017?
Let's start by looking at a few expert predictions from the end of 2016.
A rise in the importance of video content was mentioned by many publications and thought leaders, which makes it the third or fourth year in a row that video got cited as a top priority. Virtual reality technology also makes a frequent appearance on these lists, although it didn't manage to take off in previous years.
The Content Marketing Institute declared that 2017 would be the year of mobile (for real, this time!) and also mentioned artificial intelligence and better email marketing as areas to keep an eye on.
Several experts also emphasized that rented channels were going to be more important than owned channels for content marketing strategies. The customer engagement and content formats would cater to the rented platforms, rather than focusing on the company's own sites.
What Actually Happened in 2017?
Video content, as expected, is generating great results for marketers. HubSpot found 51.9 percent of marketers list this content format as the one with the best ROI. Mobile efforts are likewise an essential part of a top-performing content marketing campaign, with more people using smartphones or tablets as their primary way of accessing the internet.
Podcasts, on the other hand, didn't feature in a lot of prediction lists, but this type of content worked out well for many organizations. Convince and Convert reports that 112 million people in the United States consume podcasts. This format also lends itself well to content repurposing, such as turning it into a video, breaking the topics down into blog posts and creating an infographic on the same theme.
Artificial intelligence, particularly machine learning, is powering many marketing automation platforms and content marketing solutions. Real-time personalization is possible through intelligent technology connecting data to the most relevant experience for each buyer.
Virtual reality is starting to make some headway in the mainstream, but its sister technology, augmented reality, was an unexpected success as a place to experiment with innovative content. The mobile game Pokemon Go kicked AR into popularity, which lead to many companies giving it a try.
Myspace has not managed to ride the wave of nostalgia to become the "it" social network in 2017, but maybe it has a chance in 2018! Anything is possible (except for this. But don't let Myspace hear you say that, it gets sad). Instagram, on the other hand, is the most prominent social network for companies adding sponsored content to their marketing campaigns, whether they're collaborating on the produced content or simply paying influencers for product placement.
What Does the Magic 8-Ball Say for 2018?
"Future unclear, shake again." Well, that didn't seem to work. Let's take a look at what the experts are expecting out of 2018.
First, a bit of a public service announcement. Businesses have to document their content marketing strategies if they want to enter the ranks of top performers. The Content Marketing Institute's research found a slight increase in companies doing this, but 37 percent is still far too low. Organizations can't maximize their content marketing resources and optimize campaigns without an official, documented plan. That's priority No. 1 in 2018.
Video content is on the 2018 prediction list, almost as a tradition. However, online video viewership continues to rise, and approximately 48 percent of marketers are adding YouTube into their content channel mix. Basic video equipment doesn't have to cost a lot, especially for audiences that want a more authentic and approachable feel in content marketing campaigns. Some maker spaces also have fully equipped video studios available for rental, which opens up opportunities for small businesses.
Many thought leaders talk about the importance of storytelling, but organizations put content creation in the hands of people who lack this background. Companies need to shift to working with external partners who specialize in content creation or changing the way they hire so creative storytellers develop the brand's voice.
Content distribution is another area that will get more attention in 2018. Some companies assume that all successful campaigns need is a steady diet of content. When that doesn't get the expected results, the budgets get slashed, and it gets even more difficult to leverage this strategy.
On the flip side, other organizations are hitting distribution fatigue by trying every single new channel that becomes available. These companies will narrow their focus to the top-performing channels rather than spreading themselves too thin.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning will show up in more content marketing platforms, augmenting the team's talent and providing valuable business intelligence to guide their optimization efforts.
Take the time to celebrate getting through an interesting year, audit the current content marketing strategy and use these predictions to prepare for the new year.
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