January 20, 2016

Content in 2016: What to Watch Out For

This has been a pretty big year in content.

We’ve watched as businesses and people pushed out more content than ever, bringing new and fresh content to the web in ever creative ways.
We’ve watched in wonder as brands like Virgin, Oreo and Maersk captivated online minds. Companies like GE have taken brave new directions in content publishing, putting its name behind everything from videos to research and even sci-fi podcasts.

But while great things have come to light, terrible realities have come along with them. Here are my top 3 trends for content in 2016.

1. Successful content will be less frequent—and smaller.

I hate to say this as someone whose life depends on content, but digital content as we know it is kinda terrible—it’s like a colony of insects that has gotten so far overpopulated that it is posing a risk to our ecosystem. Content has become a pariah as far as how much is produced versus how much actually does something for someone (the majority doesn’t do anything for anyone, other than the writer).

Another concern for our industry is that the number of companies actively using data-derived content isn’t increasing relative to the amount of content out there. So it feels like there is more content every day, but less of it seems to be data focused. Basically, people are still publishing by gut, not by Google.
So what does that mean for the companies using search analytics/Google to define interest and behaviours that lead to good content ideas?

It means that as you get better, you’ll have to produce less. You’ll produce more effective content that gets you closer to your goals. You’ll also be on trend for 2016, as more brands and enterprise companies get on board with evidence-based content. (If you seek any advice on using data to create and publish content, we can help you out.)

2. Content will come second to audience.

Throughout my year, and frankly, throughout our industry, we keep hearing the same old expression:

Content is king.

It’s been repeated so often that people believe it to be true that content has the potential to drive business.

I don’t disagree with that last idea, but the preceding expression above leaves out a fundamental truth in the business of reaching people:

A message without an audience isn’t a message at all, though a message without an audience is still content.

In our experience as content producers, audience remains the fundamental absolute, not the content. So let’s rethink that expression:

Content value is king.

Sure, it’s nowhere near as sexy sounding as Bill Gates’s 1996 quip, but the point is this: If you can’t find someone who finds value in what you say, what you say has no value.

Let’s all sit back and let that sink in for a second…

Think about your content after you’ve thought about your buyers, your prospects and those ambassadors and advocates who support your brand. Don’t write anything until you know someone is going to give a damn about it.

Others are already making the changes to their content processes, so it’s fundamental that you tackle this task this year. Get on the upswing before your competitors do!

3. Content as Customer Experience Tool

So often we talk to brands and companies with vibrant content and social media activity. They share genuine excitement for their customers and relish engaging with them. This is a good thing!

One aspect of their content that is often considered is how their content supports the customer experience. Companies have a customer process that starts with awareness, builds into a customer relationship and hopefully develops into a long-term connection with the brand. The marketing funnel remains one of the most fundamental marketing concepts in audience development, and it plays a key role once it’s applied.

The point is that content has the power to drive this relationship and bring prospects, customers and long-time ambassadors even closer to a brand without any sense of coercion or nefariousness. In fact, it can work as a means to build very human relationships. Plot out your customers’ touch points, clearly define and then create content that reaches out to those people.

Think about:

  • Questions they may have
  • Issues they may be grappling with
  • Ways in which you can talk them through their problems

Let them know that you are there to help. Use information to drive connections. Give your customers the chance and the choice to move forward. Be there when they need a human at the other end, which should be easier since you’ve lightened your sales effort through automation.
If you want to read more about how you can make this work, visit my Marketing Automation post. It gives some background in building a more human content experience for your customers and prospects.

So why am I asking that you consider this? Because 2016 is the year that experience trumps content. As people, we are doing more on more devices in evermore clever ways. As customers, we demand that our experience starts and remains flawless. Our need for accessibility is on an inverted path to our tolerance for little glitches along the way. And consider the final nail in the coffin: Those who leave often don’t come back. The fact is we are all these people.

Think about your customer interactions, experiences, frustrations and high points. Work through it like a story with your customer as the hero. Any plot twists in the flow may need more support, any wins might deserve congratulations or thanks. Find ways to inject useful, valuable content to help people on their adventure. What channels might be effective? Would a friendly email work to help someone who closed out of a transaction or a contact form? Are there other possible interactions that would support sales and customer support? Putting the customer experience before your content will put you ahead of many — and it could take you to new heights in your upcoming year.

Here’s hoping that your marketing efforts make 2016 your biggest year yet!

If you want to learn more about how to make this happen for you and your customers, get in touch or chat with me on Twitter. I’m forever posting about content and how to drive business and relationships.

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