For success in content marketing in 2017, preparation and foresight is key. New ideas that would be no stranger to the realm of sci-fi are beginning to pique interest and set the benchmark for the future. Read on to discover the trends and new technologies that can help your content stand out for all the right reasons.
It’s all about the (mobile) experience
If content creators are to have just one aim this year, it will be ‘user experience’. User experience has gained in importance over the last few years and is now fuelling plans such as Google’s mobile-first strategy.
We’ve already highlighted the importance of a mobile-first strategy in the round-up of Google’s antics during 2016, but we’re repeating it here as it’s only set to grow over the next year, especially when the mobile-first index goes live.
A whitepaper by Cisco predicts that smartphone traffic will exceed PC traffic by 2020, so it’s no wonder that Google is pushing a mobile-oriented search strategy. As more and more of us turn to mobile devices to access content, it becomes even more important for this content to be accurate, fast and easy to digest.
Having a ‘good’ mobile experience means that content creators need to have a flexible mobile site. Even more kudos is likely to be garnered by those who embrace AMPs (Accelerated Mobile Pages), which are currently being heavily promoted by Google in its carousel at the top of search pages.
However, you don’t have to panic and throw together a mobile website. Google’s mobile-first index is not yet live and is not expected to go live until later in the year. Use this time wisely and make sure your mobile version of your site is fully kitted out.
Having a ‘good’ mobile experience means that content creators need to have a flexible mobile site
The end of apps?
Apps number in their thousands, but many of them are also languishing, forgotten, on people’s phones.
It’s very unlikely that 2017 will sound the death-knell of apps, but you should keep an eye on PWAs. A Progressive Web App behaves very like a traditional app but with one crucial difference – it’s actually a website.
These websites can be added to the homepage on your phone like an app, can work offline and will load very quickly. Not only do they offer better mobile functionality (user experience!) but their content can also be found by search bots.
These pages are still in their infancy, but you may want to investigate further if you have content that has regular updates, such as a blog that publishes content multiple times a day.
A video view
Another way to bolster user experience is to include different media within your content. Video is essential, particularly for younger smartphone users.
Short form content is particularly big news. By ‘short form’ we mean between one and 10 minutes in length, a digital meal that is especially appetising to Millennials. Indeed, according to a survey by AOL last year, the number of 25 to 34-year-olds watching videos increased by 69% in just 12 months.
Video isn’t just being used as an extension of social media or to watch PewDiePie’s latest vlog either. According to the same research, 50% of respondents also watched videos from news websites.
Essentially, content and quality are key. The information you are trying to convey needs to gain something from being shared via video, and you need to take some time to produce it. Of those asked by AOL’s research, 58% said they lost interest if the production quality was sub-par.
Video is developing in other ways too. You may have noticed Facebook’s new live streaming capabilities or seen real-time videos hosted on platforms such as Periscope or Meerkat. Video in real time has its risks but it could create a stronger connection with audiences. Examples of when live streaming could be appropriate are at a big event, such as an awards ceremony or product launch – here at Dialogue we streamed Harley-Davidson EMEA’s Custom Bike Shows live in 2016, with great results. Some brands are also using live streaming to hold conversations with their viewers.
An alternative reality
These first points lead us onto VR. According to Cisco’s whitepaper, virtual reality traffic quadrupled in 2015 and is predicted to increase 61-fold by 2020. It’s certainly worth thinking about and could literally add another dimension to your content – and give readers a more enriched experience.
Being innovative is key, as is offering an experience that is more than just a gimmick. Remember 3D TVs? No? This exciting new technology failed to translate to a wide enough audience because it didn’t give buyers a solid reason for having it. It offered a novel experience, that’s all.
Virtual reality traffic quadrupled in 2015 and is predicted to increase 61-fold by 2020
For this reason, don’t jump on the bandwagon for the sake of it. Some advertisers are really starting to think outside of the box when it comes to VR – take a look at this advert by Boursin and Old Irish to see what tricks they are playing.
A small, but significant, first step towards VR could be to embrace 360 degree videos. A 360 degree video allows viewers to interact and choose the content being viewed, creating stronger engagement and greater message retention. See this example made by Qantas, Hamilton Island and Samsung.
The viewing experience can be particularly good on mobiles as the viewer can simply move the phone to see different angles. This can be improved yet further with the addition of a cardboard viewer, which makes the experience similar to that of a proper VR headset.
The popularity of this form of video is likely to expand now that Facebook has got involved. This means a new social media trend is on the horizon, so you’d do well to get onboard.
‘Voice’ is another watchword of the year. New home assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa mean that more and more people are beginning to ask their devices questions as opposed to typing in some keywords on a search engine.
This means that content creators need to embrace more natural, colloquial language. For instance, instead of typing in ‘UK Prime Minister’ into a search engine, users will say ‘Who is the UK Prime Minister?’. Writers need to think hard about what questions people will ask and how they will ask them in order to catch sophisticated search bots.
If you doubt the growing intelligence of search engines, you only need to look at Bing’s latest developments. It’s way ahead of Google in terms of using context to give the best answers to a user’s queries. For instance, it can use the context of a searcher’s first question to help answer a follow-up question. Type in a query such as ‘Who is the president of Russia?’ into Bing, and then make a second query saying ‘Who is his wife?’. Bing will then magically produce all the info you need on Mr Putin’s spouse.
Of course, this only works with simple queries… for the moment.
Conversational content brings us to chatbots. Chatbots can be an excellent way of reaching mobile users who are looking for local products and services. Once again, they can improve user experience provided they are relevant and personalised.
Larger, non-localised, brands are also getting in on the action. During London Fashion Week, brands such as Burberry launched their chatbot to provide behind-the-scenes images of the collection, which ultimately enabled the visitor to make purchases. You can check out other fashion chatbot campaigns here.
The power of podcasts
Not all content is best viewed visually. Podcasts may not have the pizzazz of 360 degree visuals, but more and more people are digesting their content via podcasts.
What’s more, a podcast is a more intimate form of content that increases rapport with an audience. It’s also easy to absorb quickly on, for example, a daily commute, and the market is far less crowded than the realm of blogs.
Its flexibility is the key to its growing popularity – now that mobile phones have become a major source of media, we can listen to podcasts away from our desks. This could be on the train, in the gym or in the park. And with the growth of home assistants, podcasts will be even easier to access and listen to.
On iTunes, the best podcasts regularly attract over one million listeners per month, and Serial, which proved to be a massive hit with listeners, has now reached 100 million downloads. Popular radio programmes such as the BBC’s The Archers have also seen a successful transition into podcasts – from 2007 to 2014, the programme was downloaded 63.4 million times.
As with videos, quality of production and content is important. Conversations, panel discussions and interviews can ‘liven up’ a podcast, but the information imparted must have some kind of value, whether that be educational, inspirational or motivational, in order to prove a hit with listeners.
Don’t forget the old guard – email is still king
All this talk of podcasts, mobile and VR imply that old digital marketing tools, such as email, are dead and buried. But email marketing hasn’t been consigned to the dustbin just yet.
Email is a simple and cheap way of contacting your audience – no fancy 360 degree lenses required. It’s also less intrusive but can still be accessed on the go thanks to smartphones and wearable technology.
Conversion rates are also still appealing. Econsultancy’s 2016 Census found that email’s Return on Investment (ROI) in the UK came out on top, ahead of SEO, with 73% of companies surveyed saying that email offered ‘excellent’ to ‘good’ ROI.
Email is also moving with the times – they can now be more personalised and targeted than ever before, which is helping to increase engagement and click-through rates. Newsletters can also take advantage of new forms of content, such as video and podcasts, to stay up-to-date with a modern audience.
So, when planning your content marketing strategy, look towards new technology and new forms of communication, but don’t forget the hard-working old-timers either!