Nine Leading-Edge Content Marketing Trends for 2018

By Deborah Carver  |  January 11, 2018

Where is content marketing going in 2018? Find out the newest trends in content formats, personalization and presentation to add into your marketing plans for the new year.

We look forward to marketing trends season like fashionistas anticipate the Met Ball, like sportsmen anticipate fishing openers. As content marketing nerds, we start every year by skimming through each 2018 digital content marketing trend piece. We weigh the experience of the author, the legitimacy of the predictions and how they apply to our clients here at MSPC. And that’s what you’re doing here, right? Checking to see whether we’re right or not? Feeling us out to see how our content marketing insights apply to your business?

Or maybe you’re looking to make a change within your own marketing department? Invest in a content type that’s a little bit new and different? Maybe you want to invest in revolutionary content marketing tactics that will get your brand results and a little bit of shiny-and-new good press.

Before we start, can we make one request? If you think we’re right, would you mind sharing this post on your social network of choice? Or if we’re totally off the mark, leave a comment for us on our LinkedIn or other social profile. We love feedback.

Content Marketing No-Duhs for 2018: The Content Speaks Back

We already wrote about voice search back in the fall—and we’re already seeing some success with creating custom Alexa flash briefings for our clients. But true ubiquity of voice search and voice control is right around the corner. By 2022 more than 50 percent of U.S. households will own smart speakers, and at some point even the shyest of us will overcome our qualms about chatting with our devices. Read how Gen Z-ers use voice-activated TVs or digital assistants: they have no fear about asking Google to share a joke or queue up a game. Our robot buddies are about to become a major part of the content conversation.

For B2C: How-tos—such as recipes or directions for how to use a product—are easy content marketing wins for voice search. Think about how to break down factual content marketing blog posts into answers for voice search. And the obvious win: If you’re selling your product on Amazon, make it easy for Echo users to ask Alexa for more information.

For B2B: Think about sharing original research and explaining stats—the kind of complexity you’d normally save for a white paper—within voice search. Own a weekly or daily business briefing for your industry. Consider aiming your voice-focused content at the executive level—they’re the ones who will be able to close their office doors while asking questions of their devices.

Another Given: Video Is Here to Stay—for Longer than 90 seconds

We’re going to go out on a limb and say that if you haven’t already invested in video content, it’s on your content marketing docket for 2018. Every major social network—even LinkedIn—now supports native video. Facebook Live was on everyone’s lips throughout 2017, and the trend will continue into next year.

A couple of years ago it was enough to just have a video. In 2018, video really needs to stand out to break through the algorithms. Video should be visually compelling and contain valuable content that connects with viewers. And unless you are a whiz with the on-the-spot low-fi content, shooting in-house videos with your phone likely won’t be worth it. Video content is an investment no matter what, and storytelling and production expertise will help your video content go much further in the video frenzy.

For all content marketers: Remember a few years ago when every content marketer insisted that all digital video be 90 seconds or less? Content marketers telling longer stories can rest assured: both YouTube and Facebook are now making more room in their algorithms for longer stories. If you are able to engage users throughout a two-, five- or 30-minute video, then it might be worth your time to invest in longer-form video.

More Than Words: All Eyes on More Sophisticated Visual Communication

Last year we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, and with so many other communication changes that arrived with our tiny portable computer brains, the past decade of smartphones ushered in the era of the emoji. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a fan of the endless parade of big-budget superhero movies; it’s likely that you’ve been using comics-style sequential visual communication with your friends, family and coworkers for years.

Emoji have become shorthand for our activities and our emotions, and that visual shorthand will become expected in content marketing. In 2018, content marketing will become more dependent on representative imagery and illustrative motion graphics. Marketers will be bridging the gaps between long-form articles and video with more visual shortcuts, ideas communicated via motion graphics and article scripts that look more like screenplays or flowcharts than a traditional text-focused article.

We are no longer limited by our hardware and access to data networks. High-performance connectivity is everywhere. We can process complex visual information at the speeds we once processed text. Once a punchline that indicated “amateur website from 1997,” billions of people use animated GIFs to express complex emotions. Devices such as Snap’s Spectacles and technologies such as Pinterest’s Lens are continuing to herald the era of 1000-words-in-a-glance communication. As Pinterest’s Jon Alferness posits, “The camera is becoming the keyboard” for interpersonal communication, and content marketers should take note . . . or just snap a photo.

Leading-edge content marketers should also keep an eye on how consumers use cross-channel entertainment experiences. With their feet deep in original content, entertainment companies are exploring new ways of storytelling and making progress. HBO invested heavily in Steven Soderbergh’s slick choose-your-own-adventure app/mini-series Mosaic (to mixed reviews) with a small screen-driven immersive experience that puts a new spin on the classic murder mystery and stands out in the market of “Peak TV.” How can content marketers move toward visual and experimental communication and stand out from their competitors?

For B2C: More images and GIFs are a given in B2C content marketing. “Transmedia” or cross-channel storytelling experiences have been around for years, but with new technologies and willing audiences consuming experiences like Mosaic, 2018 may be the time to experiment with something digitally immersive. Google is banking on marketers experimenting with more VR content experiences as standalone VR headsets hit the market. B2C marketers should watch and embrace storytelling experimentation—and although “transmedia” or cross-channel experiences have been around for ages, the possibilities of reaching willing consumer audiences are massive.

For B2B: Take Don’t Make Me Think to the next level and consider what information you can organize for your customers. Use motion and graphics in content marketing to depict complex ideas. Consider creating interactive experiences—calculators and scorecards—to make it easier for your potential customers to make the case to their higher ups for your products or services.

Beyond Algorithms: Designing Personalized Owned Content Experiences

In 2017, influencers micro- and mega- gave their PR teams the spins with unpredictable content; bots and fraudulent websites spun up poor content (the attendant buzzword rhymes with “cake shoes”); and advertisers investing in programmatic display faced major brand safety concerns. To take control of the content experience, brands and smart content creators are leaning more heavily on personalization technologies to serve up their own content to micro-targeted audiences.

Account-based marketing tactics are flourishing for B2B, especially when distributing content to a select number of accounts via email. Recent developments in personalization technology enable marketers to overlay content on a website based on a users interest, similarly to an A/B testing tool like Optimizely or Google Optimize.

These real-time content overlay technologies allow content marketers to serve automated, in-depth, interest-driven personalization based on an individual user’s behavior on a website—not a set of likely behaviors based on algorithms as with much of digital advertising. Artificial intelligence adds even more automation to the personalization process, but marketers should be aware that an experienced and creative human touch is recommended to achieve results designing personalized experiences.

Although distribution through programmatic ad networks, search marketing and paid social media will be necessary to draw in new audiences, supplement distribution efforts by making sophisticated personalization a part of your brand’s content experience. Cultivate your owned audiences based on their actual behavior and interests.

For B2C: In addition to interest targeting, use real-time automated personalization to serve content based on where a user is in their journey. Users who have already purchased a technology product may not want to see sales info anymore; they are likely more interested in viewing content on how to use or troubleshoot their product. In addition to serving the content itself, B2C marketers creatively approach how they present content based on a user’s likely stage in their product journey.

For B2B: Many account-based marketing tools enable advanced automated personalization based on objectives for a specific account. B2B content marketers already using this technology should ensure that content is being served according to user interests as well as predetermined sales objectives.

Other Ideas We Love from Others’ Content Marketing Trends Pieces

Maybe the next year will bring back communicating via binary code—trends certainly are unpredictable. But if you think we’re on track, pass the word along. In the meantime, we’ll be keeping our eyes out for the next big thing in content marketing.

Read next: Content Marketing vs. Advertising: What’s the Difference, Again?

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