What’s really going to matter in the next year.

Content marketing isn’t a fad. It’s also not about you or your products. Content marketing, at its roots, is great storytelling. It allows you to inspire or solve challenges. Content marketing helps answer questions and educate. It’s not a brochure or a product summary. It’s an opportunity to connect with your audience and build credibility.

The use of content marketing continues to rise with 60 percent of marketers creating at least one piece of content each day. And there’s plenty of data that supports the idea that content marketing works. Year-over-year growth in unique site traffic is 7.8 times higher for content marketing leaders compared to followers (19.7% vs. 2.5%). There’s also the great advantage that content marketing has over traditional marketing in cost. Content marketing costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing and generates about three times as many leads.

So, what’s new in content marketing for 2018? Here’s a look at what we think matters.

Micro-moments

Micro-moments refer to a specific type of consumer behaviour Google identified and named back in 2015.

Micro-moments occur when a user has an “impulse” question. Users immediately go to their devices and ask the question (there’s no discussion of who is right or wrong anymore; there’s just Google).

And, they expect an immediate answer. This impacts brand and buyer interaction. Users expect that anything they want to know about a product or service should be easy to find. This impacts content marketing in that you need content that answers questions and anticipates what a user may need to address their issues. Build content around the objections they may have to buying your product. To understand if you’re on target with micro-moments, audit your content first to see if you have content like this. If not, create some that’s easy to find. This type of content will also work for voice search. When users look for information by voice, they are more likely to ask a question.

“Smart” content: using AI and big data to personalise experiences

Artificial or augmented intelligence (AI) is already shaping other areas of marketing. The more a brand knows about a user, the more relevant the content can be. Google has been testing AI content based on locations to offer recommendations. Amazon is a master at AI, understanding its users’ needs even before they do. But how can it impact content? Wayfair, a home decor ecommerce giant, rolled out a new program this year based on AI and big data. The company sees AI and big data as a way to create a better shopping experience.

Wayfair began to narrow its focus on improving the customer experience. This year, Wayfair launched its “Search with Photo” feature. It allows a shopper to snap a photo of an item, like a lamp that they see in a store or even a friend’s house, then find similar items on the Wayfair site. Whether they had an exact match to the photo wasn’t really relevant. What mattered is what actions the buyer took after the search using this unique feature: looking at lots of items and, of course, if they made a purchase. Overall, they found a significant increase in return buyers over the previous year. This increase let them know they were making the right decisions on improving the customer experience.

What does this mean for content? For any brand that can taker users’ needs for a product or service which the user has defined, and combine this with AI and other data, content marketers have the ability to offer blogs, video, images and more that speak to that user’s needs. It is personalisation on steroids.

Telling your brand’s “why” story

As much as brands want to believe their blogs are content marketing pieces, much of the time they are still product driven. Blog posts talk about features and benefits or offer examples with case studies. This foundational content announces to your audience what you do, how you do it, who you do it for and how you’re different. Content like this is necessary and relevant. But, it doesn’t place your brand into the thought leadership stratosphere. It doesn’t often answer the “why” of your brand.

For example, there are lots of businesses that offer background checks for employment or volunteer activities. These companies can write excellent blogs on how their software eliminates manual entry. They can share case studies on how they saved a client money. They may even create a video with experts taking about accuracy of data. But none of this answers the “why”. If they wanted to talk about their “why” maybe it would be about keeping children safe from those with a shady background. Or, maybe their why is to prevent workplace violence. If brands tell their “why” story, they will probably find that it resonates more than other pieces of content they’ve ever published.

Everything marketing flows from content

Content is really the foundation for every other marketing action. Without content, you have nothing to post on social media, nowhere to drive prospects in an email and no answers to offer. Content marketing keeps you on track with your messaging and provides a holistic view of all your tactics. Then you can form integrated plans.

Consider this integrated plan. Your company plans to offer a new product or service. You want to promote it to existing and prospective customers. It solves a problem so you want to lead with benefits. How does an integrated plan look? Weave the same message through all your channels. Keep it awareness level and focused on benefits. Send an email that directs users to a blog or video. Post an infographic on social media. Launch a landing page with an eBook. With all this supporting content, your buyer sees one message and can learn about how this product is going to change his life.

Ephemeral content

People always want what’s in demand. And knowing it will expire feeds this desire. Such is the magic of ephemeral content. Instead of anchoring with evergreen content, consider playing on an audience’s FOMO (fear of missing out). Make short videos that echo authenticity. Show a little of the behind the scenes of your operations. Try an “Ask Me Anything” session.

To implement this, you’ll need to either use a channel like SnapChat, or post it on a landing page or part of your site with the condition that it won’t be there forever. This is a huge opportunity to have fun and show a very human side of your brand.

The power of content

Content marketers have a lot to look forward to in 2018. There are many exciting ways to be creative and attract buyers. Any brand can take advantage of the power of content marketing because every brand, product or service has a great story to tell.

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