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Content Marketing in 2017: The 10 Trends You Need to Know About

by Dustin J. Hall

content-marketing-trends-2017According to recent research by the Content Marketing Institute, 70% of surveyed marketers plan to produce more content in 2017 than they did in 2016. This massive increase in content production also means connecting with buyers is going to be harder than ever.

So if you're to have any hope in growing profits via content in 2017, it is absolutely crucial that you take heed of upcoming trends and determine how best to implement them within your content marketing strategy.

Here are 10 trends that will have a significant impact on content marketing in 2017.

Online Tools Are Content, Too

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It's common for professional marketers and business owners to quickly define "content" as blogs, articles or white papers but the term "content" is actually quite massive in scope.

Online tools can also qualify as killer content. Neil Patel covers this well in episode #114 on his Marketing School podcast.

Examples of this might be industry-specific online calculators (like this marketing ROI calculator), gamified product or service matching tools or even quick quote estimators.

I recommend making these tools highly relevant and as engaging as possible, not just some run-of-the-mill feature that your competitors might be using. As with any of the content you produce, the goal is to create something highly valuable by providing the shortest path from question to answer, need to solution.

Need some inspiration, check out this brilliant use of tools and content deployed by Organic Valley.

Audio: Content for the Ears

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Audio broadcasts, such as podcasts, having been growing rapidly in popularity and are another must-consider content trend in 2017.

While launching a podcast isn't right for every business, there are other ways you can use voice-enabled content to reach your audience. Just ask your customers if and where they listen to audio content in order to find a reasonable starting place. You can also use resources like Anchor.fm or Spreaker to offer audio content that's easily accessible to your audience.

And, like any other type of content, simply creating audio content is not enough to ensure success.

Be sure to share your audio broadcasts on multiple platforms, including social networking platforms and your own website. You can use a tool like embed.ly to embed your broadcasts anywhere).

Video & Livestreaming Content

Over the past few years, video and livestreaming have established themselves as popular methods to educate and attract buyers, and will continue to be valuable trends in 2017.

From simple YouTube tutorials to round video via Snapchat's Spectacles to the recently announced video capability for Instagram Stories -- the opportunities for you to incorporate video into your content strategy have never been greater.

You'll find the more popular tools will still be content power players in 2017, including:

  • YouTube
  • Wistia
  • Facebook (posting directly within Facebook typically garners more views)
  • Periscope

Just don't forget to vary the medium and applications when you create each video! This could mean embedding the video in a related blog article to give readers an additional avenue for content consumption, placing it on your offer's landing page enticing people to fill out the form, or even spread throughout your website and promoted on social media as a means to reinforce branding.

It's also an excellent way for you to gain traffic and backlink traction when used for guest posts on third-party sites like Medium or LinkedIn.

Niche is Nice

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Neesh? Nitch?!

However you say it, 2017 will definitely be the year of niche content as the ever-increasing volume of online content that I mentioned above suffocates the value behind more generalistic (or dare I say, generic) content strategies.

So, what do I mean by niche?

In short, I'm referring to content that's narrowly targeted toward a specific buyer persona or vertical (industry). You MUST answer the questions your buyers have regarding your line of business and you MUST adopt a more narrow approach in targeting your industry or market segment.

To do this successfully, you'll need to have quite a bit of data on your preferred verticals and buyers. You can use Firesnap's handy Buyer Persona Guide to collect your buyer data.

Download the Persona Creation Guide

You can also use tools like AnswerThePublic or BuzzSumo to discover niche topics and content formats that are sure to resonate with potential buyers or industries.

Visual and Graphic Content

Whoa there, I'm not referring to that type of graphic content (2 Live Crew already stole that thunder, sorry). This is a PG-13 article, I promise.

I'm talking about the visually appealing use of graphic design, photos and other imagery.

In 2017, we'll see companies becoming more creative and efficient in their creation and promotion of visual content. Especially considering it's the easiest and most popular method used to attract people to related content, convert leads, elaborate upon stories and craft a brand's identity.

But if you are going to double-down on visual content this year, it is crucial you stand out from others by using a variety of tools to create stunning images.

Many professional marketers and agencies us tools such as Canva, Desygner (pronounced designer) or Snappa to create noticeable images quickly and easily.

Content Marketing Analytics

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As the volume (and subsequent budgets) of online content grows in 2017, so too will the need to analyze the performance of that content. However, according to a recent HubSpot Report, only 8% of marketers feel their successful in tracking the performance of their content marketing efforts.

This disconnect between marketers or business owners and their ability to measure content effectiveness has largely been the result of two factors:

  1. Unsure what to content-related metrics to measure
    There are dozens of content marketing metrics that can be tracked, but determining which metrics are relevant to the business goals are key. Likewise, without business goals or key performance indicators (KPIs), the purpose of content marketing as a whole is ultimately lost.

    • 2017 will show many businesses finally locking in the right metrics related to lead generation, lead conversions, sales and customer retention. This includes more granular metrics such as content marketing's impact on cost-per-lead.
  2. Lack of user-friendly, integrated content analytics tools
    Most businesses are using disparate tools and platforms, which can make the data-gathering process a headache to say the least. However, as software continues to play a central role in marketing operations, available tools and simplified integrations are also on the rise.

    • 2017 will show many businesses adopting and integrating much more user-friendly content analytics tools among their marketing technology stack, such as HubSpot (and other marketing automation platforms), Google Analytics, BrightInfo and Scoop.it.

Content Marketing Agencies & Contractors

There's no way around it. Killer content, and the effective promotion of that content, comes at the cost of money and time.

Some businesses can't afford to (or perhaps don't prefer to) build out or increase the size of their content marketing team. And for those who can, outsourcing is still an attractive means to accommodate rapid scaling of campaigns or programs.

So quite naturally, 2017 will see an increase in the number of companies opting to partner with a content marketing agency or hire independent writers.

This doesn't mean you need to take this approach. Your needs and resources may necessitate bringing everything in-house or only hiring an occassional writer. It also doesn't mean that should you work with an agency or content writer, you'll be subject to third rate, outsourced content.

Many of the top agencies and contractors have developed sound processes for building and executing successful content marketing programs.

Regardless of which way you go, you'll want to be sure you properly evaluate them. Most will offer a free consultation, which can be a great way to quickly determine if they're a good fit for your company or not.

Email Newsletters (Yes, Email Newsletters)

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Despite the fact that our inboxes are overflowing, email newsletters will continue to be popular in 2017.

In fact, a 2016 report by Econsultancy noted that 75% of companies worldwide said email marketing still delivers "excellent" to "good" ROI.

Okay, email is still rockin'...but newsletters?

Yep, newsletters. However, your newsletter needs to be overflowing with awesome content, or you'll end up in the spam folder. Consider newsletters your opportunity to wow your readers with highly relevant and insightful content (establishing thought-leadership and trust), while simultaneously presenting multiple conversion opportunities (boosting your ROI).

I highly recommend including content from other reputable sources, not just your own, in order to pack the most punch within each newsletter. This is especially true for your newsletter subscribers who are not yet customers of yours. Otherwise, you may be considered too self-promotional and experience unecessary churn.

You can use resources like BuzzSumo or Google's Hot Trends to find email newsletter content your audience will adore.

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Blogging

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Yep, the 'ole staple of any content strategy, blogging will remain an important content marketing tool in 2017.

According to 2015 HubSpot email benchmark data, companies that published 16+ blogs per month got roughly 4.5X more leads than companies that published 0-4 blogs per month.

From posts on your own website (awesome for SEO) to guest posts on sites your target customers visit, stay consistent with your blogging to ensure you gain all of its traffic and lead gen benefits.

You can offer list posts (aka listicles) like this one, long-form content with embedded video, quizzes or polls...there are a ton of blogging ideas out there. Just keep in mind your audience's content consumption preferences to ensure your blogging efforts are well received.

Influencer Marketing & Sponsored Content

influencer-marketingInfluencer outreach will be another popular content marketing trend in 2017.

In a 2016 Econsultancy study, for every $92 companies spend acquiring a new customer, only $1 is spent converting them.

This makes trust a very valuable commodity in reducing the traditionally high costs of customer acquisition. Influencer marketing often represents a logical way to circumvent the time and money required to build trust. It's also a stellar way to produce quality backlinks to your website.

Whether you opt for sponsored posts on Facebook or native advertising on the blog of an industry thought leader, the key is to connect your company with the audience of an influencer. Be sure to pay attention to influencers your audience is interested in, not just influencers with large social media followings.

And most importantly, when it comes to influencer marketing, be patient and persistent as quality matters more than quantity.

The Key to Kick-Ass Content in 2017

Content marketing will continue to grow in popularity among companies of all sizes in 2017, so you need to be smart with your content strategy.

It's not a matter of trying everything to see what resonates. You need to carefully select your outreach options (ideally selected based upon data), test them frequently, and be prepared to go all-in on what works.

What content marketing trend do you think will be a top priority in 2017?

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