THE YEAR AHEAD FOR… CONTENT
Rebel Content’s Laura Roberts and Raush Salhi say content is king and queen of communication strategies
While we’re not here to give a history lesson on the subject, using content to drive business leads has been around a lot longer than we’d like to think. There are brands that are really pushing the boundaries when it comes to great original content in all forms (written, visual and video). We’re not just talking about the Apples or Amazons of this world, either. Rather, it’s the niche and traditionally very dry industries that are causing a stir. Take the insurance sector, for example. No one ever gets excited about premiums, terms and investments, yet perceptions are shifting that this ‘boring’ subject matter can be engaging, as long as the content is. State Farm, a large insurance corporate in the US, remains a very relevant example in illustrating this. They realised early on that for them to be top of mind in the typically insurance-shy millennial market, they needed to create content that prioritised engagement. Their approach has been multi-faceted, partnering with Buzzfeed and Gawker to create share-worthy listicles indirectly related to their product, as well as tactical partnerships with TV networks to promote their ‘here to help life go right’ slogan and integrating their brand values into the narrative itself. No sales, no gimmicks, just naturally seeded content that connects with the audience they are trying to target.
Over in the other corner, you have a much easier sell with fast food chain Wendy’s. Known for their wicked wit, they were one of the first to use content marketing tactics to roast their rivals and consumers alike on Twitter. By leveraging quirky visuals and quick-fire responses, they have become sass personified on this platform, resulting in an unshakable brand identity, viral coverage, millions of retweets and the sort of free promotion others can only dream of. Remember Carter and his nuggs? That, friends, is how it is done.
If we haven’t quite driven home the point enough yet, this audience-first mentality goes beyond just creating a strong persona for people to engage with. There also has to be something in it for them. As serious coffee connoisseurs ourselves, we appreciate when brands go the extra mile to reward loyalty, and this is certainly the case with a business like Intelligentsia and their Brew Guides. While it’s obvious that they’re in the business of selling coffee, their guide doesn’t mention that fact once. Instead it shows you how to make the perfect brew according to preference, bean and origin. Your brand affinity ratchets up a notch without a second thought, because they’ve mastered what we all tend to forget in the heat of executing the perfect brand campaign: everyone is a consumer. If we see through the fluff, what makes you think they won’t as well?
It’s little extras like this, or points of difference that will help brands stand out against all the white noise. Positioning themselves as an expert is one way to win the day, but that means creating content that is not only instructional and valuable but engaging too. Let’s weigh that up – if it’s a choice between a 20-page guide on how to do something, versus a video instructing you on the same topic, well, let’s be frank, you’re already watching it, aren’t you? Look at the likes of fashion blogger, Wendy Nguyen, who attracted millions of views thanks to her informative series, offering advice to aspiring trendsetters with popular videos, like “25 Ways to Wear a Scarf in 4.5 Minutes”. She’s credible, understands her audience and uses content marketing as a genuine means by which to reach them. We could go on with a never-ending list of examples, but you get what we’re driving at. 2019 is only going to further fuel brand ambitions when it comes to producing killer content-marketing initiatives. The exciting part is seeing where this will take them, especially given the many mediums and channels open for this type of marketing. Here are the five trends we predict will shape content for the coming year.
1. Voice search: “Alexa, are you listening?” Let’s talk about the elephant – or in this case the Alexa – in the room. She’s listening to every word you say, but how can you use her to talk to your audiences? There’s a much-loved soundbite surrounding the potential for voice search: It is expected to hit at least 50 per cent by 2020. This may sound incredibly high, but think about how our own attitudes as consumers have changed; we have come full circle, preferring to speak rather than type. It’s a foreign, yet exciting approach for us to tap into, especially given it uses what we value most as content marketers (words) and throws them up in the air. It’s a game changer really, taking skill in understanding the consumer mentality in how they react to what they hear, and how they take in and act on what you’re providing. Think of it as a new language of conversational content that’s a combination of speed (quick replies are essential) and accurate information, also injected with that essential layer of SEO to optimise the outcome.
2. The power of a podcast: Remember when bellbottoms made a comeback, or when flip phones were reintroduced? Well, we all thought that radio was dead at one point as well, but had we taken a page from the cyclical history of nearly everything, we could have avoided getting this so wrong. As much as we all love a great visual, our imagination as humans makes verbal storytelling the first point of reference for marketers. The power of a good podcast can’t be underestimated, given today’s on-the-go lifestyle, and as a means for soaking up information. It’s something brands have caught onto with reverence, utilising the platform to entertain and educate at the same time. What’s more, it fits the need to put the audience first, forcing businesses to produce useful material that is not so brand-focused. It’s a relationship of trust at the end of the day: earn your listener’s attention or lose them with a simple click of the button. As far as your customer acquisition strategy goes, creating a successful podcast could prove a shrewd move, adding a new layer in which to attract and retain active buyers.
3. Long form is back with a vengeance: The written word lives. Despite decreasing attention
2019 is only going to further fuel brand ambitions when it comes to producing killer content-marketing initiatives. The exciting part is seeing where this will take them.
spans and an increasing appreciation for video, there is also a real and insatiable interest in long-form content as well. Not that we need to validate its value or effectiveness, but humour us a second, because long form does afford brands the opportunity to develop material worth sharing beyond its initial distribution. And as much as we all love a cute cat pic that we’ll blindly re-share to our network of friends, to ensure the longevity of your collateral means bypassing the shallow captioned memes and offering well-versed and -reasoned material instead. Research has proven that what actually receives the most shares is pieces with 1,000 words or more. It’s a win-win situation as your SEO rank improves too, landing your brand organically (well, as much as anything can be these days) in the Google top spots as well.
4. Learn live: Webinars are an effective, yet so far largely untapped form of content marketing, but we reckon that is all set to change this year. Aside from being a great interactive platform to convey your message, they allow you to engage live and in real time with your audience. Don’t get us wrong, putting yourself out there in this way can be terrifying, but when the reward (the Content Marketing Institute lists this as one of the top five types of content that naturally attract links to your site) is worth taking the risk, you at least need to have this on your radar. Making a successful webinar hinges on picking the right topic (broad enough that people will want to listen yet narrow enough that it offers something new) and then considering its format and length, and the tools you will use to go live.
5. Shape shifting and the UI/UX factor: How and where content will sit is in constant evolution, which is why our final prediction is humbly saying that we can’t be successful on our own. We need to collaborate with various communicators that are driven by aesthetics and understand the functionality of different platforms. It has never been more important to value and acknowledge all aspects of design, not because we should have a say on colour or sound, but because the content of any platform drives the user experience; fail to deliver on either side of the equation and no one wins. The fact that we’re all connected through multiple devices in every sense of the word (wearables, hearables, etc.) makes things even more complicated. There’s no longer a one-size-fits-all approach. Being able to deliver on both material and design is the winning combination we all need to strive for. So, there you have it. Content lives to see another day, and won’t be so easily drowned out by other, more flashier communication gimmicks. The challenge for content marketers today is retaining what makes them unique in the first place; producing amazing content and not something that plays it safe with mediocrity. We don’t need a best practices checklist to success, because the more we colour between the lines, the less we are free to be creative with our outputs. Just because content, like so many other tools before it, has become embroiled in corporate red tape and regulated by industry standards with a nice little tick box to check off, doesn’t mean you need to follow that lead. Go on, live a little… it’s a new year after all.