The Sponsored Content trends most worth following in 2017

Lessons from the most effective content marketing on LinkedIn this year

December 19, 2016

Sponsored Content Trends

According to the Content Marketing Institute’s latest trends report, 89% of B2B content marketers use LinkedIn to boost their effectiveness. Sponsoring content on our platform enables them to reach more of their target audience – and it’s a big step towards improving content marketing ROI. However, it’s the style, format and creativity of their Sponsored Content on LinkedIn that decides just how engaging and effective it is.

As a Content Marketing Evangelist for LinkedIn, I get a great view of the Sponsored Content generating the highest levels of engagement on our platform. The end of the year is a great opportunity for me to review these top performing campaigns – and pick out the characteristics that they have in common. Here’s what I found – the content marketing trends and tactics proven to deliver engagement on LinkedIn:

Concentrated value
It’s a simple art but a hugely effective one. If you can take a value-rich, big rock content asset and express the full extent of that value in a concise 140 characters, then you’ve got a powerful formula for content marketing effectiveness. A smart infographic can often help. That was certainly the case with this example, from Adecco Australia:

Timely analysis and opinion
One of the most interesting shifts I’ve seen amongst Sponsored Content this year is a greater emphasis on relating expertise to current events. It strikes me that this probably reflects the type of year that 2016 has been – however, it’s certainly an effective content tactic when it comes to capturing attention in the LinkedIn feed. Rather that relying on ‘evergreen content’, top-performing brands like Vanguard Fiduciary Services are providing timely analysis and opinion that feels instantly relevant.

A more select approach to curation
There’s also a noticeably reduced tendency towards curating content from third parties – and a greater confidence in brands’ paying to promote their own content assets. I think this reflects the growing maturity of content marketing as a discipline – and the insight and expertise businesses can increasingly draw on. However, it doesn’t mean that curating content is finished as a tactic. Brands who focus on identifying the right third-party influencers, and the right content, are still driving great results. State Farm’s choice of Dr. Travis Bradberry – an established LinkedIn Influencer with a big following – showed the value of this approach.

Showing your lighter side
Mixing in entertaining and light-hearted content with the more serious, professional stuff is a proven content marketing tactic – and one that we at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions use all the time. There are some great examples of such ‘chocolate cake’ content amongst 2016’s top-performers.

Being contrary
Challenging established wisdom with a provocative but well-argued post doesn’t just capture attention in the feed – it’s a very effective approach for driving sharing and wider influence as well. Bloomberg for Enterprise took exactly that approach when questioning the party line on robots replacing financial traders. It helps when your provocative point of view has an optimistic message for your target audience as well!

Jaw-dropping technology – the more visual the better
We’re used to thinking of cool tech as something you can barely see or notice (less and less intrusive wearables, for example). However, there’s a lot to be said for big, impressive-looking ‘wow’ machines that generate real visual impact in the LinkedIn feed. Whether it’s a 3-D printed cement castle or a firefighting machine that looks like a supersized power tool, industrial technology strikes a chord with the LinkedIn audience. Just look at the number of shares for this piece of content from MOL Group.

Disruptive career advice
Understandably enough, there’s a lot of career advice on LinkedIn – and this can make it tough to stand out when sponsoring this type of content. However, brands that challenge convention with a disruptive perspective can still generate great engagement. It helps if you can express that perspective clearly and visually as well – as Bang on Resumes did in this example:

Professionals as consumers
The fact that this BMW promotion featured amongst our top-performing posts shows the value of engaging professionals as high-end consumers – and using the targeting available through LinkedIn to tailor a message to them. I expect other savvy B2C brands to follow suit in 2017.

Video storytelling in the LinkedIn feed
With video from YouTube and Vimeo playing natively in the LinkedIn feed, we’re seeing far more examples of sponsored video content on our platform – and far more examples of video content amongst our top-performing campaigns. Brands are using video’s natural storytelling power (I loved IBM’s film with Carrie Fisher hosting a therapy group for evil robots) and its capacity for humour. However, not all videos are created equal when it comes to effectiveness. Video hugely increases its chances of engaging an audience when it can deliver impact without depending on sound. Sonos’s ‘You’re better than this’ film did so brilliantly – as did TaskEasy’s simple time-lapse showing how satisfying it is to have someone else mow your lawn!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this round-up of the trends characterising the most effective content marketing. You can find extra inspiration in my round-up of the best content marketing tactics from Q3 this year – including more examples of how condensed value and humour can make a difference for your Sponsored Content.