18 Content Marketing Trends We Expect to See in 2018

December 9, 2017

Content Marketing Trends

This guest post was contributed by Josh Ritchie, CEO of Column Five.

It’s safe to say that content marketing is here to stay. The proof is in the Content Marketing Institute’s latest research:

  • 89% of B2B marketers are using content marketing.
  • 42% have experienced management changes that have had a positive impact on the organization’s content marketing.
  • 62% are either somewhat more successful or much more successful with content marketing than they were one year ago.
  • 83% of the top B2B performers said having a content marketing strategy is
    either very effective or extremely effective.

As we move into 2018, this research shows that brands will increasingly take content seriously, ramping up their investment in the space. It will also mean that brands’ content practices will evolve as well. What exactly will that look like? Here are 18 trends we can expect to see more of next year.

1. More augmented reality

I’m not bullish on virtual reality. Why? Because we are already seeing practical applications of augmented reality (AR) technology; as the tech gets better and the hardware becomes more prevalent, the experience will become more seamless. Also, companies like Apple are leading the charge to push the AR frontier.

Everyone knows virtual reality (VR) is still too expensive, the experience too immersive, and the headsets a bit cumbersome. However, I do believe that VR will continue to grow in popularity as people get better at creating content for it and the technology drops in price for uses like trade shows and museums. But I think VR will remain a niche technology because of how it takes people away from other people.

2. We’ll see a gradual shift away from the term “content marketing”

Content marketing will just become “content.” We’ve all heard the Seth Godin quote, “Content marketing is the only marketing that’s left.” When he said this nearly a decade ago, it resonated with a lot of people, including me. My perspective is that content marketing as a practice is no longer a new trend that brands are scrambling to try to figure out. It’s just content.

3. Content marketing will continue to eat advertising

In the early days of content marketing, the practice seemed like the polar opposite of advertising. Things were a lot more meritocratic; the content cream rose to the top. Nowadays, the lines are blurring between content published beyond a brand’s own channels and outright advertising. I think that’s because many brands feel compelled -or justified - to try and force things when they’re paying the piper. But, who knows… In any event, fight the urge to try and sell when you should be trying to attract.

4. Brands will take accessibility more seriously

Only recently have brands thought about creating content accessible for blind or deaf customers. I think there’s still a lot of catch-up to do on this front, but it’s really inspiring to see more and more of our clients addressing this.

5. LinkedIn will come into its own, especially for B2B

For big brands, the paid platform is getting better and better every day. For smaller brands (solopreneurs/individuals/consultants), I can’t think of a better place to promote one’s content. And the fact that LinkedIn now supports video is a game-changer that only a few are taking seriously so far.

6. Facebook, bolstered by Instagram, will continue its dominance for B2C

This is partly because of the reach and scale of Facebook, partly because of the game-changing technology that they’ve created, and partly because brands know they can’t ignore Facebook.

7. Twitter will continue to lag in terms of scale

However, it will be good for one-on-one engagement/customer service, for both B2B and B2C brands. On that note, I think more brands should take this touch point more seriously.

8. Snapchat will continue its decline as a legitimate content marketing channel

It may eventually make good on its potential, but I believe it’ll have to get worse before it gets better. IMO, a turnaround is still a long way out.

9. Influencer marketing will continue

It will continue to mature as legitimate leaders in the space continue to learn and gain experience. Those who figure out how to develop good pricing models and who are also able to provide actual metrics and report on the ROI of these efforts will make a ton of money. The pretenders, both in terms of the influencers themselves and the service providers that don’t drive value, will fall by the wayside.

10. Crawlable rich-media content will go more mainstream

This is a bit of a sleeper trend, but as more people take it seriously, this will change the content game, especially for content marketers who are heavily focused on search and who produce and publish e-books, infographics, white papers, etc. Prepare to see renewed excitement for the next breed of these formats.

11. Mobile will continue to grow in market share

Brands will increasingly be designing for mobile-first experiences. It's a necessity, because people are averaging more than three hours per day on their mobile screens in the U.S., according to Mary Meeker's 2017 Internet Trends Report. 

12. More brands will start to embrace storytelling

Storytelling won’t just be a catchphrase, or at least a catchphrase in the aspirational sense; brands will truly embrace it. That means we will still see a lot of bad content marketing put out, simply because the practice is still new and not everyone has had the benefit of learning by trial and error. But as this space matures and its practitioners mature, we will see more and more good content marketing. (A rising tide lifts all boats.)

13. We will see an increased appreciation for good, long-form written content

I love a well-written blog post or article. And while I’m a co-founder of an agency that mostly focuses on richer content types, I still believe the written word is an extremely useful, direct, and versatile tool when it comes to getting most messages across.

14. Deeper measurement and emphasis on data will increase

This is equal parts a result of tools getting better and content marketers gaining experience. One of the ways the best content marketers will continue to separate themselves from the rest will be through their ability to use data to make sound decisions about what to invest in and what not to invest in.

15. Repurposing successful content pieces to other formats/channels will increase

Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose. Content marketers will realize the value of their existing assets, which will make repurposing a part of their content strategy—especially as more brands continue to focus on ROI.

16. Smaller in-house content teams, augmented by go-to agencies, will become the standard for producing branded content

When we first started helping brands develop content, it seemed like no one had their own in-house team to develop content. Over the past few years, it seems like most brands have started to invest in developing in-house teams. Some have even stopped working with outside agencies, which has presumably helped with costs but in many cases slowed operations down. In the past year or so, however, we’ve noticed more brands working to achieve a more optimized balance of a strong, core in-house team and a select handful of agencies/specialists that work as an extension of their in-house team. I suspect we’ll continue to see more of this.

17. Brands will rethink content planning

Instead of:

  • Audience > Message > Channel
  • Message > Channel > Audience

We’ll hopefully see more of:

  • Audience > Channel > Message

18. Brands will focus more on what works

Brands will invest deeper in successful areas, divesting from others that don’t work. This will serve as a signal that brands are maturing, which will also lead to better overall content because of the simple fact that it’s hard to do everything well.

As you and your team move into the new year, remember that content marketing isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. Your efforts will pay off over time.

I wish you and your content marketing team a successful 2018.

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Photo: Dun.can