What Content Marketing Trends Shaped 2015?
As we begin a new year, I’m taking a short pause to reflect on the major trends that we witnessed in content marketing and content marketing strategy in 2015, and how they have impacted on the way that we approach digital and social media marketing and engagement. There have been a great many developments, and a clear progression in content marketing and content strategy as a profession unto itself, but here are my top five noteworthy trends from 2015, in no particular order:
Great content = great SEO
2015 certainly wasn’t the first time that we recognised the role that great content – great quality content in particular – plays in optimising your website or your brand for search engine traffic. However, 2015 is really the year in which our knowledge of the importance of great content has been truly cemented.
For the first time, we are seeing more and more businesses and professionals recognise that the most important factor in influencing the search engine ranking of your brand and site is your ability to produce useful, relevant and high quality content that resonates with the needs of your audiences and the questions that they ask. See more on the importance of great content for SEO in this Summer 2015 post from Contently.
The return of the silent movie
2015 saw video on Facebook really come into its own, with claims that there are 8 billion video views per day on the platform (a suspicious figure in my mind given the tendency for videos to autoplay, and a play of just 3 seconds counting as a “view”). Amidst rafts of criticisms for how the platform is turning towards a preference for native video (and questions and accusations regarding the legitimacy of how that content ends up on the platform’s native video player), one trend stands out above all others for me – the resurrection of the silent movie.
With more and more video content flooding our Facebook news feeds, and Facebook seeming to have tweaked the algorithms to place preference on showing native video content in the news feed, there is an ever-increasing need for videos to compete to hold our attention. But there’s an interesting added dimension to this in Facebook: unless the viewer chooses otherwise, the default setting is for the video to play without sound. And so we see ushered in a new era of the silent movie and a whole move towards creativity through the “readable” video.
The rise and acceptance of dark social
Dark social is certainly nothing new, but the term and recognition of its importance rose to prominence through 2015, particularly in the context of questions about measurement and evaluation of content marketing and social media activity.
The term “dark social” refers to the sharing of content through social platforms in ways that cannot be easily traced or measured. Typically this refers to people sharing content in private messages through direct messaging, instant peer-to-peer messaging applications, text messaging (SMS) and email.
With the continued rise of messaging applications (Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, LINE, Kik etc), it’s estimated that as much as 70% of content sharing takes place via dark social, so the key challenge that we’re now rising to is how to measure that and work with it, instead of trying to work against it. We should embrace private sharing and dark social, and put in place better mechanisms to plan for it, create content for it, make that content easy to share, and give us a fighting chance of being able to measure it.
Transient content can refer to content that changes regularly within a single web page (i.e. adverts that change every time you refresh the page). In this context, I’m referring to transient content as content that’s designed to have an extremely short shelf-life, anything from a few seconds to 24 hours, before it disappears. This is typified by content produced for Snapchat, but Instagram (and Twitter, of course) have also started to experiment with more transient “stories” too.
Transient content works in contradiction to how marketers and business leaders may want content to work – we want to get maximum value out of our content by extending its shelf-life and use, by creating once and publishing everywhere (COPE), and by producing content that sticks around long enough to be indexed by search engines and deliver us some kind of search engine optimisation value. Transient content does none of these things. Instead it works in the moment, delivering relevance and topicality.
As marketers, we’re presented with a significant challenge in terms of how we think about the value of content, the role that content plays in specific moments in time, and the way in which we approach how we create content. Furthermore, how do we explain to managers that we should be creating content that will only last for 24 hours? As with all trends, the challenge is to revolutionise our attitudes and approaches towards content creation which brings me neatly to my penultimate trend on this list…
Investment in content strategy and content marketing
2015 was not the year of the content strategy, but it’s certainly been a significant moment in recognising the crucial importance of a strategic approach to content (instead of just focusing on traffic, user experience or design) and – importantly – a recognition of the importance of content marketing. As Google Trends shows in the graph below, searches for content marketing and content marketing strategy (the yellow line) have continued to rise through 2015. Though really started from 2012, so if you’re only just starting to explore this for your business, now is the time to get a hurry on.
For our work at Utterly Content and through our sister company, Pickle Jar Communications, 2015 marked a significant shift in enquiries from clients about content strategy and content marketing strategy support. Through our work, we’ve noticed a marked shift in people knowing that content strategy is something that they probably should do, to something that they are ready and willing to invest in doing properly. The number of enquiries that we as two sister agencies now receive for content marketing and content strategy support have at least doubled in 2015, which is the very reason why we needed to firmly establish Utterly Content.
My hope for 2016 is that people start to recognise the need to put content strategy before website design and build work, instead of forcing a content strategy to fit a pre-defined structure that is unlikely to be fit for purpose. Content strategy should help to define website developments (and social media plans), not be a bolt-on after thought.
(Bonus!) The arrival of Utterly Content
The trend towards an increasing demand for content marketing and content strategy support that we have witnessed through our sister company that serves the education sector, Pickle Jar Communications, and increasing requests to work with companies and organisations outside of the education sector led to us establishing Utterly Content Ltd in 2015. And so here we are, ready and established to help your company or organisation really get to grips with these trends and make a real difference in your content marketing and content strategy in 2016. Please get in touch to discuss your needs and find out how we can help you.