Marketing is a field with constant disruption. There are new competitors, new technologies, new strategies, and new consumer preferences to contend with, and every few years or so, some big change comes along that interferes with campaigns and forces us to adapt.
Content marketing is no different. In fact, content marketing itself became popular as a response to difficult marketing and advertising conditions that came before it; consumers didn’t trust or pay attention to traditional advertising as much as they used to, and the readily available platform of the internet made it easier to create and distribute trustworthy content.
So are we, as experts and proponents of content marketing, ready for the next big shift in the future of content marketing?
What the Next Shift Might Look Like
Let me start by exploring some of the directions this “next big shift” might take.
· Interactive content. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are starting to take off, but even if there isn’t a content revolution with these high-tech breakthroughs, the future of content will still be interactive. People want to engage with their content, rather than passively consuming it, so in the near future, traditional forms of content may not be enough to satisfy those needs.
· Speaker-based content. We may also see people gravitating toward more spoken and audio-based content. Part of the trend here is driven by (and illustrated by) the popularity of podcasts, which have exploded over the past few years as mobile devices have made them more convenient to consume (and as marketers have realized how inexpensive they are to create). The emergence of smart speakers and voice-based search may also influence more people to demand audio-only content.
· The culling of fluff. The popularity of content marketing has led to a flood of low-value, high-volume content from virtually all industries and publishers. There’s an overabundance of content out there, and soon, consumers may become much more discriminating in the content they’re willing to engage with. “Fluff” content, or content without original ideas or solid research, will become obsolete, rendering lower and lower returns compared to low-frequency, high-value content.
· Personality and authenticity. I recently wrote about how authenticity might be driving a new content marketing revolution, and I stand by the idea. People don’t trust brands or corporations; they trust other people, and writing content from the perspective of a personal brand may be the key to building relevance in the future. The less people trust your company and its advertising (and companies in general), the more important it will be to share personal stories and connections.
When the Shift Could Occur
So when might this shift occur? Along some of these trajectories, the shift is already happening. Smart speakers are currently in 45 million households, and the prevalence of voice-based search is making speaker-based content even more viable, and the reduction in pricing for VR headsets is driving faster consumer adoption there as well.
I imagine most of these shifts will unfold gradually, over the course of years, but probably within the next decade or so. And even if all these potential avenues for growth fizzle out, I still think we’ll see some big changes within the next several years.
Evaluating Your Readiness
In line with this expectation, it’s a good idea to evaluate your current level of “readiness” for the next big shift. If you’re caught unprepared, you could easily be overtaken by your closest competitors, and if you fail to adapt, you could end up irrelevant in the span of just a few years.
So just how ready are you? Audit your brand along these four key categories:
1. Diversity. One of the best ways to prepare yourself is to diversify the types of content you produce (and the strategies you use to produce them). That way, if you find that one of your strategies isn’t working, you can quickly cut it from your portfolio and rebalance by investing in any strategies that are working.
2. Exposure. How often do you read content marketing news? Do you monitor your competition on a regular basis? The more exposure you get to the world of content marketing, the more you’ll fall in line with the latest trends — and the less likely you’ll be to fall behind in the event of a substantial change.
3. Agility. How easy is it for your company to change direction? You can gauge your company’s agility by evaluating your processes; are they strict and bureaucratic, or are your team members given more creative liberties? The more flexible your processes are, and the more accommodating you are of new changes, the better.
4. Talent. Finally, take a look at the talent you have on your side, whether it’s an agency, a full-time expert, or a team of independent contractors. Experienced, talented team members are going to be eager to keep their skills sharp and learn new things, while less enthusiastic members may only be willing to stick to what they know, possibly slowing down your future progress.
So are you ready for the next big shift in content marketing? We aren’t sure what it will be or when exactly it will happen, but we do know that it’s coming, and you have ways to determine your own level of readiness. If you think you’re ill-equipped to handle a substantial change in the near future, now’s the time to get your strategies and resources in order.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!