If it was still an emerging trend not so long ago, content marketing has now become a must for brands. A way to strengthen your positioning, promote the values of your brand, improve your SEO and reach your targets through adapted and relevant content, on increasingly diverse channels. But in return, the rise of content marketing has caused an increase in the number of accessible pieces of content and subjects treated. For brands, the difficulty is twofold: How to keep differentiate in an ocean of content? And how to maintain the SEO level of these contents, the first places in the search engines results being, by definition, limited?

Regularly and efficiently distributing content in sufficient volume forces brands to renew and innovate continuously. Fortunately, technological innovation enables that, both in terms of creation and diffusion. As everywhere, new trends are emerging in content marketing. Others disappear or are confirmed. The beginning of the year is an opportunity to take stock of these future developments in order to boost your content strategy in 2018.

A clear strategy and original contents

The first big trend comes directly from the editorial strategy. Faced with increasingly atomized and solicited audiences, there’s no salvation for the brand who does not fit perfectly to the expectations of its target. Which means that brands need an ever deeper customer knowledge, operational personas who are aligned with the segments they represent, and a step-by-step modeling of their journey. An indispensable prerequisite which alone makes it possible to elaborate a consistent editorial line that will enrich and give value to the customer relationship.

Sandrine Rollin, Senior Marketing Manager EMEA at NetApp, believes that “content has taken a prominent place in the marketing strategy. The multiplication of channels, the preponderance of mobile and an increasingly reduced attention span are all parameters that must be taken into account in a content strategy (…) Finally, content must above all reflect the promise of the brand, based on the strength of its “storytelling” in order to appeal to the emotions of the target audience and deliver the appropriate message.”

Once this strategy has been developed and the contents necessary for its deployment defined, the second challenge is to create content that generates interest or action. To achieve such a result, quality, relevance, originality, both in terms of content and formats, are essential.

Delivering personalized content thanks to a deeper customer experience

As a corollary to an ever growing data collection and exploitation as well as the development of A.I., the personalization of content can be even more advanced today. The ability of brands to offer their customers a message and special offer directly related to their behaviour is real: tastes and preferences, buying behavior, moments of life, price sensitivity are taken into account. And the purchasing process is always more fluid and adapted, with a direct and measurable impact, for example the improvement of conversion rates or more limited basket abandonments.

This evolution is made possible by technologies that broaden the range of available data: yesterday purely quantitative, they now integrate, in an increasingly connected world, moods or actual behavior on the internet or in real life. The many uses of geolocation are a good example of this evolution.

Samuel Vandamme, Micromania’s E-Commerce & Digital Director, talks about the success of customization solutions he has developed to improve customer experience: “Custom Sorting now allows us to rank lists / categories / search results according to the tastes of each user. The majority of visitors do not go beyond the first eight or ten products, so it is essential to rank products in order of appetite of each user in order to optimize the conversion rate and customer experience. Machine learning having already been done for several months thanks to the module of product recommendations, the results were very quickly conclusive. We observed a + 20% increase in revenue per session on some parts of the site.”

When you talk about customer knowledge, you also talk about gathering detailed data on them.

The omnipresence of video

Video has become an essential pillar of content marketing: it is one of the most popular and engaging formats. From the top notch corporate promotional video to social video made from a smartphone and posted in a Story, through video in virtual reality or Facebook Live, the variety of styles, tones and approaches is almost endless.

Emmanuelle Gabus Pillon, Communication Director of L’Occitane en Provence, underlines the versatility of this format: “We develop video content under several axes to meet various needs. Some content aims to support campaigns or the brand in general while others are oriented towards the use of the product for our customers. The objectives diverge according to the contents.”

Today, the commitment on Facebook Live is ten times greater than that of the classic videos. The live is a powerful lever to interact and create a strong emotional connection between brands and users. For Simon Leost, Social Media Manager at Carrefour, “the trend that will emerge the most and will switch 2017 is live video”. The Ericsson ConsumerLab TV & Media study also shows that in 2020, 50% of the video will be mobile. There are 24 months left to prepare! If you are lacking inspiration to create video content, do not hesitate to engage your audience through video contests related to your activities. Their creativity might surprise you…

Diversify your social media efforts

Despite a marked convergence tendency, social media that matter continue to have their own characteristics, which requires knowing how to produce and disseminate original, regular content that is especially adapted to both the platform and the expectations of the targeted audience.

In other words, you don’t publish the same things on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or LinkedIn. And if the information may sometimes be the same, the way of sharing it is radically different. According to Kevin Meyer, Social Media Manager at Publicis Media, “less is more, when choosing the right channel of communication. Each social media has its qualities, its specificities and its audience. It’s up to us to determine the right message, the right time and the right content for each platform.”

Béatrice Mandine, Orange’s Executive Director in charge of communication of the brand, goes even further and predicts a disengagement on some channels: “It’s not about being everywhere; it’s about giving meaning to the online presence of a company. Only then can we consider specificities, formats and audiences, which is more interesting than the evangelization stage that led the brands, a few years ago, to open social accounts on all platforms before wondering if it was relevant…”

Many brands unfortunately continue to publish low quality and undifferentiated content on different channels. With this in mind, Facebook has also made the decision earlier this year to further limit the visibility of corporate content on the News Feed, maybe even to remove it completely. The Facebook organic reach was already very low; it will now be close to zero, at least if the brand does not pay to sponsor its posts…

As growth drivers, social media are also levers to operate with caution. A change in the algorithm can occur at any time and shake up a marketing strategy. Another reason to focus on quality content tailored to each publication channel.

Content needs for mobile-first consumers

The majority of content is now consumed from mobile devices, with a strong impact, both from a technical and editorial point of views.

Kevin Meyer, Social Media Manager at Publicis Media, sees the need to rethink the production of content: “Photos and videos in 16: 9 are over. The share of mobile is so big that we must rethink our way of communicating, first of all via images. Like Snapchat and its 100% vertical ads, which occupies the whole screen, it is essential to think about vertical screens upstream, as from the development of the communication support.”

Mobile is a channel in itself, with its own ecosystem, constraints, and the behaviors it induces. You do not consume content the same way on an iPhone as on a tablet or a computer screen. For an optimized customer journey, a brand must be able to use data in order to offer relevant content adapted to the profile of the user and the device they use…

Automation, I.A., chatbots and big data: harnessing the possibilities of new technologies and tools

The days when content only concerned marketing are over. Now integrated into a global and interconnected approach, content becomes intelligent, conversational, and fed with big data. Adaptive content is a good example: based on the profile and data collected about your visitors, the content displayed will be different from one person to another.

The era of personalization and hypersegmentation is on. Data literacy leads to the multiplication and development of new tools. Chatbots are still largely dependent on pre-built scenarios, but machine learning is the next growth lever. Content is now part of precise and personalized automation scenarios, and these innovative interactions create value.

2018 promises to be the year of consolidation, where 2017 was the year of emergence. Virtual reality, augmented reality, chatbots, mobile video, social messaging, voice control, connected objects… For Lucie Sellier, Social Media Manager at AccorHotels, “Jarvis’s presentation by Mark Zuckerberg should give a boost to the use and the development of chatbots and new artificial intelligence technologies. This will ultimately facilitate the work of community managers but also companies that will gradually get rid of the arduous task of social care to focus on more complex requests and needs of consumers.”

These developments are deep and part of short innovation cycles. The advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) will further accelerate this process, as connectivity will further reduce the Time To Market and optimize product performance almost in real time. In a connected world, content must contribute to the customer experience and not just be a promotional tool. If videos, blog posts or site content still have good days ahead, soon our refrigerator will provide us with shopping lists and recipes, our watch with news, and our washing machine with linen care tips.

More easily accessible than the data collected by connected objects is the data of your prospects and customers that you can collect through interactive marketing campaigns. There are many opportunities to collect this data and they have no limit but that of your creativity. Some examples :

  • A sports brand can conduct a survey to find out the sports preferences of its customers;
  • A perfume brand can make a quiz on the romantic preferences of its prospects for Valentine’s Day;
  • A tour operator can create a battle between the favorite travel destinations of their clients;
  • All this data will lead to a much more effective targeting of your future communications and will allow a strong differentiation of your brand in an increasingly noisy world.