Just like any industry in any field, content marketing is subject to the inevitable changing tides that quite simply break down into: what works, what doesn’t, and what’s coming next. The most difficult aspect of all this is the prediction phase, because no one has a working crystal ball—at least not yet.

What we can do, however, is take a good long look at how content marketing has evolved in 2017 and gauge what is not only working, but will continue to provide strong, positive results. We can also tell you that some of these trends—and their subtrends—have been gaining momentum not just this year, but in the years preceding ‘17. The thing is, some of them weren’t necessarily widely adapted or capable of being widely adapted for varying reasons (cost of entry, level of technology, etc).

As we all get ready to move into 2018, it’s important to know what has been working this past year and what will surely dominate the next year’s worth of content marketing campaigns. A combination of the two is explained in the following list that includes varying ways to ensure that your next campaign is a success.

1. Even more visuals and video

Your personal feelings on infographics aside, they were the start of an important trend in content marketing: visuals. This goes for every level of content marketing, from short blog posts to massive campaigns. If you’re publishing content without accompanying visuals, you’re doing it wrong.

Even the most compelling writing in the world needs some kind of visual component to reach its fullest potential. Think of your favorite Broadway or West End show and how much more compelling it became when it was brought to life on stage. If there’s a way to convey your message with photos, graphics, or (even better) video content, do it. Similar to how you need to outline your content marketing strategy, you need to do the same with any videos you create. Storyboard your ideas, perform trial runs in front of your team, digest their criticisms, and then hit the record button.

And then there’s live streaming, which has changed the way so many of us consume video content. That goes for everything from watching someone play the latest video game to keeping up with your favorite sports team. Essentially, live streaming allows brands and creators to establish micro-moments, which create a more personal experience with each consumer. They’re watching something as it happens, which is a welcome change of pace from the onslaught of videos filling their social media feeds. The end result is a deeper, more personal connection with an audience that feels like it’s part of an actual community.

2. Influencer marketing and community building

While influencer marketing has become increasingly popular over the past few years, it’s only continuing to evolve as a concept.

Here’s the deal: follower numbers, celebrity status and short “quick win” campaigns are no longer a sustainable strategy. You need to find the right influencer(s) by gauging their engagement with their community (micro-influencers ahoy!)—but let’s stop calling them influencers for a minute. They’re not just worker-bees in the marketing machine that you can tap into when you need some brand awareness. We’re all well aware of “sell-outs” who will work with brands for money, and money alone. It’s that mindset that actually defeats the objective.

This is why we need to think of influencers as content creators. It’s also why it’s important to partner with those who can reach your target market, connect with that audience and actually get them to listen and take action. Like in this campaign from Adidas, for example, where they brought in personal trainer turned blogger and influencer, Zanna Van Dijk, who resonates with their audience and has the following to bring in the engagement results they're after.

How can you do this with your brand? Start by finding the right content creator based on brand alignment, engagement metrics, human analysis and test campaigns (not just blind follower numbers). Then, collaborate with them and create transparent, genuine and well-thought out content campaigns together. Simple.

But how do we know if it’s working? That’s where analytics comes in. It’s essential to gain measurable results with attribution tools to prove ROI. This helps prove a campaign’s success, especially when it’s not always as clear-cut as sales alone. It can also inform persona development and content strategy.

Influencer marketing is more than just brand reach and awareness, because the data insight on their audiences can be an invaluable resource. This can lead to branded on-site content that’s relevant, targeted and more likely to succeed when promoted, simply because it already aligns with the passions and interests of the audience.

3. Interactivity and gamification

When done properly, marketing should feel more like a conversation than a persuasive speech. Just because you want to get a particular point across to your audience doesn’t mean you should needlessly bark at them.

Establishing a connection with your audience doesn’t necessarily have to be literal, either. You can build what begins to feel like an actual discussion by delivering what it is your readers want. For example, by doing extensive research on a brand, its consumers, and its online presence, you’ll provide answers to questions that you know your readers are asking. This can be extended even further by taking a more literal approach, however. Implement actual interactivity into your strategy, such as holding Q&A sessions on Facebook Live (video!) or a hashtag-specific Twitter chat.

Of course, interactivity can mean more than having a conversation or answering questions, and it can be implemented into content marketing campaigns in a number of ways.

As an example, you can look to our Self-Love Hub campaign for Adam & Eve. In this campaign, we provided users with different opportunities to learn more about themselves and what it really means to love yourself. In doing so, our content and creative teams put together a “Magic Mirror” to provide useful tidbits for users to remember in their journey toward self-love, in addition to a personality quiz with unique information and results from our resident (s)expert.

Whichever way you choose to implement interactivity into your next campaign, you can rest assured knowing you made the right move. According to Content Marketing Institute survey results, a majority of respondents (~80 percent, all of whom are content marketers) agree that interactive content is both more engaging and more likely to create brand retention.

4. Customer feedback from Chatbots

Chatbot technology can vary dramatically. There are the simple rules-based bots in messaging apps or on your actual site, which are great to connect with a social advertising campaign, and the more sophisticated, AI-powered bots.

The common misconception about them is their worth. Sure, they’re great for customer service, but what about for content marketing? It’s quite simple: By utilising this technology, you can provide valuable content through conversation, making it the perfect formula. It’s a fantastic storytelling technique for brands, because it allows immersive interaction and a way to naturally reach and market to customers directly.

Chatbots allow brands to give their customers high-value answers while providing an outlet for content distribution, because you’re directing users to relevant links on your website. Not only does this help promote traffic, but it aids content strategy through (you guessed it) data. The insight gained from daily interaction with consumers and their common problems can help inform content strategy, allowing you to produce content they truly desire.

Chatbots aren’t a fad or some trend you “should” be investing in just because your competitors are. They’re an incredibly helpful tool for catering to the changing climate while also fulfilling consumer needs.

As we begin to get ready for a new year, it’ll be interesting to see how the above 2017 content trends will evolve and be implemented in to 2018 content marketing strategies.


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