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Memo to the Modern Marketer: Five Content Trends Shaping 2018 (Hint: They All Start with ‘V’)

Every new year brings a new set of challenges to content marketers. Just when you think you’ve created a solid content strategy, Google tweaks its search engine, other technology companies make countermoves, and new marketing innovations blow your best intentions to pieces. Don’t count on 2018 to be different. In the first of our new Searchmetrics blog series, Memo to the Modern Marketer, we take a look at key technologies and themes that will shape winners and losers throughout the year.

Video: Big Moves on the Small Screen

Video sharing sites YouTube and Vimeo have been around for more than a decade, giving both amateur and professional videographers a global audience. Since then, the platforms have exploded, forcing marketers to up their content game. Now it’s not just for advertisers and producers — any company worth its valuation is producing video content.

Why? According to a report from Cisco, video will make up 82% of internet traffic by 2021. That means if you’re not using video in your content efforts now, you’re already behind the curve. It’s a no-brainer — if you’re scrolling through Facebook, a video on autoplay is more likely to grab your attention over a catchy headline. Joining Facebook, Google is set to launch video autoplay in the Chrome browser this month. That could make it even harder for marketers to see impact with traditional earned media and SEO campaigns.

Though video and video communication through the internet is nothing new, it’s sparked new video content innovation. Ten years ago Google introduced video chat, but it wasn’t until August 2015 that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson produced the very first Facebook Live event. Since then, marketers and publishers have been using Facebook and Instagram Live to increase social visibility. LinkedIn introduced native video in July, while 2017 saw an uptick in TV news stations using it to supplement their live broadcasts.

Facebook Live with Dwayne Johnson

Facebook reports that users spend three times more time watching Facebook Live videos than regular videos, corroborating a study from New York Magazine and Livestream that found 82% of users prefer live video to social posts. That same post found that 80% of those surveyed would rather watch live video than read a blog when it comes to branded content.

The Upshot: Live videos in 2018 will only get better — you can expect to see more thought-out, well-produced native videos.

Virtual Reality: Can You See it Now?

It was only a matter of time for virtual reality/augmented reality to reach the world of content marketing. Several museums, including The Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., let you experience art through virtual reality. An accompanying mobile app helps people tour through galleries — but the Smithsonian developed its VR program that  even people who aren’t using a VR headset can use the app.

A Smithsonian Institute photo depicting its VR experience

Google also is firmly in the game. In 2017, the search giant launched its “Expeditions” program to partner with educators in the use of augmented reality as a teaching tool. Apple CEO Tim Cook also has said he places a lot of faith in augmented reality as a world-changing technology.

Sure, there’s plenty of skeptics who point to high prices for both AR and VR tools (Apple’s augmented-reality enabled iPhone X retails for $1000, and the Oculus Rift for $400), but Facebook and other technology giants are working hard to bring down the cost of such devices for mass market consumption. Then, too, there are some off-brand headsets on the market for a little as $15.

Voice Becomes A Cacophony

More and more homes are being equipped with voice-activated devices, and more content is being delivered through these devices with audio rather than the visual delivery common to our computer screens. While content writers are already trained to read user questions as we might hear them, writers may soon have to answer questions as people might say them to adapt to Google Home and Amazon’s Echo.

Device like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home are creating a new SEO and marketing channel, and will require much more study to understand their effect on search, SEO expert Bartosz Góralewicz said in a previous Searchmetrics post.

Search aside, some publishers are already dipping their toes into voice-activated waters to enhance their marketing efforts. For its September 2017 issue, Vogue partnered with Google to deliver special content to Google Home devices that supplemented celebrity interviews with Jennifer Lawrence, Oprah Winfrey, Serena Williams and Nicole Kidman. Users were able to ask Assistant on Google Home questions about the celebrities, with the device returning answers from the interviewers that included information that didn’t make it into print and online articles.

The Upshot: As publishers get more comfortable with such new devices,  expect to see diverse content and highly adaptive search strategies.

VISUAL: Instagram Stories vs Snapchat

There seems to be no end to the new ways users can create their own content and share it. Marketers can do it too, in a way that’s not as intrusive as traditional advertising.

Take Instagram Stories. Introduced by Facebook to compete with Snapchat for millennials’ attention, brands such as GoPro, General Electric and NASA are creating “stories” they hope catch potential customers’ eyes.

NASA used Stories to visualize and explain some of the major hurricanes in 2017 and with the last frame of the story, it used a swipe as a call to action to bring users to its website.

The numbers point to a big potential market in social marketing. Instagram reports that users under 25 now spend more than a half hour a day on Instagram, and those older than 25 use it about 24 minutes a day. For businesses, Instagram also claims one in five organic stories gets a direct message. Meanwhile, Snapchat is struggling to please marketers. In a series of studies conducted by RBC Capital and Ad Age, Snapchat only performed better than AOL when it was compared to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, YouTube, and Yahoo.

The Upshot: While you may have to invest in more talent to create compelling visuals to incite curiosity and engagement, you’re still bypassing the expense of traditional advertising and directly communicating with the market you’re targeting.

Volume: Less is More?

The idea of “fake news” seems to have impacted how users are consuming content. With internet users more cautious about what they read, 2018 may be the year to scale back on the volume of content you’re producing and throw more energy into creating content to build trust.

Millions of blog posts are created each day, making it increasingly difficult to cut through all the noise. That doesn’t mean you should stop creating content. Rather, content creators will be expected to focus on publishing high-quality content that’s hyper-focused and highly segmented.

The Upshot: It’s still is top-of-the-funnel marketing, but creating hyper-targeted content may help you fill in the content gaps where new technologies with rich content are sapping up audiences that read traditional content.

Get on the Innovation Train

These are just a few of the innovations content marketers will have to adapt to in 2018. It’s going to be an exciting year — there’s a lot to work to do within a number of mediums to make your brand stand out. If you have ideas on what you think we’ll see in content marketing for the year ahead, let us know!