As we stepped out from 2020, there are two things we can say for certain for 2020 and beyond:
- Content marketing will become even more important
- Content creation and distribution will change radically
There’s a reason Seth Godin calls content marketing “the only marketing left” – it’s authentic, useful, and perfectly suited for the internet generation.
But while few can doubt the effectiveness of content marketing, the channels, tactics and tools marketers use to create and distribute content will continue evolving in 2020 and beyond.
What content marketing trends should you watch out for? How should you change your marketing strategy to keep pace with these changes?
Let’s find out.
Here’s a list of content marketing trends for 2020:
- Authenticity, transparency, and value marketing
- Content personalization and interactivity
- Cross-team input and development
- More collaboration between brands
- Integrations as a growth lever
- Using influencers as an ad hoc content team
- Developing multimedia content with omnichannel distribution
- Capitalization on micro-moments
- Use of chatbots and artificial intelligence
- Use of content cluster
#1. Authenticity, Transparency, and Value Marketing
First things first:
When it comes to any type of marketing, authenticity, transparency, and value have always important.
(Or, at least, they should have been.)
However, by 2020, all of this will essentially be table stakes. That is, if your content doesn’t accurately reflect your brand’s voice, the mission your company stands for, and the value you hope to bring your target audience…well…you might as well not create it in the first place.
Case in point:
- 86% of consumers say that authenticity is a key differentiator that leads to a purchasing decision
- 73% of consumers would pay more for a product if the company behind it promises transparency
- 94% of consumers say they would remain loyal to a brand that provides complete transparency
Needless to say, companies that don’t provide this transparency – and perhaps even go as far as to create inauthentic content – are going to suffer moving forward.
For one, not being transparent in the first place is typically seen by consumers as a red flag of sorts. Moreover, those who notice said red flags are probably going to dig deeper into said company’s statements to determine their validity; any discrepancy between what a company says and what it actually does, of course, is going to cause major problems among its audience.
With regard to providing value through the content you create, the purpose of content marketing has never been simply to sell your products or promote your brand. Rather, content marketing has always been about providing value to your audience in some way – be it educating them, entertaining them, or otherwise. In doing so, you communicate a sense of authenticity and transparency through your content, in turn allowing your customers to trust your brand moving forward.
How to use this trend
The best way to provide value through your content marketing initiatives (and, again, to communicate a sense of authenticity and transparency in doing so) is to create content that:
- Aligns with your overall message and mission
- Helps your target audience better accomplish their goals as pertains to your offering
- Makes them comfortable engaging further with your brand
For example, Away’s main product is luggage – but the content its team creates revolves around the world of travel:
Through its content, Away has been able to position itself as more than just a simple luggage company; rather, the brand thrives on helping its customers get the absolute most value out of every trip they take.
Keeping with the travel industry motif, Southwest Airlines has created a standalone site called Transfarency, which provides “tips on how to outsmart other airline’s bogus fees.”
Another prime example in dealing with transparency and authenticity is TOMS’ Giving Report.
Here, TOMS Shoes, famous for its “One-for-One” initiative that provides a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased by customers, provides full transparency as to how the company’s initiative has panned out.
Again, by presenting informative and engaging content that dives deeper into the goings-on of your company, you’ll easily be able to prove to your customers that you truly care about the things you say you care about.
#2. Content Personalization and Interactivity
Core dna customers such as Stanley PMI are using our platform to personalize their eCommerce customer experiences — and we expect to see more content personalization taking place across the eCommerce industry and beyond in 2020. That’s because:
78% of consumers say that personally-relevant content is a determining factor in their purchasing decision.
- Increasing personalization can lead to a 500% increase in consumer spending
- A lack of relevance leads to an 83% decrease in engagement rates
Furthermore, content that provides even the slightest bit of interactivity, according to Jeff Bullas:
- Enables brands to differentiate themselves from their competitors
- Leads to enhanced engagement among their target audience
- Fosters an increased sense of trust and credibility among their viewers/readers
That said, as we move into 2020 you’re going to want to figure out numerous ways in which to create personalized content that allows – and in some cases requires – your audience to interact with your brand.
How to use this trend
Perhaps the simplest way to develop and deliver personalized content is to reach out to your customers, and engage them in a discussion regarding their recent experiences with your brand.
For example, OpenTable sends its users a follow-up email almost immediately after they’ve finished their meal:
Not only does this allow the customer the opportunity to review the restaurant in question (creating user-generated content in the process), but it also allows OpenTable to get a better understanding of the user’s needs and expectations when dining out. In turn, the service can provide even more personalized recommendations for the customer moving forward.
Live video via platforms such as Instagram and Facebook are another prime way to create interactive content that can essentially be personalized on-the-fly. While sometimes you’ll certainly want to use such platforms to create scripted broadcasts in which your audience isn’t meant to participate, you also could use them to put on Q&A sessions, create interactive how-to videos, and so on.
Another avenue to consider is to create tools and simple software to accompany other content you’ve created. For example, the New York Times created a tax bill calculator to accompany articles related to the new tax bill, that would help its readers understand how the bill would affect them on a personal level:
While the accompanying articles and such content were, of course, presented uniformly to all audience members, this tool enabled the Times to truly add some personalized value in the eyes of every single one of its readers.
The goal, then, is to figure out ways in which you can address your entire audience base and your individual customers simultaneously. If you can do this, you’ll ensure that your content is always relevant to everyone who receives it.
#3. Cross-team Input and Development
Going along with what we said earlier about authenticity and transparency, the process of content creation should span throughout your entire organization – not just your marketing team.
That is, everyone in your organization – from the CEO to your ground-level employees – should have some input at some point in the content creation process. There are a number of reasons for making this change.
For one thing, each of your team members engages with your brand’s customers in different ways – and will be able to provide varying perspectives regarding their needs and expectations in terms of the content they want to see. Similarly, as each team member plays a different part in the overall operations of your company, they have their own unique understanding of the value your company provides. Putting these two points together, your various team members will likely have a number of different ideas as to how to communicate your value to your audience members.
How to use this trend
Jumping on board with this trend will require a bit of a shift in terms of how your company develops content in the first place.
Rather than just having your marketing team develop all of your brand’s content from soup to nuts, it should act as a facilitator of content creation, with other departments creating the content that relates most to their customer-facing duties:
In turn, your content won’t come off as “marketing material disguised as value,” but will actually be valuable content developed by the best people for the job.
On a totally different note, you can also create informative, entertaining, and engaging content that puts the spotlight on your various team members, allowing your audience members to learn more about the “ins and outs” of your company.
A few examples:
- “Meet the team” blog post and podcast interviews
- Behind-the-scenes Instagram and Facebook Live videos
- Reports showcasing your organization’s successful initiatives
Again, the goal is to provide transparency, inviting your audience members to become part of your “inner circle” in as many ways as possible.
#4. More Collaboration between Brands
More and more, we’re seeing multiple brands work together to create content of all different varieties.
A prime example of such collaborative content is Red Bull and GoPro’s “Stratos” project, in which the companies presented Felix Baumgartner’s 24-mile plunge from a space pod down to Earth:
Ride-hailing company Uber has also delved into the creation of collaborative content, partnering with both Pandora and Spotify to help personalize its customers’ ride via their favorite music.
Other examples of collaborative content include:
- Podcast interviews (in which hosts of different shows trade-off interviewing one another on their respective channels)
- Collaborative research or case studies
- Social media “takeovers”
When brands create content together, said content can be housed on both companies’ channels (as is the case with Uber and Pandora), or on a single channel cooperatively created by both brands.
How to use this trend
First things first, the main goal when creating collaborative content is to partner with brands that make sense for you to partner with. In other words, you’ll want to think of brands that offer products or services that relate to your niche in some way – but that aren’t exactly your competitors.
Also, you’ll want to partner with brands whose skills and knowledge of content marketing complement what you bring to the table. Looking back to our example with Red Bull and GoPro, Red Bull is an absolute beast when it comes to marketing – and GoPro’s product provided the best opportunity for the stunt to go off without a hitch.
Or, you could even go as far as to create different versions of your products that showcase your collaboration with other brands, as our client, Tivoli Audio, did when creating its Supreme-styled bluetooth speaker:
#5. Integrations as a Growth Lever
Similarly to what we just discussed, more and more SaaS companies are beginning to see their partnerships with other service providers as an opportunity to create a ton of content for the end-user to devour.
As explained in a case study from Autopilot, while partnering with other SaaS companies to create integrations clearly allows both parties to enhance the services they provide their customers, the “real impact (on growth) comes from picking the right partners and focusing on strategic co-marketing efforts.”
How to use this trend
The main rule of thumb for SaaS companies, here, is to partner with companies whose overall mission and value align with your own.
In this same vein, you also want to be sure that there’s an overlap between your target audience and your new partners; not only will this ensure that the end-user will find the integration valuable in the first place, but it will also ensure that any co-created marketing material you develop will resonate with the audience, as well.
As for the actual content you’ll want to create, you have a number of options. As Autopilot explains:
“At the very least, every launch involves a blog post about the announcement. It might be a guest post swap with your partner, or maybe each side posts on their respective sites. Go above and beyond with a series of posts that show use cases, tips, and best practices to activate and inspire users…A product video, webinar, event, or some form of gated content are a few other demand-driving ways to promote a launch. These are also great post-launch co-marketing projects to take the partnership further.”
Again, you’ll want to play off your and your partners’ strengths, here. Remember: the goal isn’t simply to cross-promote your brands – it’s to provide as much value to your end-users as you possibly can through the creation of supplemental content that allows them to get the most out of your software.
#6. Using Influencers as an ad hoc Content Team
While the buzz around influencer marketing certainly continues to grow, it’s also worth noting that many brands have begun implementing a sort of reverse approach to the marketing tactic.
That is, instead of partnering with influencers to have them promote your brand on their channels, you can invite them to create content to be displayed on your own.
For example, our client, Stanley PMI, partnered with Olympian Jayson Hale, who penned an article detailing a fishing excursion he had recently been on in the Pacific Northwest:
Having an influencer create content on your own channel certainly adds some credibility to your brand in the eyes of your followers. Secondly, the creator of the content is likely to share it with their audience, as well – equating to some massive visibility for your brand.
How to use this trend
Similarly to what we said about collaborative content creation, you want the content your influencers create to be authentic and to truly get to the heart of the value your brand’s products or services bring to the table.
Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of partnering with influencers to create internally-housed content is that you can reach out to individuals from a wide variety of industries – as long as your brand caters to these niches in some way. For example, Stanley PMI could surely partner up with famous chefs, authors, survivalists, and more in order to expand its content breadth – and its reach in the process.
#7. Developing multimedia content with omnichannel distribution
As we’ve alluded to a few times throughout this article already, multimedia content is quickly becoming less of a “nice to have” – and more of a necessity.
Regarding the consumption of video content:
- 75 million US consumers watch video content on a daily basis
- By 2020, video traffic is expected to account for 80% of all consumer internet traffic
- Video content that’s around two minutes in length generates the highest levels of engagement
While consumption of audio content isn’t nearly as huge, it’s certainly growing as a trend over the past few years. Roughly one-quarter of Americans listen to podcasts on a monthly basis, with one-third of Americans age 25-54 doing so. Additionally, 6 million more Americans reported listening to podcasts on a weekly basis in 2019 than did so in 2018; of those that do, 40% of them listen to more than one show.
Regarding the effectiveness of omnichannel marketing:
How to use this trend
Since we’ve already discussed some of the ways to implement video content, let’s talk audio, here.
First and foremost, you absolutely shouldn’t discount the notion of creating a branded podcast as a way to provide value to your audience. The aforementioned travel brand Away has experimented with podcasting in the past, creating a handful of episodes revolving around stories of travel, exploration, and learning about various cultures. Communication software company Slack has also delved into the realm of podcasting, creating a number of episodes based around work-related communication and collaboration.
As we’ll look at a bit more in-depth in an upcoming section, you may also consider creating short, quick-hitting audio content for your Amazon Echo-owning audience to include in their daily flash briefings. Marketing gurus Neil Patel and Eric Siu, for example, post a short, daily podcast for up-and-coming marketers to listen to while they get ready for their day.
Finally, while a bit outside of what’s typically considered “content marketing,” you could also use other brands’ multimedia content to advertise your own company. This may mean developing short-form video content to be played as a YouTube advertisement, or creating a sponsored message for a fellow podcaster to read before they dive into their next episode. Again, it’s not exactly organic content marketing – but it will certainly allow you to expand your reach.
#8. Capitalization on Micro-Moments
As we alluded to above, the modern consumer is often in search of quick answers to immediate question.
Google categorizes these “micro-moments” as follows:
Accordingly, there is a rather prevalent need for content that answers these questions:
To be sure, this data was collected a few years ago – but the trend toward a need for immediate answers certainly continues to grow.
How to use this trend
There are two main facets of developing content that capitalizes on micro-moments.
The first, of course, is creating content that – plain and simple – answers your audience’s question(s). While there certainly is a time and place for long-form content that dives deep into the nuances of a given topic, that doesn’t mean that all of your content needs to be so thorough. In other words, don’t neglect the importance of developing content such as:
- FAQ pages
- Instagram and Facebook stories
- Audio content to be played as a flash briefing
Secondly, you need to make this content available in the most efficient format possible – and to deliver it via the most logical channel. As a rather simple example, you wouldn’t create a five-minute video explaining the various payment methods your company accepts; such information would obviously be better suited for an on-site FAQ page.
The point of catering to micro-moments is to not beat around the bush, and give your audience exactly what they’re looking for so that they’re able to engage on a deeper level with your brand. The more time you spend explaining an answer that could have been explained in thirty seconds, the less time they spend actually moving forward in their journey as a customer.
#9. Use of Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence
Going along with the notion of capitalizing on micro-moments, as well as the importance of omnichannel marketing as we move into 2020, the use of chatbots – both man-made and artificially created – is going to become more and more prevalent.
According to a study by Spiceworks, 40% of large companies will use chatbots and/or “intelligent assistants” by 2020. This is largely due to the growing number of consumers who expect to be able to connect with their favorite companies via chat.
When it comes to the consumer’s need to quickly find the answer to simple or complex questions, chatbots reign over even branded apps:
In recent years, natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning have enabled companies to create chatbots that are able to carry on surface-level, more transaction-based conversations with their audience members – a trend which will certainly continue moving forward.
How to use this trend
As of now, the best course of action with regard to chatbots is to use them to:
- Provide quick answers to simple, frequently-asked questions regarding your services
- Provide details regarding delivery, payment, and other such transactional processes
- Collect information and feedback from customers to be analyzed by human members of your team
With regard to content, you also might consider leveraging your chatbot as a sort of “active search” function that can point consumers toward further reading or supplemental resources regarding the topic at hand.
Along with this, your chatbot needs to be equipped with the ability to recognize or “sense” when an individual’s query necessitates the need for human intervention on your end.
While the modern consumer typically doesn’t expect a chatbot to be able to answer every question they have, they do expect it to be able to at least point them in the right direction.
#10. Use of content cluster
As we mentioned earlier, while providing “snippet” content to cater to micro-moments is becoming more and more important, that doesn’t mean you should forget about creating long-form content altogether.
First of all, longer-form content (e.g., articles over 1,000 words in length) inherently caters to the most passionate of your followers – that is, those who are most likely to become brand loyalists and evangelists. It’s simple: the more interested an individual is in your niche, the more they’re going to want to learn about it.
On a more logistical level, Google’s more recent algorithms tend to recognize longer-form content as being more valuable – making such content more likely to rank higher in search results.
(This, of course, is assuming the content is high in quality in the first place.)
Additionally, Google’s algorithms now place a high importance on topic clusters – that is, multiple pieces of long-form, valuable content revolving around a single topic. In creating content clusters, you essentially prove to Google that you’re not looking to game the system by creating one or two pieces of keyword-stuffed content – you’re actually dedicated to providing your audience with highly-valuable information regarding the topic at hand.
How to use this trend
The basic structure of a topic cluster looks like this:
Basically, for each broad topic your brand covers, you’ll want to create a single, standalone piece of content that covers the numerous subtopics under the main “umbrella” topic. Then, you’ll want to create more in-depth “cluster content” for each of these subtopics, linking out to these pieces from the pillar content piece.
(Also, when creating your cluster content, you’ll want to look for opportunities to link to the other cluster content pieces, as well.)
The goal, then, is not to create just one solid piece of content on a given topic, but numerous pieces that uncover every nook and cranny possible with regard to the topic at hand. In short: you want your site to become the go-to resource in your industry; both your target audience and Google’s algorithms will appreciate it.