Visual storytelling. Live video. User-generated content. Interactive media. What do all four of these have in common? They’re some of the content strategies taking the digital marketing world by storm in 2017. This year, emerging technology and market disruption will continue to force brands to move beyond high-quality content creation. In order to succeed in an increasingly competitive market, content marketing strategists are having to think in three dimensions. Let’s take a peek into the crystal ball of content and see what 2017 has in store.
Once Upon a Good Content Strategy
Storytelling is integral to modern content marketing. And no, we’re not talking about the fairytale picture books you revered as a child (although they can be used for inspiration). Creating content for content’s sake no longer cuts it; people want to connect with your brand on a deeper emotional level.
Why wouldn’t you want to include stories in your content marketing? Storytelling is an innate human quality. Cavemen did it with drawings on walls. Children revel in it in fairytales and kindergarten “story times,” and you probably still do it with your friends during happy hour. Here’s why storytelling works: People can connect the dots much faster with a story than they can with cut-and-dry statistics. Statistics are great for backing up arguments, but not for a hard sell. People relate to other people who share a common experience, so when you tell your tale, it builds trust. Moral of the story? Talk with your audience, not to them.
Extra tip: Throw in some happy vibes—nostalgia, excitement, surprise, etc.—because people relate more to positive emotions than to negative ones. In 2014, Apple launched the iPad Air to the tune of a campaign titled, “What Will Your Verse Be.” Rather than only marketing the new product, Apple combined technology with humanity and asked consumers to think about their contributions to the world, and how the iPad could help them make a difference. Paired with Robin Williams’ monologue from “Dead Poets Society,” Apple encouraged self-reflection and goal-setting all while sneaking in iPad promotion.
You’re Live in 3…2…1…
As we predicted in our 2017 Digital Trends report, video on demand will continue to rise in popularity this year. But watch out for its partner-in-crime, live video, to make more headway in 2017. As phones become faster and WiFi grows stronger, the ability to interact on a more personal level increases substantially. Audiences want real, unedited content, rather than scripted, staged commercials. Give them what they want with more Facebook, YouTube and Instagram Live videos. Experiment with behind-the-scenes clips of brand production, events or product launches, like Brooks Running did on Global Running Day. Yes, it’s a holiday. And to celebrate, the staff went on a group run and live-streamed the entire workout, adding in a spur of the moment Q&A with employees. This gave audiences a chance to learn more about the company while embracing a quirky holiday.
Plan for what you can but embrace time-sensitive opportunities (and imperfections) when they arise.
Look to your audience
The average consumer has the ability to create your next Instagram post right in the palm of their hands. They just need a little push—and incentive. User-generated content boosts audience engagement, brand credibility and, yes, provides free content for you to re-use. When used correctly, it’s a win-win.
Word-of-mouth marketing resonates with consumers more than other forms of media. When you allow fans to tell their own stories through text, images and videos, you stimulate brand-related discussion in an organic forum. Align digital campaigns with your brand’s lifestyle and encourage participation through incentives such as social media endorsements, discounts or free products. Starbucks’ cup overflowed with participation in its 2014 White Cup Contest. Sorry, we couldn’t resist the pun. Starbucks asked customers to doodle on their cups and post a photo to social media. After more than 4,000 submissions (and a surge of publicity and customer interaction), the winning drawing became a limited-edition cup design. I’m sure they threw in some free coffee for the winner, too.
Embrace the lifestyle factor of your brand and brainstorm ways to connect with your audience. From hashtags to crowdsourcing product ideas, smart user-generated campaigns will give you more bang for your content marketing buck.
Buzzfeed-style quizzes dominated the web in 2016; and my spirit animal is the dolphin, in case you were wondering. The interactive, tech-based content strategy isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, the increasing demand for engagement has led marketers of all niches (B2B and B2C) to implement interactive content —quizzes, assessments, personalization and games. Interactive content grabs consumer attention, enhancing both product and message retention. Let’s face it: We love being a part of the story. Plus, learning about a brand through responsive web design is easier and more enjoyable than reading static content.
Even newspapers are taking an interactive approach with their online content. The Washington Post created an interactive map titled, “Scaling Mt. Everest,” which allows users to journey from sea level to summit. They included facts, interviews and pop-outs to bring the story to life.
Interactive features can be used at every stage of the marketing process, from brand awareness and converting leads, but it should not be a substitute for quality content. Enhance, don’t replace.
In 2017, break out of your content routine. Take advantage of the new and engaging platforms available and, most importantly, find unique ways to share your story. Why? Because your success depends on creating new, immersive experiences for your audience.