It’s hard to believe that another year has come to pass. Soon we’ll close the books on 2017 and look forward to the challenges and adventures of 2018. Content marketing kind of had a moment this year. We saw unprecedented growth in the field, countless new publications and businesses writing about it, and articles and blog posts galore on our social channels. Some of them were great! Some of them were so-so.

But the winds of change are blowing, and it will be a whole new ballgame for content marketing in 2018. Let’s take a look at what we think we can look forward to as we roll into Q1:

Less Content, More Quality

Content marketing was a big buzzword in 2017, and that led many companies to churn out content like Big Macs through a McDonald’s drive-thru. It served its purpose, but it was a lot to keep up with, and some content fatigue started to set in.

With more content than ever absolutely everywhere you look, consumers started seeing substandard fare and they tuned out. A lot of brands thought that ruling your timelines with tons of content meant succeeding in content marketing, but all you got were poorly researched blog posts.

The New Year will see brands flip that strategy. Expect the industry leaders to retreat from flooding the market, instead focusing on good quality content that people want to read.

That means taking time to research and write informative articles (that are also free of grammar errors and contain good prose). It’s not going to be the kind of thing you turn out three times a day. It may take hours to craft a single piece, but it’ll be worth it. It’ll be something people will read and share.

Experimenting with Formats

People have their comfort zones and rarely like leaving them. If businesses want to make an impact in 2018, it’s time to leave that behind and forge ahead in new and interesting arenas. When it comes to content marketing, people generally stick to one area, such as videos, articles, blogs, etc. Many businesses are wary about spending money on video production and sound quality when they can write a blog post for free.

A single approach to content marketing is limiting. With an investment of time and money, you can repurpose much of the content into different formats. There’s no need to craft completely new content all the time, but that doesn’t mean the production values can be shoddy or amateurish. With so much good video out there, people expect a certain level of professionalism and a shaky video shot on your iPhone in your office cafeteria isn’t going to cut it in 2018.

Brand Transparency is Key

Last year was tough on YouTubers, and not just because of the #adpocalypse. Numerous high-profile YouTubers were caught creating content on behalf of brands without disclosing their business relationship. This led to a backlash from fans and consumers who felt cheated and lied to from people they trusted. It’s going to take some time for brands and influencers to earn back that trust.

That’s why you’re going to see a lot more transparency in 2018. Companies and content creators are making sure it’s crystal clear that content is sponsored not only for the fans but for the Federal Trade Commission as well.

That feeling of distrust consumers have extends to transparently-branded content as well. One of the biggest pushes in 2017 focused on green and corporate social responsibility projects by companies and brands. Businesses see this as cause marketing, but consumers often see it as self-aggrandizement; a publicity stunt bereft of purely charitable intentions.

Transparency will be key to correcting that characterization and will prove to be a challenge in 2018.

Departments Warring Over Content Creation

One of the most worrisome trends we’ll see in 2018 is internal department warring over who is in charge of content marketing.

Many large companies have seen a tremendous response from marketing original content, but the creators of that content could have been from the social media team, the advertising team or even partner agencies.

As brands continue to see success with content marketing, each department will want a hand in its creation, which could lead to either a “too many cooks in the kitchen” scenario with multiple teams creating content and spreading their efforts too thin or one department commandeering content marketing, even if they’re not the best team for the job.

Ideally, content marketing will become part of the overall marketing strategy and be deployed in tandem with other marketing efforts.

Content That Doesn’t Sell

Businesses naturally want to see products sell, and many treat content marketing as a form of advertising. It’s natural, as radio, print and television ads have been a part of the norm for decades, and it has been difficult for some businesses to adapt to new channels where content marketing can thrive.

These same businesses simply create a budget for content marketing and end up creating advertisements for products instead.

Consumers already see enough advertisements, and they did not respond well to that type of content.

Businesses are realizing that content marketing isn’t about selling, and instead are focusing on entertaining and informing audiences, which ultimately leads to heightened brand loyalty. You can still showcase your products and services, just with a mindfulness that content marketing isn’t advertising.

Emphasis on Strategy

Whenever you hear a new buzzword or marketing concept, it’s easy to say “let’s try it out,” but not put forth the proper effort. It’s an experiment, and if it works, then you’ll invest the time and money once you can demonstrate ROI.

Many businesses that take this approach will often say that content marketing didn’t work for them, but in 2018, do your due diligence first and try it again.

Would you advertise without creating a strategy or budget? Do you just spend money on AdWords and hope for the best? No, you develop a strategy, run a campaign, and then analyze the results.

A big trend for this year will be creating strategies specifically for content marketing and then integrating those strategies into your overall marketing strategy. If businesses expect to grow using content marketing, then they need to develop a plan, a budget, allocate resources, etc. Brands will benefit when they use content marketing in conjunction with other marketing efforts so everything works like a well-oiled machine designed strictly to grow your business.

It will be an exciting year for content marketing in 2018 as businesses finally understand its true nature and build out on what they did in 2017. If you follow these trends and put in the time and money, you’ll start seeing content marketing pay dividends for your brand and your sales.

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