With so many exciting digital developments for content marketing in 2016, it's clear that the year ahead holds a plethora of intriguing opportunities for marketers. Here are some to consider when creating your digital content strategy for 2017...
1. Dark social
This is the sharing of content that can't be measured by traditional analytics programs - including the use of messaging apps. Around 84% of sharing now happens on dark social - by email, instant messenger or text1, indicating that these channels are seriously important for brands looking to users to amplify their message.
Adidas is already embracing dark social; creating hyper local communities across the world on WhatsApp to gain a deeper understanding of its target audience, while offering fans experiences, products, and the opportunity to co-create with the brand2.
As daily active user numbers on dark social channels continue to climb, these 'walled gardens' can offer a new way for marketers to discover more about their digital communities, focusing on growing a mutually beneficial relationship for both parties.
2. Real-time video
Mark Zuckerberg named 2016 as the 'year of video' on Facebook3, but in 2017, marketers will need to go live to spark proper connections with their audience. Live broadcasts provide an unedited look at brands due to their raw, spontaneous nature. Whether it's through sharing behind-the-scenes footage, live events, or hosting a Q&A, live video is integral to establishing a true connection with an audience, and should be considered as part of a brand's content strategy for 2017.
3. Extending brand reach through micro influencers
Part of a successful digital content strategy involves nurturing a growing community of followers - something that can be facilitated through partnerships with brand advocates - or micro influencers. Existing customers with anywhere from 500 to 10,000 followers on social networks, micro influencers have significant influence, and an authenticity that can be tricky to harness with more well-known personalities. Encouraging and leveraging content from micro influencers shows the community that they're valued, as well as increasing brand reach and, in turn, increasingly the likelihood of conversions.
4. Augmented reality
There's been a lot of buzz around augmented and virtual reality over the last few months- however, although the glossier out of the two, the latter isn't particularly accessible for the average consumer. With this in mind, it's probable we'll see more augmented, or 'light-touch' virtual reality in 2017 - clever use of similar technology that can be shared with an audience through their Smartphones or televisions.
This includes functionalities such as 360° video and virtual activities that blend with the real world, as seen in Niantic's Pokémon Go. These semi-immersive activities support brand storytelling, and offer consumers new reasons to interact with brands - the perfect way to bridge the gap between accessible content, and full-on virtual reality campaigns.
5. Programmatic social ads
Publishing on certain social channels without using paid promotion is a disservice to good quality content. Content strategies in 2017 must include paid promotion, with a focus on programmatic targeting to show specific content to different people based on their past behaviour.
This offers us the chance to really personalise content, tailoring it to an individual's experience, increasing the chance of conversion. This practice is supported by new functionalities from social platforms, such as Facebook's ability to retarget users based on the percentage of a video watched.
6. Physical and digital tie-ups
In 2017, unified experiences will be essential to support journeys between the digital and the psychical world. With new features to enhance this transition, such as Facebook's 'Store Visits' ads and ability to monitor offline conversions, come many opportunities for brands to improve their content offering. Combining core messaging and customer experience across virtual and physical touchpoints can improve user experience, promote customer retention, and drive customers further towards conversions.
Although I believe that each of these trends will have a place in content marketing in 2017, they won't achieve maximum results without the structure of a clear, executable strategy. This should assure that all communications are consistent; aligning with not only marketing objectives, but also overarching business goals. However, what's already clear, is that the combination of emerging technology, refined targeting abilities, and stronger relationships between brands and their audiences presents an abundance of possibilities to embrace in 2017.
1 RadiumOne study - https://radiumone.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/radiumone-the-dark-side-of-mobile-sharing-June-7-2016.pdf
2 Adidas dark social campaign - http://www.thedrum.com/news/2016/10/10/adidas-dark-social-experiment-darker-initially-thought
3 Facebook's marketing 3.0 model - http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/facebook-introduces-marketing-30-model/1412444
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