Tech is changing everything. I know, you’ve heard this refrain on loop for the past decade. But rapid advances in technology are revolutionizing just about every area of our lives and work, including content marketing. From creation to distribution to consumption, tech is forcing brands to rethink how we use content.
Ten years ago, we weren’t glued to our smartphones, and a lot of us read the news in actual newspapers instead of apps. Now, we use our smartphones to run businesses, stay ahead of what’s going on in the world, and indulge in our daily dose of entertainment.
Technology runs the show, and our job as marketers is to stay up-to-date on the latest advances, identify how they affect content marketing and PR trends, and adjust our strategies to match. So let’s look at seven tech trends that are sure to shake up content marketing in 2018:
Content distribution relies on a variety of tactics — and social shares are the most common way for brands to distribute content. But platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have been making the move toward becoming publishers in their own right, rather than platforms for sharing links from traditional media outlets. Why would people leave their favorite social apps when they can get all the content they want in one place?
Facebook reigns as the most used social platform for small businesses, and publishers have been using its Instant Articles feature to extend their content’s reach. Instagram and Snapchat now include linking features that allow users to read articles instantly with a simple swipe.
The days of using free social media tools to post links on your go-to accounts are far from over, but these platforms do offer a solution to the growing competition for organic reach. Social channels offer a way to get in front of audiences where they are and drive them back to your site, just as guest posting content to the right online publications does. But in an age dominated by social media, having engaging brand social channels is just as important as maintaining a top-notch website.
2. Machine learning will enable content conversations.
Your brand’s success in content marketing depends on your ability to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time, and that takes more than your best educated guess. That’s where machine learning comes in.
“Content marketing is becoming more conversational, blurring the lines between content marketing and sales. Customers show high interest in having one-on-one exchanges with companies over social media and text message, but companies find it hard to have quality conversations at scale,” Alex De Simone, CEO of Avochato, said.
“Machine learning technologies that enable marketers to tailor who sees a message are starting to decide what the content of conversations should be. The shift from traditional content marketing to machine-mediated conversational marketing will change the way marketers operate, empowering them to deliver better content at scale.”
3. The rise of virtual and augmented reality will make visual content nonnegotiable.
A lot of people are burned out on promises of how these VR/AR technologies are “changing the game,” only to see lackluster adoption, but I truly believe we’ll finally see this tech go mainstream in 2018. Experts predict that VR and AR will generate $150 billion in revenue by 2020, and its widespread availability will create new opportunities for marketers to optimize their content.
For a lot of brands, VR and AR present unexplored marketing territory, and you may not feel ready to go all-in on these technologies just yet. And I don’t blame you — you should definitely walk before you run.
So if you’re not ready to bring your content into virtual reality, just view this trend as a reminder to improve your visual content. Creating interactive graphics, videos, and apps not only makes for a more engaging content marketing strategy, but it also lays the groundwork for future experiments in VR/AR.
4. Advanced tech will make full content personalization a reality.
The move toward custom personalized content has been underway for years, but advanced technology will help you take it to the next level. Precision analytics allow you to track audience profiles, establish and target your buyer personas, and generate personalized content and recommendations.
Amazon and Google have already proven the value of creating personalized experiences through hyperspecific customer profiles, and tech will enable companies of all sizes and industries to follow suit. In fact, doing so will become critical: Gartner predicts that by 2018, businesses that have invested in across-the-board personalization will outsell those that haven’t by 20 percent.
5. Live video streaming via social will create new content opportunities.
In 2017, we all had front-row seats to the introduction of live streaming features to just about every major social media platform. While traditional social posts still play an important role in content strategy, you’d be remiss to ignore the live video trend. In fact, 82 percent of consumers surveyed for one recent study said they favor live video over other types of social posts.
These new features allow you to share your message with your audience in more immediate and resonant ways. Plus, audiences increasingly expect live streams; for B2B brands, that can easily take the form of webinars. Audiences demand a human connection with the brands they follow, and live video provides a great opportunity to establish close customer relationships; the real-time nature of live video makes people feel intimately involved, even when the video is being broadcast to thousands of people.
6. Mobile optimization will be the standard across industries.
We just don’t use desktops nearly as much as we used to. We want everything on-the-go and on-demand, which is why 69 percent of digital media engagement happens on mobile platforms. While it’s not completely necessary to build your own apps (though it’s not a bad idea, either), your content still has to be optimized for mobile consumption.Mobile-only internet use is on the rise, with 41 million people in the U.S. accessing content exclusively from their mobile devices. To grow and sustain your reach, optimizing for mobile isn’t just a recommendation — it’s a requirement.
7. Artificial intelligence will begin creating and enhancing content.
Content creators are already tuning in to the potential for AI to transform their work, and the technology will shape the industry in 2018. AI tools like predictive analytics, natural language processing, and generation algorithms drive smarter, more effective content.
Big-name publishers, such as the Associated Press, already use machine-generated content to increase the volume and speed at which they release information. And within the next five years, some experts predict that half of all content will be developed by machines, and humans will only oversee and edit when necessary.
But don’t worry, human content creators: The robot takeover isn’t coming (not yet, anyway). In the meantime, features such as chatbots, data analysis algorithms, and personalized recommendation systems will automatically direct audiences to content that’s relevant to their interests and circumstances, creating a more dynamic and personalized user experience.
As technology drives changes in content marketing, our industry will shift and adapt in ways we can’t yet anticipate. By watching these trends and embracing the opportunities they present, content marketers can develop truly innovative audience experiences and position their brands to lead us into this brave new world.
John Hall is the CEO of Influence & Co., a keynote speaker, and the author of "Top of Mind."