Content Strategy Trends and Predictions for 2016

The world of digital content is constantly changing, and unless you’re a seasoned content strategist who makes it your job to stay immersed and engaged in the field, it can be hard to keep up. At Pace, our philosophy is that the success of great content is dependent on an even greater content strategy. And lucky for us, we have super-talented people like Katie Riddle on our team, keeping us on our toes and making sure that every piece of content we create aligns with a lean, nimble strategy. I met up with Katie to get her thoughts on trends and predictions for the next 12 months:

What’s one of the many trends that you saw in the last 12 months that had a huge impact on content strategy?

New Demands for Content Strategists

Over the past five years, we spent a lot of our time selling the value of content to marketing executives, as it was emerging in the marketing field. But with content marketing more popular than ever, most marketers don’t need to be convinced about its value. We’re no longer debating whether content strategy is a thing or how to define it. Now, marketers are moving to a more mature way of thinking about brands and behavior, because creating content just to keep up with the Joneses won’t meet anyone’s goals. So content strategists have had to become branding experts, anthropologists, data miners and analytics experts, in addition to our day jobs.


Increased Focus on Creating a Lean Content Strategy

This leads me to the next trend: Creating a lean content strategy. In the olden days, we (sometimes) had several months to work on creating the content strategy when building large websites. Why were we given this much time to put a content strategy together? Because it took that long to go from start to finish, which included: conducting and analyzing the appropriate audits, executing a competitive analysis, researching and identifying best practices, assembling everything into some sort of organized format, then came the copywriting, choosing images, building the site…phew! The list goes on, but you get the idea.

Today, you’re lucky to get 4–6 weeks for strategy work. In order to accommodate these (much) shorter timelines, I’ve become increasingly focused on creating flexible content frameworks that can be tweaked over time using a “test and learn” approach, coupled with constant content optimization. My number one goal is to hand over a deliverable that provides the best strategy recommendations possible for the project, but we have to acknowledge that I can’t know everything in 4–6 weeks, so tweaks may need to be made as the program evolves.

More Collaboration with Analysts to Prove ROI

Over the past 12 months, the demand for proving content ROI and impact on revenue has forced us to move away from measuring indirect, fuzzy metrics, like time on a page, or social media impressions. The age of simply counting unique visitors is over. Most of our large clients require multifaceted reporting to determine continued spend on content. Content strategists have an increasing need to partner with analysts and cultivate our own sophistication—to inform attribution models, predictive analytics and content performance algorithms—from the moment an engagement is first initiated.

As you might expect with words like algorithm and attribution, advanced analytics is complicated stuff. Thankfully, Pace has some data dynamos who graciously share their knowledge and expertise with me. Learn more about content marketing analytics trends in this post featuring Dan Sarkar, head of Pace’s analytics team.

What do you predict for the world of content strategy in 2016? What trends, tactics and tools will have the greatest impact?

Technology will continue to open up new opportunities for content. The rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), Virtual Reality (VR) and the increasing sophistication and popularity of wearables is creating a larger set of tools for producing unique content experiences.

The Internet of Things

As people integrate more and more smart objects into their lives, determining which content is right for which moment and which device becomes much more complicated. Because IoT is in its infancy, we don’t have a lot of behavioral data to go on. In 2016, the key will be to invest in mapping personas and user journeys to determine the kind of content someone wants to see in their car, versus on their smart refrigerator, versus their toilet (yes, really). How are people actually using those devices? What would be helpful for them to know in that moment? These are just some of the questions that content strategists will strive to answer in 2016 and beyond.

Virtual Reality

Combining incredible storytelling with sight and sound (and future adaptations that engage our senses through smell, touch and taste), VR is a new shiny object in our content arsenal, and rightfully so. This year, content strategists will try to answer questions like: How do you integrate such an immersive experience into your content strategy toolkit? What topics are optimal? Which audiences should you target? What are the criteria for using it? Is it just a novelty, or will it deliver an ROI? How do you translate 3-D content created for VR to the 2-D world, since a large majority still doesn’t have access to VR technology? As you can see, there are many unknowns that content strategists like myself will work to address in the coming year.

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Wearables are more than just fancy watches. The health and wellness applications seem limitless, with innovations ranging from smart tattoos to connected insulin pumps to clothing that can hug you. And I won’t even go into the “just because we can” consumer wearables. Just like many IoT applications, our focus as content strategists will have to be on micro-interactions and micro-content. Small screens (or non-existent ones) will force us to cut to the core of our messages and make behavioral research indispensable. Otherwise, we risk spending a lot of money on a trial-and-error approach if we don’t know how people are really using these tools.

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What questions do you have about content strategy trends and what we’ll see in this space in 2016? Let me know in the comment section below!

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