2015 Content Activation Trends and Predictions for 2016

We know it’s just as critical to activate content as it is to create it. Content activation is the proactive distribution of content across the ever-changing landscape of paid, owned and earned channels. And luckily for us, our agency has its own activation team led by Brooke Wagner, who lives and breathes content activation, as does the rest of the team (me included!). I sat down with Brooke to ask her about important industry trends that she predicts we’ll be seeing. Here’s what she had to say:

What’s one of the many content activation trends that took a front seat in 2015?

Intent-based native advertising opened up a new world of possibilities

In 2015, intent-based native advertising was finally introduced, using the same methodology and technology that’s used for intent-based digital display. Intent-based native is so exciting because it gives us the ability to place content in-feed on premium publisher sites at a user level. Using search retargeting, the native content displayed is relevant to a user’s search query. Using site retargeting, the native content displayed is relevant to a user’s actions on site. Based on what we know about a user’s intent or interest, we can very smartly and deliberately leverage content for guiding them down the funnel. Intent-based native advertising will become critical to content programs in 2016, and we expect to see an increase in spend in this area.

What do you predict for the world of content activation in 2016? What trends, tactics and tools will increase in importance?

Native advertising will be vital to marketing programs

With the continued decline in response by consumers to banner ads, brands will explore even more ways to implement native advertising, and publishers will continue to determine the best ways to monetize this offering. As programmatic buying continues to grow (and is projected to increase even more in 2016), It will be interesting to see how brands and agencies diversify spend on programmatic and direct.

Paid social will increase across the board

Organic reach for brands on social media will continue to decline in 2016, resulting in more brands putting their marketing dollars toward paid social. At the same time, social networks will continue to seek new and creative ways to monetize themselves and their offerings. They’ve demonstrated this with the continual emergence of ad units and robust targeting options. There is great opportunity here for content marketers because consumers are much more receptive to content over product or brand marketing (as long as the content is authentic, relevant and delivered in a meaningful way).

User-generated content is (and will continue to be) on the up and up

User-generated content (UGC) will be even more popular in 2016. We’ll see brands leveraging it more by incorporating UGC on site and into campaigns as part of their content strategies. UGC allows us to capitalize on actual consumers to share real-life stories, engage audiences further with brands, and use peer-to-peer content that helps drive conversion.

Influencers will be key in reaching audiences authentically

This year we’ve seen a dramatic increase in influencer marketing programs across the board. Brands have come to realize the value of influencers when it comes to reaching new audiences. As influencers become more mainstream in brand campaigns, and as disclosure requirements become more strict, brands and agencies will have to work harder to identify influencers who are authentic and really resonate with their followers.

There will be a greater emphasis on video and video marketing

There’s no doubt about it: Video took a front seat this year in a major way. Video content will continue to increase in the new year, and social networks and other channels will continue to identify ways in which to seamlessly integrate it.

In addition, Periscope, Meerkat and now Facebook Live are all making it easier for brands to engage their audiences and bring them into their brand story through live-stream video. While there have been accessibility challenges due to bandwidth issues and mobile data restrictions, I do see live-stream video technologies improving over the next year with the goal of providing a more seamless and engaging user experience.

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2016 holds some serious potential for content activation. ROI on all marketing programs is becoming more important, so activation really will be as critical to a content program as the creation and aggregation of content itself. And with all the innovative ways to target niche and broad audiences alike, it will be exciting to see what the future holds.

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