Top Content Marketing Trends for 2016: Predictions from Pace Leadership

As content marketers, and particularly here at Pace, we’re in the business of staying ahead of the curve. Thinking about what our industry will look like tomorrow, let alone months from now, and devising strategies that keep our clients on top is the stuff that keeps us up at night—and motivates us to get to work innovating each morning. I recently picked the brains of several Pace executives, polling them about the future of content marketing trends and, more specifically, which ones we should be paying closest attention to in 2016. As you might imagine, they had a lot to say. Read on for their expert insights, and grab a pen; you’ll want to take notes.

The Content Marketing ROI Reckoning is (Finally) Here

The tremendous buzz and excitement surrounding content marketing drove a large volume of early brand content programs. But now the buzz is not enough. Content marketing needs to prove through measurable and concrete ROI that it’s a worthy part of the marketing mix. Anticipate less tolerance for “soft” content ROI metrics around awareness and engagement. The focus will now be on traditional “hard” ROI, such as impact on sales or customer support offsets, to evaluate content program success.

Quality Will Win Out Over Quantity

Amid the content deluge, well-targeted and high-quality work will triumph over sheer volume, and optimization will be critical. With the widespread adoption of content marketing and the vast explosion and diversity of producers—from brands to user-generated work—it’s becoming harder for simply “good enough” content to stand out. Only remarkable material will move the needle in terms of building an audience and engaging with that audience. In 2016, look for brand marketers to produce deeper, more engaging and immersive content experiences at the expense of the previous content marketing bread and butter: the search-optimized mid-length article.  

Content Activation Will Become Paramount

As marketers and audiences struggle with short attention spans and the sheer volume of information, greater emphasis than ever will be placed on refining distribution channels and activation tactics. Both will be essential to cutting through the noise and ensuring that the right audience sees top-quality content at the right time.

The “Hub” Will Lose Its Importance in the Omni-channel Content Experience

It’s no secret that the traditional content marketing playbook consists of a spoke-and-wheel setup: A content hub—generally a stand-alone microsite or a specific section of a brand site—is at the center, and it’s loaded with long-form material. This content is then syndicated out to distribution channels such as social, CRM, native, etc. While this is still a valid model, innovation in 2016 will lead us toward a more distributed approach. Engaging storytelling will natively appear at each audience touch point.

Virtual Reality Will Emerge As a Powerful Storytelling Tool

It’s been lurking for a while, but with the rollout of The New York Times’ VR app (plus, Vrse and RYOT iOS apps, among others) paired with wider access to viewers such as Google Cardboard, this form of deeply immersive storytelling is starting to catch on. Only time will tell if it can it be effectively extended to the retail and/or e-commerce environment.

Mobile Messaging Apps Prove Equal to Their Social Media Counterparts—and Thus, Can’t Be Ignored

For the first time, the top four messaging apps—WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and Viber—have just as many combined users as the top four social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram). That number? A whopping 2.125 billion active monthly users globally. It’s important to note that the numbers for the messaging apps are made up of all mobile users, while the social media numbers include millions of computer-only users.

Brands Will Have to Be More Selective of Their Influencers

The use of real people in content marketing and advertising is nothing new, but we’re beginning to see a gray zone in which real people aren’t real enough—influencers are becoming regular celebrities, thereby defeating the purpose of using them. In 2016 there will be a very present need for brands to be smarter—to resist the temptation of low-hanging fruit when it comes to sourcing real people for influencer marketing campaigns. They’ll have to look beyond just Tumblr and Instagram, and they’ll have to look harder. SoundCloud, Etsy and Wattpad are just a few examples of fertile ground for untapped popularity.

Finally, Expect a Shakeout of the Partner Landscape

As of late, brands have many options to choose from for their content marketing efforts; there’s huge diversity in technology providers, publishing partners and agencies of all stripes touting their offerings and expertise. 2016 will see a shakeout: Consolidation will occur through a mix of acquisition and attrition as brands become more discerning and the focus shifts to high-quality content and concrete results.

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So tell us, do you agree with our top brass? What do you think is in store for content marketing in the coming year? We’d love to know. Let us know in the comment section below!
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