NEW DELHI,Jayson DeMers : Content marketers don’t have the luxury of consistency. Usually, when we get comfortable with a certain pattern of work, it’s a sign that something needs to change—following the same rules in the same topics or the same styles leads to stagnation and audience disinterest, and all the while your competitors could be going wild with new technologies and trends, forcing you to change to keep up.
As we start 2016, the rate of change in the content marketing world is as fast as it’s ever been. Fortunately, thanks to several years of experience with rapidly changing technologies and patterns of user behavior, we can make intelligent predictions about where those technologies are heading (with credit also do to the proactive companies announcing these technologies for the world to anticipate).
If you’re like me, these developing technologies are keeping you on edge—not exactly because you’re intimidated by how unfamiliar they are, and not exactly because you can’t wait to master them, but somewhere in between. These are the exciting challenges that keep the content marketing world fresh and reward the most innovative in our industry, but you’ll need to be prepared for them if you want to turn them to your advantage:
- Virtual & Augmented Reality. Virtual reality is on its way, and it’s about to open a new door for content consumption. Oculus, the forerunner in VR technology, is owned by Facebook, one of the biggest influencers in social media and content marketing. Already, Oculus has begun to permeate the market with the Samsung Gear, and on March 28, 2016, they’ll release the full version of Oculus Rift to (presumably) make VR a mainstream means of content consumption. We all know that visual content is on the rise—videos are more easily produced, more available, and in higher demand than they were even a year ago, and users are only going to demand more visual engagement as the months and years roll on. With Facebook’s vested interest in VR, you can bet they’ll push tons of VR-optimized content, which is an exciting new opportunity for content marketers, but it’s scary because VR remains untested in a wide-market application. Not only is it going to be a challenge for content producers, it could turn out to be a short-lived fad (though my money’s on VR sticking around for the long term).
- Instant Articles. Even though Instant Articles have been around for months, I’m listing them as a new technology because we’re in something of a “trial period” for the service. Embedded entirely in Facebook news feeds with no need to click through to an outside site, Instant Articles are good for both readers and publishers (in theory). What remains to be seen is how this development will influence similar technologies, and how the trend will affect content marketing on a wide scale. If users get used to accessing all their content entirely within apps, what’s the need of pointing user to an outside site? Website traffic could plummet, and in-app availability could become the only way to reach new users with content. This is an extremist perspective, but it’s certainly a possibility—and one keeping the industry on its toes.
- Social Purchasing. Again, social purchasing isn’t exactly new. Facebook ads offered a kind of social purchasing years ago, and Pinterest made waves in 2015 with its buyable pins. But the increasing “e-commerce” style offerings and increased demand for profits in the social media space means only more social purchasing opportunities will arise in the coming years. Social media currently stands as a primary means of syndicating content and building an audience, but if paid opportunities increase, organic visibility opportunities will decrease, and social platforms will become less of a vehicle for consumable content and more hybrid e-commerce platforms. Content marketers will have to find new ways to reach audiences, or resort to newer forms of direct advertising.
- Live Streaming Improvements. Streaming video has been a mainstay for certain events, such as sports games and political debates, but thanks to the sharp increase in popularity for live streaming apps like Meerkat, Twitch, and Periscope this past year, live streaming is about to become even more ubiquitous. Mainstream social apps like Facebook are adopting their own live streaming features, and users are beginning to demand more live, “in the moment” content. This puts a heavier burden on content marketers, demanding fewer pre-conceived, scheduled-in-advance pieces of content and more present-focused video streaming opportunities.
- Self-Updating Algorithms. Last but not least, I look to Google RankBrain as the future of search algorithm updates. Search is a big priority for most content marketers, and the reason most of us got into the game in the first place. Now, it seems the manual human updates that once dictated our lives are gone for good. Instead, machine learning algorithms like RankBrain will serve to make gradual, iterative improvements on pre-existing systems, fine-tuning search results without warning or documentation. On the surface, this isn’t a big deal, and the changes we’re likely to see early on will be imperceptible to all but the most attuned search marketers. But its introduction means we’re entering an age of machine learning algorithms, which means it will be harder and harder to find a formula that works for organic search visibility.
If you prepare for these upcoming technologies in your own content marketing campaign, you’ll be well ahead of the competition as they develop in 2016 and beyond. As usual, I expect the most successful content marketers will be the ones who adopt the latest technologies early and in an innovative way. Even if your execution isn’t perfect, or if the technology develops in a different direction, you’ll get the early competitive points for differentiating yourself. Keep your users in mind with your new tactics, don’t be afraid to take risks, and make adjustments as needed as you continue down your new path; with these fundamentals at the core of your strategy, you can’t lose.