In this article, we explore three key content marketing trends to improve your engagement rates in the coming year. Try to implement elements of each in your content and help create a content marketing strategy that’ll make 2020 your most successful year yet.
When producing your content calendar for the coming year, brainstorm how you can work these themes into your content.
1. Authenticity, Authority, Connection
With this first trend, we’re witnessing a continuation of one of the biggest trends of last year. It’s all about bringing the human touch to your content marketing.
In his book, Ogilvy on Advertising, David Ogilvy argues that some principles in marketing stand the test of time. For example, the language that marketers use must be conversational, free from jargon, personable (e.g. using the first person “I” instead of “We”, and addressing readers directly with “You” instead of “People” or “They”), and clear.
Unfortunately, digital marketers tend to forget these lessons – agencies are too concerned with creating content that may look good, but that is too complex.
In other words, we need to go back to basics and speak from the heart if you want to up your content marketing game in 2020. This year, the human touch will involve greater diversity in the language we use to speak with our customers. For example, there will be a shift towards representing diverse voices across all mediums including written, visual and audio formats. We’ve seen the beginnings of this trend already in recent years, with the rise of indie brands and the authentic revolution, for example.
The move from corporate speak to real talk highlights, too, the importance of understanding your audience when creating your content. You need to understand who your customers are and how to talk to them if you want to stand any chance of communicating effectively.
The focus in 2020 is to centre your content efforts on language that connects, and at the same time, move away from the hard sell/promotional aspects of traditional marketing.
To help you achieve these goals, three attitudes must run throughout your content:
According to thought leaders in content marketing Medium.com, authenticity in content marketing is about the creation of “content that tries to genuinely be of service to its readers and its industry without trying to manipulate its audience”.
Search engines continue to change the ways in which they present online content to internet users. They understand what users want and they try to ensure that the right content reaches the right people. “Right content” effectively means, “valuable content people want to engage with”. In other words, authentic content with value.
The BERT Update
To do this, the search engines create algorithms (very simply, they are rules that govern what we see online). At the end of 2019, Google updated the BERT algorithm, it’s the biggest update in five years.
The idea behind the BERT update is that it improves Google’s understanding of language, especially for natural and conversational searches. The aim is to return search results that understand the context and nuance of the search terms and return more helpful results to internet users.
Here’s what Google has to say about BERT:
“Particularly for longer, more conversational queries, or searches where prepositions like “for” and “to” matter a lot to the meaning, Search will be able to understand the context of the words in your query. You can search in a way that feels natural for you.”– Google
The language Google uses when discussing this update helps us understand how to tailor our content accordingly. It isn’t about tricking readers into clicking on blogs or videos. It’s about creating “conversational” content that is “natural” and “helpful”.
Gone are the days when black hat SEO techniques actually worked. The legacy of black hat SEO is that people are naturally reluctant to trust online brands as the “adverts are lies, businesses are out to con us and you can’t trust online brands”.
BERT will help tackle this problem further and as content marketers, it is our job to create content that people trust. We must be authentic in every content piece we create. Don’t exaggerate and don’t manipulate; just talk to your audience in a genuine voice.
Authenticity Is Vital
I cannot overstate the importance of authenticity: It elevates your brand above other brands that aren’t authentic. It helps people trust your products and services. It allows people to feel a connection between you and your brand. And it helps encourage engagement.
So long as you have a genuine product or service, if you can increase authenticity in your content, you will increase trust in your brand. For many buyers, this can make the difference between buying from you (who they trust) or from your competitor (who they may not trust).
Authenticity to build trust is especially important for those of you who operate in a highly competitive market. With parity products and services, there’s little to help you stand out from your competitors — but being authentic will give you the edge.
Authority, from a marketing perspective, means the ability to prove expertise…
…through the delivery of valuable content as opposed to claiming expertise or saying, “We’re number one”. Show, don’t tell.Brain Clark on Copyblogger
To create great content, you must ensure that your customers see you as a reliable source of knowledge. Ultimately, if you want to increase sales, they must believe what you say. To do this:
- Make sure your content is accurate. Research every claim you make, e.g. fact-check what you write. Offer proof that what you’re saying is true, and that you’re saying it in good faith.
- Don’t Patronise. People are fed up with experts who patronise them and make claims that contradict people’s experiences. Your task is a difficult one and involves becoming a friendly expert.
- Anticipate your customer’s needs. You must learn to actively listen and communicate with customers, asking for feedback and taking notes of problem areas. Give them the information they seek.
Some examples of content that can help increase perceptions of authority include case studies, news reports from reliable sources and providing multiple viewpoints when writing opinion pieces.
There’s a common saying in advertising, “People buy from People”. In the past, digital marketing — with its focus on black hat techniques, e.g., keyword stuffing — forgot their audience. Marketers used tricks to get their content in front of people, ignoring their audience completely once they captured them.
With updates to search engine algorithms, such as measuring bounce rates, a lack of engagement is damaging to your website and social media channels. To keep people reading, you need to communicate empathetically. It’s not about B2C or B2B, but human-to-human.
Content ideas that work are simple: Storytelling, community-focused topics, and honesty. As marketers, it’s not about tricking people into reading your content, but about creating value for your customers.
It’s about taking a soft approach, being less forceful and selling to people who genuinely want and need your product or service. This is how you build trust, authority and a loyal customer base.
2. Live-Streaming and Video Content
Live streaming and video content may strike terror in the hearts of some of us — after all, it’s about getting in front of the camera and allowing your audience to see you in all your glory.
Video Marketing has become huge in recent years. With the surge in popularity of platforms like Twitch and TikTok, and of course the king of video, YouTube, video and live-streaming are going to become increasingly prominent in 2020.
And before you jump on those platforms, remember that you already have a captive audience on your social media channels and website. People visit your website or join your social media pages because they’re interested in your business. What better audience to see your videos and watch your live streams? So, first, concentrate your efforts in video marketing on your existing channels, where you already have a captive audience, rather than creating entirely new channels.
Watch this video to find out how you can live stream to multiple platforms at the same time…
It may be daunting to embark on video and live-streaming as part of your marketing strategy, but it’s one trend to become familiar with if you want to take your marketing efforts to the next level this year. Remember, practice makes perfect.
Sometimes the hardest part is coming up with video content ideas. Here are a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing:
- During exhibition fairs and networking events/demonstrations
- New product showcasing
- Interviews with guest speakers
- Live-stream questions and answers
- Meet the team (a great one for building trust in your audience)
3. Super-Charged Target Marketing
Targeted marketing is about finding a niche audience online and presenting your content to them. It’s the opposite of taking a scattergun approach, where you blast your content to as many people as possible in the hope of catching a customer.
Instead, you create a very accurate persona of your ideal customer and then create content and use marketing techniques to reach and connect with this well-defined demographic.
The Content Marketing Institute found that target marketing was the greatest determiner of success for content marketers in 2018 and 2019. This is a trend that we expect to continue.
Here, you need to spend time researching your target audience, engaging them in conversation and finding out who they are and what they need from you. Then you need to tailor your content to suit the audience and find out where they hang out online and where you can target them online WITHOUT being intrusive.
For example, we offer digital marketing services. Our target audience is other businesses that need digital marketing services. To build an audience, we can target businesses on LinkedIn without being intrusive, but if we start to target people while they’re engaged in some other online activity and remind them of work, this may feel intrusive and turn them off.
All of the above trends involve putting your customers first. It’s about providing content that they want to consume, that answers their questions and piques their interests, in a format that they enjoy, and is presented in a place where they’re open to engaging with you.