Tech is changing everything, including content marketing. As advances continue to change the way we handle everything from healthcare and transportation to communication and careers, savvy marketers are studying how these tech trends are impacting content curation, content creation and distribution.
The channels audiences use to absorb their daily dose of news and entertainment have swiftly changed from newspapers to smartphones, from radios to iTunes, and from TV to live streaming. Nearly every form of traditional content has been adapted or replaced by suitable high-tech substitutes, and therefore content marketers need to identify and adjust their strategies to stay ahead of the pack.
According to this year’s benchmark and trends report from the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), more than 60% of B2B marketers claimed their content marketing strategies are more effective than in 2016. However, what worked last year may not be enough to sustain your competitive advantage in 2018. So, let’s take a quick look at the top 5 tech trends that are sure to remain on point next year:
1. Machine learning will boost real conversations and deeper connections.
Machine learning-powered tools can help content marketers find the best content on the web, such as user-generated content, key influencer pieces, articles on thought leadership and other important content-rich data. These tools can then determine how potential consumers are engaging with this content in real time, showing its social sharing across different platforms. These types of tools can also make recommendations about what types of content marketers should use, and how to best target prime audiences.
Alex De Simone, CEO of text messaging software Avochato, claims, “Content marketing is becoming more conversational, blurring the lines between content marketing and sales. Customers show high interest in having one-on-one exchanges with companies over social media and text message, but companies find it hard to have quality conversations at scale.”
However, he believes that with the help of emerging technologies, “the shift from traditional content marketing to machine-mediated conversational marketing will change the way marketers operate, empowering them to deliver better content at scale.”
Machine learning has given marketers incredible tools to make conversations more customer-centric, helping them to build solid bridges with consumers.
In 2018, we’re looking towards a future beyond traditional automated text communications. Companies like Microsoft, are now actively exploring the possibilities of creating multi-sensory communication. Sound, sight, touch and even motions – can potentially become part of how companies create conversations with consumers in the future.
One of the principle researchers at Microsoft, Bill Buxton, explains that multi-sensory technology like Natural User interfaces (NUI), “exploit skills that we have acquired through a lifetime of living in the world, which minimizes the cognitive load, and therefore minimizes the distraction.” This means products such as Microsoft’s Kinect console, may actually hold users’ attention for longer, and be a more powerful way of promoting conversations between brands and their audiences.
2. The accessibility of virtual reality will make visual content a must.
[Mercedes boost shelf-life of #MBPhotoPass Instagram campaign, by using key influencer VR content on YouTube]
Everyone’s heard that virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are set to disrupt every industry, with experts predicting the market will generate $150 billion in revenue by 2020. We have recently seen VR take off in travel, healthcare and marketing – and with increasing popularity and availability, this tech trend will create new and exciting opportunities for marketers to optimize their content on a completely different platform.
Accessible content and lower priced hardware are helping to bring VR and AR to the masses. Google’s Daydream VR, Oculus Rift’s headsets, and Samsung’s Gear VR are affordable devices that are effectively creating a broader audience for marketers to target, and should begin making a visible splash in marketing strategies in 2018.
Research from Forbes Global predicted that up to 30% of consumer-facing brands will experiment with virtual reality marketing in 2017. And this number is only expected to increase in 2018.
If ultra high resolution VR content sounds a bit beyond your needs (or budget), you should at least consider creating visually appealing content. Interactive graphics, 360° videos, and apps not only makes for a more diverse and engaging content strategy, but it also firmly lay the foundation for future experiments in VR/AR as your marketing budgets grow.
Giving consumers the opportunity to experience and interact with a brand allows them to make deeper connections. In 2014, Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) tried to achieve just that by launching a key influencer takeover of their Instagram account, #MBPhotoPass, in an effort to attract millennial audiences.
However, when this visual campaign started to lose its momentum in 2016, Mercedes approached Kelly Lund to create a 360° VR video of his trip to the snowy mountains of Colorado with Instagram sensation Loki, Kelly’s trusted wolfdog. This strategic move by Mercedes kept an existing campaign fresh, and gave the brand a needed contemporary makeover through creative use of VR.
Mercedes’ partnership with Loki and Kelly has boosted viewing across a wide range of social platforms, contributing to nearly 80,000 engagements with followers and over 4 million views. As a direct result of the videos, MBUSA’s Instagram increased by 57,000 new followers, with over 40% of visitors to the Mercedes official website being millennials.
3. Algorithms will predict what you want, before you know it yourself.
[Netflix employs recommendation engines and data algorithms to customise content for users’ specific movie preferences]
In 2018, consumers will be looking for faster and more customized experiences tailored to their specific needs. With advancements in technology, content marketers can now take customization to the next level using predictive analytic software. This software generates personalised content and recommendations based on analysis of consumer profiles, which allows them to offer individual suggestions based on your “buyer persona”.
Research shows that predictive analytics market could reach US$6.5 billion worldwide in 2019, a rise of nearly US$4 billion since 2012 – with expectations that it will become one of the leading software applications for artificial intelligence.
No one puts this software into practice better than Netflix. Netflix utilises predictive software and recommendation algorithms to tune hyper-specific categorisations that match movie and TV titles to users based on previous viewing preferences.
Not only does this advanced technology increase viewership and customer loyalty, but it also allows for Netflix’s vast content library to produce a high turnover on investment. According to a recent article published by Netflix, assisted recommendation systems benefit the company to the tune of US$1 billion per year through increased viewing hours and greater customer retention.
4. Live video streaming opens doors for social media content.
[Foodie network, Tastemade, hypnotises audiences with the miniature world of cooking –live!]
In 2017, you can’t scroll through Facebook for more than 4 seconds without being bombarded by short video clips. There’s a reason for this. With over 55% of people watching videos online every day, smart content marketers are now utilising live videos to promote their brand messages. Recent research shows companies that include live video in their marketing campaigns may see their revenue grow 49% faster than non-video users.
Customers love to feel included and experiencing life “in the moment”, and appreciate their favourite brands giving them that unique perspective through live video. Instead of watching highly edited and choreographed events, audiences want raw, vicarious footage – flaws and all.
Streaming allows brands to share key messages in more immediate and resonant ways, through webinars, live podcasts and YouTube videos. In 2018, marketers will be able to create even more personalised connections with consumers, allowing them to build relationships with the brands they love. Live videos are a way for people to feel intimately involved with the process, even though thousands may be watching.
Global digital food and travel network Tastemade primarily targets millennials, making exceptional use of live video that speaks to their loyal viewers’ stomachs while also attracting curious newcomers.
The Tiny Kitchen series uses miniature kitchen utensils to cook miniscule portions of gourmet food. It’s been a huge hit, with individual videos reaching over 3 million views. Leveraging on this success, Tastemade’s inventive short video content reaches over 200 million people every month. With statistics like these, it’s not hard to see the benefits of incorporating live video content in your 2018 marketing strategy.
5. Artificial intelligence will start to curate and enhance content.
[Cloud computing platform, FinancialForce, uses AI assistant Amazon Alexa in the workplace to automate workflow, by providing concise, fast and reliable content]
Artificial intelligence (AI) isn’t just the reserve of science fiction writers anymore. Content creators are already noticing the potential benefits AI holds in content curation, which may shape industry marketing trends in 2018.
Lead Consultant for the Workplace Reimagination practice at TCS Digital Enterprise, Parthasarathi V., adds, “Through conversational software, an enterprise can simplify and reimagine business processes, and reduce and automate workflows through context-aware intelligence systems. It also enables users and systems to have meaningful interactions, working in tandem to meet business goals.”
So what’s the takeaway for content marketers? If used correctly, AI tools like natural language processing, predictive analytics and generation algorithms, can actually drive smarter, more effective content with faster turnaround times.
Considering most consumers are already interacting with AI through virtual assistants like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Cortana, content marketers should utilize the benefits that this technology offers.
AI can greatly impact consumer research, and also offers benefits in the form of outcome tracking and microtargeting for niche markets. Artificial intelligence also has the ability to scan massive amounts of content and raw data, allowing brands to automate the process of content curation and effectively reduce costs.
Even though some may see AI as the nail in the coffin for creative content – this is not the case. AI could in fact encourage content creators, from copywriters to videographers, to preserve and protect the human elements of content writing in ways bots just can’t compete. The true magic still lies within the ability of evoking strong emotions that push the boundaries of consumer imagination, by creating unforgettable brand stories.
A recent report from The Economist Intelligence Unit claims, “75% of all executives surveyed say AI will be actively implemented in companies within the next three years.”
However, leading Cloud platform company, FinancialForce has already found new and inventive ways to incorporate AI into their data collection process. Their Chief Technology Officer Andy Fawcett believes, "The potential for businesses of any size to have a digital assistant that can immediately find and report crucial information, as well as slicing and dicing the data according to user commands is incredibly exciting… Bringing Salesforce and FinancialForce to Amazon Echo makes interacting with complex business software as easy as chatting with your neighbour, partly because all data is pulled from one single source of truth."
Data analysis algorithms, chatbots and personalized recommendation software can actually work to content creators’ advantage by systematically directing key audiences to content that matches their interests and profile, delivering a more customer-centric and dynamic user experience.
In an industry that’s all about experimentation, content creators need to closely watch these tech trends and embrace the marketing opportunities they present. Utilizing these technologies can help develop truly customised experiences and unique positioning for brands that ultimately lead to deeper connections between your company and your customers.