B2B content marketing is constantly evolving. Here are the major trends to prepare for...
- Storytelling 2.0
- Social CEO’s
- User engaged content
- Visual shift
- Live streaming
- Marketing for good
1. Storytelling 2.0
Storytelling is nothing new in agency land; plenty of agencies have used it to describe their approach to marketing over the last few years (nee decades). But few practice what they preach. Often their attempt to tell a brand’s ‘story’ involves throwing product and sales-based content out there and hoping the right person reads it and engages with it.
I believe ‘Storytelling 2.0’ is now upon us. This is a shift from highly polished production to more guerilla style, in-the-moment stories. Not only that, the way we tell these stories have to be tailored to the medium. There’s a reason the creation and consumption of Instagram Stories are up 842% since early 2016. According to Ash read, Editorial Director at Buffer, in 2019 “...we’ll see more brands embrace personal, authentic and in-the-moment content vs. overly produced, pre-packed content. This will mean more focus on the people and personalities behind your brand.”
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Ever noticed that your carefully strategised, crafted and scheduled posts gets a lot less engagement than that picture you quickly posted for Bev’s birthday? Well, that should tell you everything you need to know. People want real insight, and they want it consistently.
Talking of Buffer, scheduling boilerplate social media updates is no longer enough, to get the most out of each channel, you need to respect the rules, the accepted norms, the communication style and creativity they allow. Schedule a standard blog update on social, and you may get a couple of likes on Twitter, a few more on Instagram and a comment if you’re lucky. Post a story on Instagram and you’ll likely see 6% of your followers watching it. Stories are in-the-moment, but it’s a format which is driven by Instagram’s platform. They look good, they look right, they look...well, Instagrammy.
2. Social CEOs
Branded social and storytelling is one thing, but the biggest societal impact of social media has been turning us all into content producers. People are interested in other people’s lives, and that goes for people behind the brands, as well. What’s your personal story? Social media is no longer merely the remit of the brand, but should also be embraced by the people within it, particularly those that sit at the top table.
A good example is Social Chain’s, Steve Bartlett. He frequently documents his day-to-day across digital platforms and provides deeper insight via his podcast. Katie Wallwork, personal brand manager at Social Chain, says being authentic online is vital for Steve: “We were incredibly taken aback by the response from Steve’s podcast. It was initially a big risk, but opening up about some of the challenges he has experienced has made his audience feel deeply connected, as a result.”
Everyone connects with stories of success, of challenges, of real life. Having people at the top telling their story (and by proxy the story of the company) feeds back into the brand and raises the profile of both. Be open, honest and authentic. And watch engagement grow.
3. User-engaged content
User-generated content has been around for some time. However, I think the shift for smaller businesses is ‘user-engaged content’. It’s tough to get your audience to create content for you - not every business has the same reach and pull as Coca-Cola did with their ‘Share a Coke’ campaign - but they will often happily take part in a quick poll or give a quick comment to voice their opinion.
You see larger brands, like Sky Sports, doing this all of the time. They’ll post a poll on social media and then announce and discuss the results on their TV Channel. By engaging your audience in this way you’re not only getting some rich insight and data but your audience is also much likely to read or share something to which they have contributed personally.
At Future Content, we recently ran a poll to gauge landlords options on a subject for a client, and it received the most engagement they’ve seen across organic social media. From the findings, we also produced two articles, an email and multiple social media posts, plus inspiration for future content. A small thing, but one that can significantly raise brand awareness.
4. Visual shift
Cisco predicted that next year 80% of all content consumed online will be video. And while this data is based on current growth volumes following the same exponential growth pattern as the last few years (not to mention some dubious Facebook data on video views), there is little doubt that video is a near-crucial tactic to reach your audience.
I’m not saying that written content isn’t important. It is. Across social media, email and on your website, however, people now want the option of more visual, quicker ways to consume your content.
As with all marketing communications, just doing video content isn’t going to cut the mustard, understanding why you’re investing in video and setting SMART goals still applies. For engagement and opportunity, video should be part of your 2019 content marketing plan (if it isn’t already).
Live-streaming ties in nicely with ‘storytelling 2.0’ and ‘user engaged content’. People want to see what is happening in-the-moment and interact with what they’re seeing by commenting and asking questions. Live streaming is built for this, and Facebook recently said that live videos can drive 10 times more comments because of the real-time connection between users.
Again, Facebook has a vested interest in banging the drum for live-streaming - it wants you on it’s platform so it can advertise to you - but the creative possibilities for brands is currently, relatively untapped. If you can think of an interesting way to engage people with your brand (like Tough Mudder live-streaming one of their events, for example) it could well be a differentiator for your content efforts.
Another benefit of live streaming is the content can also be repurposed. For example, on Instagram, your live stream stays in your stories timeline for 24 hours - meaning it’s a longer form of video in your story than the traditional 10-second snippets. You can also upload your live streams to Youtube, which will be indexed by Google, turn the content into a blog, upload the audio to a Podcast platform such as Soundcloud, and sweat the content in many more ways.
6. Marketing for good
Ethical brands are on the rise in B2C, and the trend is catching on in B2B land, too. We’ve seen ‘for the good’ ads this Christmas such as the banned Iceland advert that recently went viral and countless other examples of brands demonstrating how they’re making the world a better place, through social responsibility.
This trend shouldn’t just be left to the big boys. Yes, the global brands have bigger budgets and therefore can often make a bigger contribution to causes, but let’s not forget that small business make up 99.3% of the economy, and a proportion of small businesses doing their part will not only have a profound impact on the support important causes receive but also provide breakthrough marketing opportunities for smaller businesses.
That’s the main point, saying and doing are two different things. To position and market your ethical credentials, you have to walk the walk. And that starts from the top.
If you can do that, it becomes much bigger and better than a simple marketing opportunity. Setting an ethical purpose for a small business has an impact on the employees, the business leaders, the communities and, ultimately the world. And who doesn’t want that for 2019?