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Oldies But Goodies: Past Content Marketing Trends That Have Staying Power

By Jordan Bahnsen on December 13, 2018 in Digital Marketing

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Things change fast in digital marketing. As Spinutech strategists, we do our best to keep tabs on the latest trends. And man, are there a lot of them.

In doing my due diligence as a content strategist, I saw my first “Trends to Watch in 2019” post way back in August. You know, back when most of us were just getting around to coming up with a plan to use that hot trend we had our eyes on a year ago.

It’s worse than Christmas creep (No, not that one. That one.).

These annual trend lists are bursting with new acronyms and buzzwords as marketing prognosticators all rush to be the first to jump on the latest innovations. But trends worth following take time to take hold. And most marketers don't have the budgets or leeway to jump on unproven, and often expensive, new methods.

So instead of geeking out over AI, VR, AR, VCR, and whatever else you'll likely never use in 2019, take a look back at 2017, 2016, or *gasp* 2014 to see what everyone was buzzing about. Because if you’re still hearing about one of those trends today, it wasn’t just a fad or a marketing thought leader trying to make a bold prediction. It was something worth your time and precious marketing budget.

5 Content Trends That Matter More Than Ever


1. Distributing content > publishing it.

You know a trend has staying power when people are beating the drum long after it lost its buzz. Content distribution has changed a lot since it dominated trend lists four years ago. Disappearing social reach will do that.

Most publishers learned that lesson the hard way. And now you must have a strategic distribution plan after you hit publish.

Investing more time, effort, and budget in distribution — social media, native advertising, sponsored content, email marketing, influencers, brand advocates — helps your content reach more people and engage them in different ways. Taking a multi-channel approach takes your content’s fate out of one platform’s hands and helps you hit all the rights (content, time, place, format, device) for each individual customer.

2. We still heart stories.

The storytelling bandwagon is pretty full these days. It was lonely there for a lot of years. But storytelling’s actually been a powerful content marketing tool since the days of covered wagons.

John Deere pioneered content marketing through storytelling in 1895 with The Furrow — long before someone decided to put the words “content” and “marketing” together. Today, it's one of the most trusted and widely circulated ag magazines in the world. It doesn’t focus on selling products. It rarely even mentions the brand. But it’s a big reason why John Deere has built a cult following and become more lifestyle brand than agriculture equipment manufacturer.

You don’t need to hitch a ride with Doc Brown back to 1885 to recreate The Furrow’s formula. REI figured it out just last year. And it starts by digging into real stories from real customers to deliver more authentic, honest, inspiring, and engaging content.

3. User-generated content isn’t just for social anymore.

Sometimes authenticity means letting your customers tell their own story. Consumer trust has bottomed out. People trust their family, friends, and peers more than the media or brands. Gathering, sharing, and encouraging UGC lets you put your brand in a positive light through the lens of more trusted sources.

User-generated content has been a key to a successful social strategy for several years. More and more brands are using UGC elsewhere — featuring customers on their websites, replacing stock photos with photos from fans, and using customers in their broader marketing efforts.

4. Brand blogs are back, baby!

It’s 2019. Is it weird that we’re still talking about company blogs? I mean, after all these years, you’d think we’d have moved onto bigger and better things.

We have. Sort of.

The aforementioned content distribution problems showed us you have to put your owned channels first. So content marketers have been revitalizing their brand’s blogs with a renewed focus on the audience.

Once a place for press releases that weren’t all that newsworthy or company updates that had little relevance for customers, now there’s an abundance of quality, customer-focused content. Content marketing pros are using personas, keyword research, engagement data, and other insights to figure out what their audience wants to hear from their brand. And then they’re using all that to deliver content on a consistent basis and in a variety of formats.

5. Writers are on the rise.

In this writer’s clearly unbiased opinion, writing is more important than ever. Visually predicted as much way back in 2014:

“As brands turn into publishers, their content needs will span beyond grammatical accuracy and into the finer points of writing compelling copy adaptable across platforms and written to the tastes of narrowly targeted personas.”

If anything’s changed since that bold prediction was made, it’s that the need for awesome content has gotten even bigger. And despite what the previously mentioned trends may suggest, you can’t rely solely on influencers, brand advocates, and customers to do all the work for you. You need someone, or a team of someones, with the skills to create customer-focused content on any channel.

So take a breather from your content marketing trend consumption and select a proven way to improve your content in 2019. Then, in June, when the first 2020 listicle inevitably drops, you’ll be free to ignore the shiny objects of new trends and stay focused on the tried-and-true.

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