The Future of Content Marketing: Trends and Predictions for 2014

According to a 2012 study by AOL and Nielsen, 27,000,000 pieces of content are shared every day. By now, the mantra of “content is king” has been relentlessly drilled into our collective heads – but more isn’t always necessarily better.

Quality is important – but how do you know if you’re really producing content that’s engaging your audience? Perhaps even more importantly, how are you measuring the results?

If you write and share it – will they come?

Let’s take a look at several new findings made as a result of a joint study between the Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs and Brightcove and what they could mean for next year’s content marketing trends.

Current Trend: Social Media, Newsletters and Blogs Head the Content Marketing Pack

content marketing uses

Social media leads the way with 87% of B2B content marketers leveraging one or more platforms.

Not surprisingly, most marketers are promoting their content via social networks. Considering that clicks from shared sites are as much as five times more likely to be shared – it’s easy to see why. But at the same time, social media can seem like you’re marketing in an echo chamber. According to a Skyword survey, only 25% of marketers measure the ROI of their efforts down to the actual piece of content.

Most just seem to measure activity (likes/comments) if they measure anything at all – and that’s not giving them the raw data they need to know what’s real discussion, and what’s just background noise.

social content survey

While nearly 50% of marketers surveyed had a content marketing plan – only 25% could accurately measure results down to the individual pieces of content.

What’s more, are people truly getting anything of value from the share itself (other than recognition from their friends/colleagues), or do they simply click and forget?

The Prediction:

I believe that in 2014, other content marketing avenues will overtake social media – including live events, case studies and (if companies can afford it), branded content tools. These things deliver much more value, brand awareness, backlinks and discussion than a simple social share – and in a marketing channel that’s already overcrowded, these tools present a chance for opportunistic businesses to approach customers from a newer, more helpful angle.

In addition, I predict that 2014 will see the rise of better measurement tools that don’t just track clicks and likes, but actual engagement in the form of discussion, shares across multiple platforms/channels, and actions as a result of those shares. Currently, it’s too cumbersome, expensive and time-consuming for a marketing team to micromanage the analytics for every single piece of content to see how it performed – so companies simply don’t invest in it.

Current Trend: How Brands Measure Success

content marketing metrics

According to the Content Marketing Institute study, most B2B companies measure success by the oldest internet metric in existence – traffic. But sheer numbers alone will only provide you with so much. Fortunately, sales lead quality ranks behind second, although it lags by almost 10%.

It’s difficult to measure intangible things like quality, but taking steps toward that goal, like creating personas for your target audience members, and matching those up with proper list segmentation can go a long way to putting a “face” with an interaction.

The Prediction:

This coming year, there will still be an emphasis on getting traffic, but many floundering websites are finally starting to wake up and smell the conversion coffee. Success will be measured according to the metrics that matter for that particular industry – whether it’s number of downloads, order volume, quality leads or a combination of those criteria.

Current Trend: What Type of Content is Created Most?

content marketing content

Industry Trends lead the way, with leadership profiles not far behind.

According to the chart above, content marketing focusing on industry trends are leading the way, with lesser degrees focusing on leadership profiles, company details, or even going so far as to try and play catch-up with competitors’ content. Industry trends could include breaking news, just-released software reviews, better practices or upcoming changes in the law or other facets of the business. Decision maker profiles could give readers a glimpse behind the scenes of the people who are leading the way in the aforementioned industry trends.

But if you look carefully at this chart – you’ll see that a lot of emphasis is placed on the company itself, industry methods, and people within the company.

STOP IT.

This is why most content marketing efforts are essentially spinning their wheels in the mud. Not a single one of these has anything to do with the real reason why people and businesses are consuming content:

Relevancy.

Keeping a finger on the pulse of news, learning about industry leaders and the companies they lead are all well and good – but none of these things get to the heard of what’s on every company and customer’s mind – What can this do for me?

The Prediction

In 2014, I’d expect to see this graph radically changed. Content needs to be tailored to fit the needs and unanswered questions of the target audience. Specifically:

  • Shift from industry news and trends to “Here’s how you can use these trends to grow your own business – and how our company can help.”
  • Exchange profiles of decision makers to focus on customer/company success stories – detailed case studies that show a marked, measurable result.
  • In place of company characteristics, ask “Why should I trust you? What can you offer me that no one else can?”

Tailoring content to where customers are in the buying cycle is a tried-and-true sales method, and I believe more and more marketing teams will take the time to properly engage their customers based on not only their place in the sales funnel, but their individual needs and expectations.

Again, we’re measuring many intangible, potentially unquantifiable things here – and it’s hard to pin down personalization and results into something as concrete as an analytical tool, but there’s no clearer route to earning a customer’s business, loyalty and trust.

At the same time, looking to a competitor’s content to see what steps to take is like the blind leading the blind. Do your own tests and use that data to understand what truly works for your website and your business.

Getting Ready for the Year Ahead

With all this information, how can you best prepare yourself for the year ahead?

  • Create your own Case Study – Not only is it a terrific resource for backlinks, but it also propels you on to becoming a recognized authority in your field.
  • Or Host a Live Event in Your Area – This is a great way to reach out to local businesses and entrepreneurs while sharing ideas and resources.
  • Look for Ways to Measure the Impact of Your Content Marketing – Not just in terms of raw numbers, but in the actions that occurred after the fact.
  • Refocus Content on the Consumer – Most content marketing is more marketing than content. How can consumers benefit from what you’re sharing? Why should they pay attention to it?

No One is Right Every Time

We may be completely blindsided by a new technology that brings us even closer to that marketing sweet-spot of connecting with buyers and persuading them to act. Until then, however, content marketing is one of the best ways to encourage engagement and interaction. We’ll look back at this article this time next year and see how right (or wrong) these predictions turned out to be!

Share Your Content Marketing Predictions for 2014!

Where do you think content marketing is headed? Share your own predictions in the comments!

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at iElectrify.com and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today!

  1. Don’t ignore games/gamification as a tactic. Sure it’s only used by 10% of organizations right now but those organizations are creating some epic things especially in the B2C world.

    • Personally, I love gameification and the whole idea of making business fun. I can see that a lot of companies aren’t on board yet simply because of the expense and no real idea of they’ll see any ROI from it. Still, I’d hope that there would be systems out there available in 2014 that could make it easier for even small businesses to take advantage of this trend.

  2. I like the idea about shifting from industry news to “how to” and case studies! I think this is what and how people search, so it will be also good for seo.
    Thanks for the article!

  3. Hey Sherice
    Very thorough coverage as usual.
    Of course things are always changing and 2014 will be no exception.
    Content is king, but that we need to concentrate more on the right metrics like conversion is an intelligent point. Sheer numbers do not mean we can stay in business. So we have to focus on the right numbers. And business is starting to do just that
    have a great day
    ashley

  4. These are great insights. I would add another prediction: native advertising, i.e. distributing content in context of editorial content or social feeds, will become a key component of content marketers in 2014.

    Why?

    1) Everyone creates content, so getting attention, at scale, is increasingly difficult. With a native advertising solution (such as Taboola or LinkedIn sponsored updates), you can expose your content to masses of targeted consumers.

    2) With native advertising you can accurately predict and measure content ROI, something that’s very much in line with your observation.

    Ran.

  5. “..many floundering websites are finally starting to wake up and smell the conversion coffee.”

    This. This opens up doors for a entire flock of people who have the skills and talent to help these businesses. Many older businesses are searching for the “missing piece” but are falling behind rapidly.. The main problem? They don’t know what they want.. They need experts to TELL them what they want.

    That is opportunity knocking, young whippersnappers who want to make a buck.

    • This is exactly the type of work that I do! I realize that so many people either look at websites as a) an overly-technical vehicle to get them sales or b) one more channel in their advertising system — and while both of those have some kernel of truth to them, a website is so much more than that.

      So I try to focus on letting people know where their visitors are slipping through the cracks, and how to prevent those “leaks” so that they can make more sales and build stronger relationships with their customer base.

  6. Hi Sherice

    Great post, and certainly agree with a lot of the points here. I think some brands will definitely need convincing that web traffic is not the golden ticket. Content and conversions need to have closer ties as well, so that marketers can measure the types of content that are generating the most sales/leads. We have come some way in doing this, but there’s certainly further steps to be taken.

    It is interesting to see how much content is being created around industry trends. As you said, this does need to change and instead an emphasis should be on creating content that is valuable to the user.

  7. It’ll pretty much be the same, I should think, with just a few new Google announcements along the way. Certainly nothing to panic insanely about. Keep your good content coming out and get yourself signed up to Google+ in full – this is the most important thing for any blogger. Innit.

  8. I’m overly saddened to see SEO rankings in top 5 metrics through which success is measured. Unfortunatelly, I still see this in the case of many of our clients. Even if the organic traffic increased in the meantime (through relevant keywords) and sales weren’t impacted, some clients are still mad if some positions have been lost in Google. Additionally, in today’s personalized SERPs, how do you report rankings accurately anyway? Google Webmaster Tools’ average position could be useful in this case, but if even if we don’t take into consideration that the data sometimes turned out to be questiobale, for an average position of 20 for example – it cannot be the same for the client if half of the users see the organic listing on the 1st position and half saw it on the 40th position; or if all the users saw it on the 20th position. Any thoughts?

  9. Very interesting stats. It will be interesting to see what plays out in 2014.

  10. The Crux of the Content is the Customer is the God so Customize)

    Regards

    Pankaj Kumar

  11. I think authorship and content marketing is what will provide the best results in 2014.

  12. 27 MILLION pieces of content are shared every day? That’s scary.

    Even scarier to see from the graph that so many companies are still self-obsessed, with so much content being created about the company itself.

    I love your tip “Refocus Content on the Consumer” — yes, WIIFM, What’s In It For Me is the foundation of conversions.

    Thanks for the useful article; lots to think about.

  13. When content marketing becomes more personalized, the ability to calculate the improvement of lifetime customer value, reduce customer acquisition costs and – perhaps more importantly – measure the monetary value of each customer engaging with each item of content will become much more realizable.

  14. Good stuff. Love the continued drive towards effectiveness metrics within Content Marketing.

    Our take on this is to provide detailed content marketing analytics in the form of audience/segment/individual-level interest graphs, showing the most engaged-with topics within the entire content marketing program. That is initially used as great insight, or can be modelled against customer value, or of course used by idio to personalize content across channels on a 1-2-1 basis.

    On an individual customer level, I’m sure everyone is frustrated with getting a report saying that Mr Joe Bloggs has clicked or read these 23 URLs (“what, now I have to click on each URL to work out what he is interested in?!”). So idio uses NLP to summarise the content described by that interaction data into an easily understandable interest graph: IE this individual is interested in Predictive Analytics a lot, Personalization a bit, and the field of Content Marketing generally.

    2013 was the year of Content Marketing. 2014 will be the year of Content Intelligence.

  15. Sherice,

    I’d love to see some *real* innovation with content marketing, particularly with: i) measuring conversions (not ‘engagement’) ii) personalization iii) content used for pre-targeting iv) content used for re-targeting v) content used for greater customer insight.

  16. I think something that should be considered in predicting the future of content marketing is repurposing. Content can go viral on the web and at times the information is picked up and regurgitated by a rewrite or retelling of the original release. A question I have is: “What is the value of having original content (or content first) as opposed to the value of second hand or expanded or repurposed information?”

    • I think there’s a time and a place for both types. The thing about content repurposing is that it shouldn’t just be limited to text — you can reach out and turn it into a tutorial/whiteboard video, PDF, slideshow, podcast, etc. so that it reaches a whole new audience!

  17. no doubt content is king and will remain the king in 2014 plus social media will be added in upcoming years.

  18. Pretty interesting information thanks alot

  19. This is really interesting, thank you!
    Are you doing a post for B2C businesses, too?

  20. Very interesting piece. While I know social media is a huge part of B2B, Im surprised to see that it is used by 87%. Thanks for this!

  21. Gotta heed those trends, especially on the “stop talking about yourself and start talking about the market and what it really wants” tip.

  22. I think it will change, maybe not very drastically, but it will change. Content marketing is progressing. I believe it will use social media even more aggressively as one of the most effective assets of inbound marketing.

  23. hi. Good day! i am carmi, i am conducting a research about the trends of marketing. could you please define what is “B2B”. thank you po!

  24. Great future of content marketing :)

  25. Nice trends & predictions for 2014 about content marketing :)

  26. Content promoting powers achievement in social networking advertising and is significant to numerous other advanced showcasing systems like SEO, SEM, Email promoting and CRO.

88 comments

Please use your real name when commenting. Otherwise, your comment may be deleted.

← Previous ArticleNext Article →
Buffer