I’ve never considered myself particularly trendy. Usually, I’m the gal that jumps on a fashion trend about the time it makes its way to Target — when the real fashionistas have long since moved on — and starts using a slang word around the same time your grandparents do. I gravitate toward more classic styles for my hair, my wardrobe, my home, because then I’m fairly confident I won’t get laughed out of existence when I show up at a party looking so last year.
(This may be a defense mechanism born from junior high…)
But what’s interesting is that I’m also an innovator. I love to be on the front lines of what’s new and what’s next — whether I’m ready to adopt it or not is another thing entirely, but I want to know about it. And furthermore, I want to be creating it.
So business trends? Not really my jam. I’m not really interested in jumping on any bandwagons.
Yet I understand the importance of knowing what’s going on in the zeitgeist — not so that I can follow it blindly, but so that I can make a conscious decision about whether to follow it or dissent.
This year, I decided to ask some of the smartest people I know what’s next for them in their business when it comes to content. What will they be doing, where will they be focusing their energy. And from these fascinating conversations, I was able to draw some interesting conclusions about what’s new and what’s next in content trends for 2017.
Unique Perspective in Your Content
Every couple of weeks, I get a notification of a trackback or pingback on one of my posts and I follow it to discover some other site has posted a blog post of mine in its entirety — without asking my permission. And these are only the ones I know about, that have done me the (dubious) courtesy of a backlink.
These sites scrape content from more reputable sources and use it to their own ends — usually making money off advertising on the site. Barely better are those who employ content farms to create their content for them, paying mere pennies for a writer to cobble something together quickly by all but plagiarizing other people’s original work. Take Buzzfeed’s clickbait that simply rounds up memes or photos or jokes by others into a single post; they give credit where they can, but it’s not original content in any way.
“I think content fatigue is going to become a huge problem for anyone who doesn’t create truly great content. Too much ‘more of the same’ will result in readers reading ‘none of the above.'” — Rob Marsh
People are not going to stop scraping content. They’re not going to stop paying $5 a post for something that’s been rehashed from the top hits on Google.
But my feeling is that readers are getting savvier.
Readers are tired of the rehash. With the cultural awareness of “fake news” on the rise, readers (at least in my circle) are educating themselves and conditioning themselves to look at the source of their content. I think this will bleed over into other content that’s not strictly news or journalism.
“Provide an analysis, a frame, a perspective, a distinct point of view. Say what matters not what’s popular. This is leadership.” — Kelly Diels
I was honored to be a guest on a new podcast, The Copywriter Club, recently and the hosts, Rob Marsh and Kira Hug, asked me how I went about becoming a thought leader in my space. I’ll admit, the question took me aback a little bit (because I don’t tend to think of myself as Internet famous), but once I thought about it, I think the answer is that I put myself, my perspective, my analysis into my content.
Are other people talking about blogging for business? Absolutely. Are they talking about writing voice, editorial calendars, sales cycles, etc., etc., etc.? Of course. The difference is that I write about these topics through the lens of my own perspective and expertise.
One question I get asked often is what to do when you feel like everything’s already been talked/written about in your niche, and this is the answer: Write about the same topics, but from your distinct point of view.
Live and Expiring Content
Facebook Live, Periscope, Stories on Instagram, Snapchat — what all these channels have in common is that the content has an expiration date.
This flies in the face of conventional thought when it comes to content, in some ways. When we write articles, blog posts, websites, the hope is that many people will have the opportunity to find it and see it. And putting an expiration date on that content effectively limits the number of people who can or will see it.
But what you get in exchange is content that has a built-in urgency factor and a feeling of exclusivity.
“I do feel as though there is going to be a shift with Facebook LIVES where they will have multiple users at once. I know that Facebook mentioned they are going to do a split screen, for two people to speak with each other on Facebook LIVES already. But, I feel as though there will be multiple people being able to speak at the same time. These will be great for integration (sort of like webinars) where you can lead or direct people into a free video series/some sort of funnel.” — Lindsay Marino
The important thing to remember here is that these new media channels can’t be treated as a gimmick — not if you want to see business results. You have to integrate them into your business strategy as Lindsay suggests to create not just value for your business, but for the customer as well.
I think people often approach this kind of content with a shoot-from-the-hip attitude. They think that because it’s live or spontaneous, it doesn’t deserve to be planned out or integrated into a bigger content strategy, but I disagree. I think even if the content itself is spontaneous — as in, not scripted word-for-word — the purpose of it should be planned and understood.
Otherwise, you’re just another fad.
Segmentation and Personalization
Last year I wrote about adaptive content — the idea of delivering the perfect piece of content (or the perfect format for that content) for each reader. Mostly I was talking about how a small business can adapt content to multiple channels — say, your blog, Facebook page, Instagram, podcast, SlideShare, etc.
And that’s still important. But this year, I think you should take it a step farther.
“Content needs to play a part in attracting specific sub-avatars and starting them on a path/experience with your business that is highly resonant and relevant because attention is just getting more and more scarce. Businesses need to think more carefully about the ‘conversation’ they are having with someone end-to-end (content –> lead magnet –> follow up –> product offer –> next follow up). The entire chain needs to be far more relevant and resonant now.” — Jason Van Orden
With modern email systems, it’s easy to tag subscribers based on actions they’ve taken, or not taken, which can indicate their interests and preferences, as well as their readiness to buy. I tried this with my own list somewhat last year; certain people on my list got different emails based on whether or not they’d clicked a link, opted in to an interest list, etc.
But it can go well beyond emails. And I think you’ll see savvy marketers segmenting all kinds of content this year.
“As marketers segment their lists, I see an increase of content that speaks directly to that niche audience (ie: four versions of one sales page).” — Kira Hug
“More bespoke webinars in the form of high quality training will do better.”— Gemma Went
These predictions are based on the idea that niching down would result in more of the right kinds of customers and make those customers happier. Imagine having three or four different customer avatars and, rather than choosing one to focus on for a particular product or page, you could create different funnels for each, with slightly different copy for the Facebook ads that draw in the leads, the landing page, the email sequence, and the sales page.
Alternatively, it may mean that only a segment of your list — the ones who are most primed and ready to buy what you’re offering — ever see a particular sales message. One of my mentors, Tara Gentile, told her community that she has done this on her last few launches with great effect.
“It’s no longer about the size of your email list. It’s all about how engaged they are.” — Arielle Hale
This means that rather than showing an offer to tens of thousands of people on her list, Tara was showing the offer to only, maybe, a few thousand that expressed interest. Yet she sold out programs faster than ever before, because these people were highly engaged and interested in what she had to sell.
“Interactive content is going to grow in popularity. For businesses: it creates more customer touch points and allows you to collect a lot more information about readers/users. For readers/users: it’s lower commitment than reading a huge piece of content (or watching a lengthy video, or listening to a long podcast, etc.), it’s FUN, and the payoff is immediate.” — Jessica Mehring
Just within my own circle of friends and colleagues, I’ve seen people in very different business niches — B2B and B2C — have great success with interactive content.
I think that’s because interactive content combines personalization, a live element, and a unique perspective. Rather than simply telling someone that they might like to go on an adventure vacation or what kind of project management software they might like best, you can let them find it out for themselves — through a quiz, an interactive infographic, a calculator, or similar.
I tried this with my 201 Business Blog Topics opt-in last year; the download is just a simple spreadsheet, but it’s one that people can edit and sort to customize and make it their own — making it much more useful than an ordinary list.
Other colleagues are using it to engage potential customers and move them into segments. Megan Roop of Quiet Adventures, designed a quiz to help women decide “what kind of adventurer” they are — and whether or not the quiet adventures program is right for them. Based on their answers, they get a customized email sequence afterward, giving them the information they personally need to make a decision about Megan’s programs.
Interactive content is a great way to combine several of the other trends we’ve mentioned into one strong suite of content.
The biggest “trend” for me this year, may not really be a trend at all. Instead, it’s more of a mindset. When I took Sally Hogshead’s Brand Fascination Advantage test, my brand fascination is Innovation. I like to be on the leading edge, trying new things, experimenting, reporting back on what works and what doesn’t. My friend Michelle Warner put a great name to this:
“I’m also thinking a lot about pattern interrupting these days. Instead of trying to find the next big thing — how can you tweak what’s always worked to make it stand out from the noise? So how can you show up in unexpected ways in expected places, or in expected ways in unexpected places? Think about that and you understand the draw of Facebook live, smart segments and retargeting, etc – > all a lot easier to pull off than coming up with brand new ideas.” — Michelle Warner
Genius. Instead of trying to create a trend, we look at what’s working and flip it sideways, turn it on its head, dip it in glitter, do it backwards.
It’s not about having to come up with something completely new; it’s about putting your own spin on something that already exists. Think about some of the biggest pattern interruptors of the last few years: Airbnb, Uber, Snapchat. Each took something that already existed (rooms for rent, taxi services, social media) and put a new spin on it — to outstanding results.
And that’s really what all of these trends we’re naming here today are doing as well. Because, in truth, everything comes back to content, and content doesn’t change. Whether you’re creating content for a print advertisement in a newspaper, a sales letter mailed directly to someone’s home, a website, a blog, a newsletter, a podcast, a Facebook live video, an Instagram story, a quiz or something else we haven’t even imagined yet, it’s still content.
And all the same rules of good content still apply.