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Content Marketing Predictions for 2012

February 20th, 2012 by

Content Marketing will continue to see explosive growth in 2012. However, that doesn’t mean that all the techniques and — let’s be frank — little tricks that we’ve been seeing will stick around. Better tools for tracking ROI (return on investment), and more sophistication in general, will mean more focus on what actually works. Here are my predictions for the rest of 2012:

1.) Content Curation may surface as the queen of content marketing, as noted a few weeks ago in one of my blog posts. The explosion in content marketing means more competition for eyeballs (even if you’re not an optometrist), so you’ll need to publish top-notch information to engage readers and keep them coming back for more. That in turn requires a content-marketing strategy — you can’t just crank out words — implemented by real editorial oversight. It also requires the effective use of technology — both to make your content marketing processes efficient, and to find out whether they’re even working. Look for new technologies to help in both these areas.

2.) Book Publishing. The Web first became popular in academia. In one way, we may see it come full circle and take on more of an academic feeling again — especially with Google now in charge. Publishing your own eBook or book (especially if it sells!) validates the authority of you and your company. (Well, not just any book; forget about War and Peace — it’s been done already. Trust me on this.) With help from businesses like LuLu, Blurb, and even our own LifeTips, it’s getting easier than ever to get your own ISBN (book serial number) along with the authority that comes with it.

3.) Likes are the New Links. Google’s original PageRank algorithm, first developed years ago, put us all into the mindset that link building would be the primary method for achieving top organic listings in the search engines. Enter Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other game changers. Google now uses them to better determine who’s hot and who’s not on the Web, and social media will only intensify as a key driver for “popularity validation” online. So it’s time to stop just talking about social media, and start developing actual strategies and campaigns to attract fans who love what you do — or, better yet, “Like” what you do, which can be more important!

4.) Crowdsourcing. Expect crowdsourcing to be a hot trend in 2012, with venture capital firms putting some real muscle behind it. The key for companies will be to find the right tasks to crowdsource that will help achieve specific content marketing goals. Just looking for suckers to do a lot of work for little money is not a viable crowdsourcing strategy. Personalized mass production can be a great resource — but be careful how you put the power of the masses to work for your business, because you do not want to get labeled as a spammer. (You also don’t want to get labeled as a bad golfer or a puppy hater, but we can’t help you with that.) Google’s investment in Trada, and the emergence of other innovative crowdsourcing models, confirms that this area is hot.

5.) Purple Papers. Let’s face it, we’re all tired of email blasts and other endless promotions for white papers that turn out to be boring. They need a face-lift! Look for better visuals, such as packing the papers with exciting infographics. Also expect white papers to become less abstract in other ways — for example, look for them to refer more specifically to the benefits of company products and services. (Yes, a little more sell-oriented. The horror!) In practice, better white papers means hiring better writers who are really storytellers, and who can put together purple papers (okay, insert your favorite color — it’s just a figure of speech, folks). In other words, these pieces should do more than inform and persuade — they ought to (at least somewhat) entertain. Also look for video, podcasts and other media to be increasingly embedded in online white papers.

6.) Editorial Calendars & Style Guides. Gathering ideas, developing stories, and publishing a steady stream of content that appeals to readers — that’s the approach that defines content marketing, and it’s spreading like wildfire. But if you ask me, companies are all over the place with both quantity and quality. That’s where the combination of an Editorial Calendar and Style Guide can play an important role. Map it all out, and you may have the plan to conquer the world. Just toss it all out, and you’ll have to leave the conquests to others. (True, we doubt Genghis Khan had a plan, but his empire didn’t last very long. Besides, who wants to drink mare’s milk?) Look for more content marketers to develop editorial calendars and style guides — although they may not all make them public.

7.) Contributing Writers. How excited would you be to have Seth Godin write an exclusive article about permission marketing on your blog? Never mind that — how excited would your readers be? Look for known authorities and/or celebrities to increasingly be engaged as contributing authors by content marketers. Sure, you’ll have to pay — but you were just going to waste the money on pizza and beer anyway, weren’t you?

8.) Social Becomes Conversation. Look for social media to find a clearer role within content marketing in the year ahead: listening to customers’ wants and needs, and addressing those needs in a more social way. The listening tools for social media will expand, often focusing on live conversations with customers in the social sphere. Such conversations can help turn browsers into believers, and believers into buyers. I also expect more contests inviting people to upload photos and videos to sites like Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube, showing customers interacting with branded products. Watch for companies of all sizes to leverage social-media management and monitoring tools such as HootSuite, SproutSocial and Radian6.

9.) Spring Cleaning. Okay, enough of the cheerful stuff. Life isn’t all roses, even if you’re a florist. Here are some things I expect to see fade in content marketing over the next year or two:

Unregulated user generated content.  Let’s face it, when you give the publishing steering wheel to the masses, bad stuff will happen. For example, parasites will continue to buzzkill sites that effectively display a Spam Welcome sign. (Those signs aren’t always obvious, but spammers have amazing eyesight.) AOL’s purchase last year of the Huffington Post, a model that relies on crowdsourcing for content creation, may have given more life to the concept — but my take is that the days of creating content for free or for low pay in return for online exposure are limited. Companies of all sizes will be eager to try such cheapo crowdsourcing to generate content. But in the end, I think this will phase out by the end of 2012, or sooner.

Cheap article distribution for link building. Look for Google to become more aggressive at down-listing sites that accept any old kind of crummy “articles” — you know, the ones that obviously exist solely to generate link popularity for the submitter and advertising for the host. It’s just a bad game, and Google’s on to it.

SEO budgets. Look for SEO expenditure to decrease in proportion to content creation and development. It’s all about the content these days, so I expect less expenditure on services that don’t deliver actual content assets. Of course SEO firms are not going away, but their roles will evolve quickly — for example, some are now forming partnerships with companies like WriterAccess that are closer to the core action.

Content aggregation and syndication. As I said, content curation will remain hot, but content aggregation and online syndication will lose ground. With the release of the Google Panda Farmer algorithm changes last year, the practice of simply aggregating links and republishing content gathered from across the Web will become much less common. Such tactics have simply lost much of their usefulness to website owners and businesses.

Old-school marketing in social media. Brands publishing content in a manner similar to media companies will be hot in 2012, but using the social Web for traditional marketing is out. More companies are beginning to understand that social media sites and tools aren’t the place for their usual marketing pitches. Instead, they’re learning that they need to think like publishers, not marketers, to connect their brands with today’s online audiences. In the year ahead, informative editorial material (with, in some cases, a modest amount of embedded marketing information) will define branded content online. Look for brands to use more video and mobile-friendly content, too, in response to the growing number of smartphones and tablets.

Isolated marketing tactics.
 Fragmented silo marketing is out in 2012. Complete marketing integration is in.

Dry blog posts.
 I’m planning to crack more jokes in my blog posts this coming year. Okay, that’s not a serious tip. Forget I said that.

Bottom Lines:

There’s never been a more pivotal year for companies to take off their blinders and fully mesh all aspects of their marketing — online and offline, traditional and social.

All marketing initiatives in 2012 should feed off one another, surrounding consumers with content and experiences from which they can select how they want to interact with the brand. Whether Facebook contests, mobile campaigns or simply in-store signage, all roads should lead back to a single brand promise and a central online destination, such as a company website or blog.

Content marketing will continue to evolve. Stay focused on the trends described above, and you’ll have a solid foundation from which to adapt to the inevitable changes.

2 Responses to “Content Marketing Predictions for 2012”

  1. Trish says:

    I think you’re right on target with your 2012 predictions! Thanks for including Radian6.

    All the best,
    Trish | Community Manager, @Radian6

  2. Maximina Guzzi says:

    I’ve read some excellent stuff here. Definitely worth bookmarking for revisiting. I wonder how so much effort you put to create any such excellent informative web site.

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