Businessman conducting marketing research on laptop
Some transformations that reshaped content marketing during the height of the pandemic were likely to happen eventually anyway. Key technology-powered activities, such as remote learning and working, telemedicine, streaming entertainment and online shopping, were already on the rise. The pandemic simply triggered a massive acceleration of those trends.
Other transformations, though, we were as unprepared for as we were for the global pandemic itself. People worried about their health and safety experienced a huge shift in priorities. What had seemed enormously important to them before the pandemic moved to the bottom of their lists. This shift prompted a sea change in purchasing decisions, accompanied by a downturn in discretionary spending.
Brands jumped on opportunities to reach a literally captive audience with a proliferation of content. Many efforts were knee-jerk reactions as marketers hoped to take advantage of circumstances to reach new readers. Like many other things during the pandemic, content was created on the fly.
Now that the worst seems to be behind us, brands are examining content strategies that will succeed in a changed world. Although the major lesson learned has been that we really do not know exactly what to anticipate, here are three content marketing trends brands can expect.
A universal key to survival during the pandemic was the ability to pivot. Some brands did this in major ways, such as distilleries making hand sanitizer. Others did it in smaller ways, like restaurants and retailers offering curbside pickup.
Brands had to pivot their content as well. Prior to the pandemic, brands largely focused on telling customers what they wanted them to know about their products. Brands knew what problems customers had, and their content told them how their products could solve them.
To survive once the pandemic arrived, brands had to start listening to the cacophony of customer concerns, some as novel as the virus itself. Customers demanded that content be about them, not products, and that it empathize with their situation. Brands had to respond with authentic concern, offering customers value devoid of even a hint of self-serving opportunism.
Completely reassessing consumer needs and adjusting content marketing strategies accordingly required tremendous agility then and will continue to in 2022. Brands will need to identify pivot triggers and devise processes for making those pivots in content strategy smoothly midstream. Choppy changes were acceptable during the pandemic; they won’t be in the future.
In a climate of wariness on all issues, consumers are spending their money only with brands they trust. Earning that trust requires sharing content that is timely, easily accessible and honest. In a world of constant and unknowable change, content marketing strategies will need to remain both nimble and responsive.
Great content isn’t just creative. It’s informed. As more and more content is pushed out into the world, readers will find the kind that relies on data and analytics. The rest will disappear into obscurity. Brands can no longer afford to throw out content and see what sticks, or worse, not find out what stuck at all.
Data, not the marketing team’s hunch of the week, should guide a brand’s content. Remember that customers now want content to be about them. Creating targeted and strategic content that connects with the right readers in the right places requires data. It also requires analytics to determine how effective the content was after it was distributed.
Brands must look at key indicators by channel, such as traffic, engagement, and conversion rates. They need to track changing motivations for purchasing decisions and watch for shifting priorities so they can adjust their content to keep it relevant time after time.
That said, analytics must take a holistic view of content performance, or brands risk misinterpreting their data. For example, a high-quality piece of content should be given a reasonable amount of time to gain an audience, not get yanked after a matter of days. First-day metrics will change, so brands should resist the temptation to keep revising content every time they review the most recent data.
Consumers have returned to the basics, but that doesn’t mean they’ve gone old school. They’re embracing new technology, and brands will need to get on board in 2022 if they haven’t already. What makes content relevant to consumers has changed, and so has the way they’re accessing it.
As households upgraded their tech during the pandemic, many added virtual assistant devices. They’re increasingly using voice search instead of typing queries into search engines. Verbal queries tend to comprise long-tail keywords because that’s how people speak. That means brands need to optimize their content for long-tail searches, or they won’t be found.
AI tech like chatbots don’t provide just an opportunity to free up employees while providing great customer service. They can also enhance the customer’s experience by pulling up evergreen content relevant to them. Moreover, a well-designed chatbot used for more than just a website’s homepage brands content across every channel used.
Then there are podcasts. Consumers weary of massive amounts of screen time are turning to audio instead. In just three years, the percentage of U.S. adult podcast listeners has increased more than 40%. It’s another promising channel for brands, but they’ll need to create engaging and relevant content that’s easy on the ears.
As more distribution channels emerge, brands face greater challenges in optimizing and managing them. Fortunately, there’s a wealth of content tools out there to help. So brands have no excuse for not taking advantage of new avenues to reach their customers and widen their influence.
Will life someday look like life prior to the pandemic? No one knows, and that’s the point. What we do know is that in 2022, brands will need an agile content marketing strategy that makes full use of emerging technologies and analytics to drive it. Brands that do will stay relevant, credible and trustworthy, no matter what the world throws at them.