Over the past 18 months, the pace of change in the content sector has accelerated dramatically. The challenge for professionals in this space is to keep on top of these developments.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced individuals and organizations to ramp up their digital activity and boosted everyone's focus on how they engage with each other online.
In our latest webinar—Content Trends in 2022 and Beyond—Cassandra Jowett, Senior Director of Marketing at PathFactor, and Rob Irvine, VP of Content here at Brightspot, chew over the changes and look at what’s heading your way in the year ahead.
How organizations tell their story has always been at the heart of content creation and delivery. Recently, the need for content to engage on a more personal level and bring people together has become a real priority.
This is something Rob has noticed. He says: "We’re coming out of a pandemic and I think that changed a lot of people's approach to storytelling and content development. We saw, especially with our brand customers, that people are seeking the comfort of community in their content and some of that is reflected in voice and tone and a more conversational approach."
Giving a practical example, he says that instead of talking about a scientific advancement or a new software development, organizations might profile the scientist or developer and delve into what makes the subject so important to them.
It takes a lot of content to make a really good, personalized experience and it is important to know that when you set out on that path because the moment you annoy somebody by not being aligned with their interests you may lose them.
Audiences still find out about the discovery or development—they just get the information in a more personal way.
Cassandra also feels audiences have a longer attention span than they're often given credit for and won't always move on after a matter of minutes or even seconds.
She says: "I think there are more distractions out there, both in terms of entertainment options and professional commitments and communications. But across millions of sessions, we actually saw the average session time increase by 46% from 2020 to 2021."
To earn the right to engage with audiences for longer, she says organizations have to continually serve up relevant and personalized content.
There has, in the past, been a desire to shepherd visitors through a digital experience, but this is changing.
Cassandra says: "I think we have to admit that we can no longer control the journey. A lot of website management in the past has been about starting in a certain place and moving visitors on in sequence. That’s just not what people are looking for."
Instead, they want the freedom to roam and to continually receive content that’s relevant to where they are in the buyer or customer journey. Visitors don’t tend to arrive at websites by accident and so Cassandra says they want content recommendations that are right for them in that moment.
It’s a tough ask, but if organizations get it right, they’ll quickly develop stronger relationships with their customers.
Changes in distribution
The physical restrictions created by the pandemic drove organizations to focus on their corporate websites and to increase their investment in the content they carried.
Nowadays there is no one-size-fits-all for content. "There is content that meets different targets," Brightspot's Rob Irvine notes. "We use eBooks and white papers to establish a point of view on our industry and the benefits of our product. It allows us to feature the smart people who work in our organization and to give them a voice as the experts behind what we do. It also lets us personalize our content."
"Articles are the workhorse product and let us react quickly," he adds, "Whereas videos might take a little longer."
The pandemic generated a massive jump in the number of webinars produced as in-person meetings and events were put on hold. But even as restrictions have eased, there’s a desire to maintain the volume of webinar output.
This channel delivers high engagement times and can be edited, repurposed and distributed across multiple channels. It's an area that will see ongoing focus in the months ahead.
Impact of audio and visual
Discussing the rise in audio and visual content, Rob says: "I think for all of the customers I work closely with, video is central to their content plans for this year and next year."
Whether it’s longer-form webinars or short video snippets for social, video is an increasingly important medium. But it comes at a price and so getting the best value out of it is important.
"Video is typically the most expensive type of content to create and it’s often the highest-effort content to male, so I’m always looking for shortcuts," Cassandra says. "How can we use videos that we have, that maybe aren’t seen as typical videos, and turn them into something more consumable? You might take a webinar that is 45 minutes long and condense it down into something that’s a bit more digestible."
She also says that although audio and podcasts have gained significant traction in the B2C space, they have yet to make their mark in terms of B2B penetration.
"I think podcasts and that type of audio content is not something that B2B folks are prioritizing yet," she notes. "Although we are seeing a few companies dip their toes into the water with podcasts in the B2B space and there’s a lot of expert commentary that could be shared. Maybe we will see that increase in 2022."
Visitors who interact with dynamic content recommendations that are based on what they have consumed in the past and where they are at with your business, have about four times more views per session and five times longer sessions than those who do not interact with those recommendations.
Personalization is a topic that our panelists could have spent the whole webinar on, and it has moved beyond segmentation, which is an entry-level requirement for any organization that takes its content delivery seriously.
Cassandra says: "It’s less who do we think you are, and where do we think you’re coming from, and more we’re going to deliver personal recommendations to you based on what you have engaged with in the past and maybe what other people, who are like you, are consuming."
She also believes it’s an area where technology has a major part to play. She adds: "I think we have to relinquish control a little bit and trust that there’s powerful technology that we can leverage to personalize at scale and in a way that we can’t possibly do as marketeers.
"It would just be impossible to create those personalized journeys for every single visitor so can you leverage things like AI and machine learning and high-quality engagement data to do that kind of stuff?"
In whatever way organizations use content to engage with their audiences, both Cassandra and Rob are very clear on the need to first outline exactly what they want a piece of content to achieve and then to measure its performance.
Rob says: "For Brightspot.com, we are applying a cost-per-article metric to compare how it performs against the expected return and that makes it easier for us to do more of the content that is producing the results we want and less of the content that’s not."
The bottom line is that everyone needs to get a return on their spend and so making sure the right metrics and analytics are in place is imperative.
Winding up the webinar, our panelists looked to the future. One area of focus will be the banks of content that organizations already have.
"Most organizations now have thousands and thousands of content assets and some of it might still be effective and relevant to the business," Cassandra says. "We have to find ways of understanding that and leverage it."
"In the past, I’ve always had to complete manual content audits and create manual content maps to see where gaps exist," she continues. "But as technology evolves you can look at a company’s entire content inventory and start to dig into that data and understand things."
And offering a more general focus for content teams to keep in mind in the months ahead, Rob concludes: "Be helpful and create content that solves a problem. If you care for your audience, your readers and their needs, then they will care for your business.”
For all the views on tomorrow’s content trends, watch the webinar.