2020 transformed the way content and digital experiences keep people engaged. Brands have the opportunity to use content to create more meaningful connections with their audiences. During our first webinar of the year, we invited a panel of industry leaders to share their perspectives on content marketing trends, how they’re preparing for the year ahead, and predictions for 2021.
Time online shot up during 2020, turning people into more savvy and sophisticated content consumers. In 2021, brands will need to hone their skills and create content that caters for today’s more discerning audiences.
Our recent webinar—Content Publishing Trends in 2021 and Beyond—explored some of the changing market dynamics and what they mean for brands.
COVID-19 forced millions of people into more remote working and lifestyle patterns. This change increased their reliance on digital technology and pushed demand for online information and entertainment.
This was one of the key trends highlighted in our webinar and it looks set to continue over the coming months.
In 2020 a lot of companies were looking to engage with their workforces who had suddenly become remote. We saw what used to be a boring intranet grow and evolve into more of a communications and culture platform, publishing news and updates to employees. Companies are also using these portals to foster a sense of community with their employees.
As people spent more time online, they also began to explore and consume different types of content.
Making this point, panelist Tracey Harrington McCoy, Founder of Written by Media, says: "None of us expected to be stuck in our houses as much as we were in 2020. That led to people spending a lot more time online and there were huge increases in live streaming. Lots of publications and lots of businesses—big and small—really went to town with that."
Other forms of content such as email and longform also got a shot in the arm, as consumers had more time to engage with them.
And there was a growing appetite to try something new. "Podcasting exploded in 2020," says Harrington McCoy. "A lot of different magazines, online publications and businesses tip-toed into podcasting last year to see if it worked, and for many it did."
As an example, she cites 'Nice White Parents', which is a podcast launched last year by The New York Times. She says it simply, “took off.”
Looking ahead, can brands afford not to have a podcast in their content portfolio? That will be up to each organization to consider for themselves, but it is an area packed with potential.
Whatever type of content you publish, audiences in 2021 will expect it to be increasingly bespoke.
Webinar panelist Meredith Rodkey, Brightspot Product VP, puts it well when she says: “It used to be exciting if the subject line was personalized with your first name, but we are way past that. We expect personalization to be omnichannel and to get consistent messaging across all our interactions with a brand.”
The trend towards personalization will continue during 2021 and a big part of that will be around the subject matter on which brands focus. Do not be afraid to show off your expertise and go niche.
Shashi Bellamkonda, VP of Marketing at Leap, and Professor at Georgetown University, says brands need to let their customers own their positioning if they want content to resonate.
It is very important for brands to own their own content rather than just outsource it to multiple channels. You need to build highways back to your content. I think that was very evident in 2020.
Rodkey develops the points and adds: "When people are reading about and researching a service or product, being in front of them at that specific point in their customer journey is really powerful."
So, instead of worrying your content might not appeal to everyone, make sure it really hits the mark with your target audience. Going granular is good. This tailored and specialist approach will add authenticity to your content and help you stand out in the busy online environment.
The focus on quality extends to the look and feel of your content. Investing in hardware and software will quickly increase the quality of your output. It reflects who you are as a brand and today’s more sophisticated audience will notice the difference, observes says Harrington McCoy.
Even if you’re making homegrown video on mobile, there are apps that add an extra layer of polish. Take advantage of the developing tools at your disposal.
Invest in good equipment for your live streaming. Buy the nicer camera, invest in the software that is going to let you video mix… up the polish and up the game across the board—it is something the audience notices.
As brands evolve their output, the move to more remote and more flexible working patterns has increased the demand for mobile content creation capabilities.
Whether it is a realtor videoing a property, or a news reporter in the field writing and filing a story, there is an upward trend for brands to be able to use their CMS on mobile devices. This capability will enhance your corporate performance and improve how you service clients and customers.
Assessing the different CMS options in the market and how they can help you deliver an effective content creation and publication strategy will be key to setting you apart from competitors.
Wherever and however you create your content, there’s an ongoing shift towards sweating more out of each asset. Brands are experimenting with different formats on different channels and platforms.
"I love watching video content being pulled out of its native channel to be used elsewhere,” says Marcy Massura, Brightspot CMO. “It is great to see TikTok video on Twitter, Facebook or a website. We are seeing content smoothing out and becoming platform agnostic."
And that same fluidity extends to the audience demographics normally ascribed to different platforms. It is becoming more difficult to categorize who is consuming content where, and while this creates challenges, it also offers opportunities.
Massura adds: "B2B brands should experiment with putting content on platforms that have traditionally been seen as consumer platforms. They might be surprised by who is there."