7 Content Marketing Predictions For The Rest Of 2016

We’re closing in on halfway through the year already, so as marketers, it’s time to stop, check our progress, and reevaluate where we’re headed for the rest of the year. About six months ago, I made a number of predictions about how 2016 would develop—including the importance of visual marketing, and some crucial statistics about content marketing in general.

Now that I’ve seen how the year has started to develop, and how our collective expectations as marketers have been fulfilled or reversed in some cases, I can make the following statements about how content marketing will develop in the back half of the year:

1. Live, streaming content will skyrocket in popularity.

Live content is already on an upward trajectory, but it hasn’t quite “taken off” yet. Apps like Meerkat and Periscope have achieved respectable numbers and tapped into target niches, but the real measure of the “live feed” phenomenon is how it’s going to be accepted on Facebook which recently launched its own live streaming feature for user videos. So far, user adoption has been moderate, but I suspect that by the end of the year, more users will be demanding this type of content, and more brands will be willing to provide it—at least the savvy ones.

2. Personal authority will become more important.

Content marketing has worked well for corporate brands for a while now, but users are gravitating more and more toward personal brands, which are able to provide a more human presence. Personal brands are more trustworthy, more approachable, and have more flexibility than corporate brands—customer reviews and testimonials are rising in importance in a corresponding growth pattern, and as content marketing competition heats up even further, that personal appeal is soon going to be irreplaceable. If you don’t already have the power of personal brands working for your corporate hub, it’s time to upgrade.

3. Vertical videos will start catching on.

SnapChat was one of the first brands to try and popularize the “vertical” video format, forcing brands to develop unconventional vertical content to avoid disrupting the average user’s mobile experience. It was a polarizing move when they made it just a few months ago, but already, other social platforms are starting to follow in SnapChat’s footsteps. Mobile users detest flipping their phones from vertical to horizontal, so don’t be surprised if more vertical content opportunities start paying off in the near future—with social apps ready to propagate those opportunities.

4. VR won’t catch on—quite yet.

I may be in the minority on this one, since Oculus Rift’s debut earlier this year has been heralded as the catalyst for a VR revolution. True, the device has gotten good reviews, and already, brands are starting to develop content for it, but even Facebook has admitted that sales for the device will probably be lukewarm in 2016. Well-developed though it may be, VR is still in its infancy, and most people aren’t ready for that level of an immersive experience. Personally, as an owner of an Oculus Rift and also an HTC Vive, I’m impressed with the initial experience of VR, but not intrigued enough to use it regularly (the graphics need to improve significantly, and motion sickness issues need to be ironed out). I do think VR represents a powerful and exciting future vision for content (and content marketing), but for the rest of 2016, you probably won’t have to worry about it.

5. More brands will utilize user-generated content.

I’ve been an advocate of user-generated content for a long time, but the vast majority of brands still haven’t tapped into its potential. On paper, the idea is flawless; get your customers to create content for you. Not only does it make them more engaged with your brand, earning you higher acquisition and retention rates, it also supplies you with free—or nearly free—content! Amazon is doing it especially well already with customer reviews and Q&A. I expect to see more brands catch onto this trend by the end of the year, especially with individualistic apps like Instagram and SnapChat starting to get more attention and respect in the marketing community.

6. Storytelling will take shape in new ways.

Content marketers have been pushing “storytelling” as a landmark feature of successful content development; tell the story of your brand, tell the story of your customer, or tell some metaphor or anecdote to get your point across. Only now, storytelling is starting to take more abstract forms. Stories can be told with emojis. They can be told with single images, lasting only temporarily. They can be told through an interactive experience. There are tons of new ways to “tell stories,” and there will be massive rewards for the leading brands who figure this out.

7. Budgets will increase all-around.

Okay, for this one, I cheated a little bit. My prediction here isn’t based on speculation or trend-watching, but on the actual answers given by fellow marketers. Recently, I published the 2016 What Works in Online Marketing survey, and after calculating the responses of about 350 marketers, the trend is clear: marketers are increasing their content marketing budgets. In fact, most marketers are increasing their budgets in a number of areas, including SEO and social media marketing, two highly related strategies. Is this rising optimism? Higher average ROIs? Excitement about new content-focused technologies? It’s hard to say exactly, but the bottom line is that more people will spend more money on content marketing before the year is out.

Six months doesn’t seem like a long time, but remember, all it takes is one search engine update or one immensely popular mobile app to disrupt an entire strategic approach. Accordingly, I have faith most of my predictions will ring true—more or less—but there’s no way for anyone to always accurately predict everything. As always, your best course of action is to make preparations for how you think the course of marketing is going to develop, but remain on your toes for any sudden changes you didn’t see coming.