It’s been another exciting year in the world of content marketing.  In fact, we learned so much in 2017 that we had to make this into a two-part series to cover it all!

What happened in part one of our key content marketing takeaways?  Well, you’ll have to check it out here to get the full scoop. 

To give you a teaser (is it a teaser if it’s already published?), we talked about Patagonia taking a big content marketing risk, the battle between short and long-form content, and how smaller brands are flexing their video marketing muscle.

Read through part one, then hurry back here for the rest of our key content marketing takeaways.  Or, you can do it out of order.  We won’t stop you.

Ready for your next round of key takeaways from the year in content marketing?  Here are some additional most valuable takeaways from this year:

Expand Your Visual Content Beyond Video

By now, everyone knows that video is an important part of any effective content marketing strategy.  According to Cisco, video is predicted to make up 82 percent of all IP consumer traffic by 2121.

As impressive as this sounds, it’s important for brands to remember that video isn’t the end-all, be-all for visual content.  Don’t be afraid to switch things up and find new ways to engage your audience!

For instance, a company presentation can be shared using SlideShare, driving valuable B2B leads for brands.  Charts could be used on your blog to convey information in a new way.

The opportunities are endless here, but one of our favorites that we saw more of in 2017 is animated explainer videos.  This is a great way for brands to get creative and tell a more engaging story.

To see engaging animation in action, check out Spotify’s animated video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVHR1Ol7K5U

You can easily make your own animated explainer video using software such as GoAnimate or Moovly to create high-quality animations.  Then, you can begin experimenting with different marketing channels to see how your visual content performs and which channel provides the best ROI.

Quick word of advice:  Don’t forget to have a content distribution strategy in place before you go to all the trouble of making high-quality videos!  It would be a huge letdown to spend time and money creating content that never sees the light of day. 

(If you need help building a content distribution strategy and targeting the right audience, our experienced team at Storylift can help!  Get in touch with us here, or check out how we use advanced targeting technologies to help you target the right audience for your content.)

Once you know that your hard efforts won’t be wasted, creating visual content doesn’t seem nearly as daunting.  Additionally, the animation software I’ve mentioned both have user-friendly interfaces to make things easier!

Bad Data is Hurting Your Bottom Line

In case you didn’t notice, data is no longer a scarce commodity.  In recent years, the explosion of data has made it easier for large and small brands alike to deliver seamless online experiences and drive more sales.

Of course, this is only true if you’re using high-quality data.  Unfortunately, a recent survey found that most marketers have little confidence in their data quality.

Bad data is still a big problem for brands as we head into 2018.  According to HBR, companies lose an estimated $3.1 trillion per year from using bad data in their marketing.  Ouch!

To avoid losing valuable customers and sales with irrelevant messages, marketers must keep their databases clean with regular maintenance.  Although it isn’t a fun task, you will be rewarded once you see higher email opens, lower bounce rates, and increased engagement from your audience.

Customers Make for Powerful Storytellers

Content saturation is another growing problem for marketers in competitive niches.  To break through the noise, many brands have been tapping into the power of storytelling to connect with their audiences and grow meaningful relationships with customers. 

Being able to clearly communicate your brand’s vision through an engaging story is key to boosting customer loyalty and sales.  But what if you struggle to tell a captivating brand story

That’s easy, just let your customers do the talking!  In fact, it’s them—not your content creators—that generally make the most effective storytellers.

This is because people are more likely to trust recommendations from fellow customers over recommendations from brands.  People value authenticity and realness, which you can showcase most effectively through your most loyal customers. 

Take Title Nine as an example.  The women’s fitness apparel company does an amazing job at enforcing its core values by featuring inspirational women in their #WearThePants campaign.

wearthepants.png

Source:  https://www.titlenine.com/category/our-values-at-work/women-wearthepants.do

They also regularly feature customers sporting their gear on social media (also known as user-generated content), along with quotes from the customer who used their branded hashtag.  With an engaging visual and interesting quote, Title Nine is telling an effective story that fosters a strong sense of community and brand loyalty.

If you don’t have a loyal following yet, make this your goal for 2018.  Your community doesn’t need to be large to be effective!

Content Creators Won’t Be Taken Over by AI Anytime Soon

Artificial intelligence (AI) is here, and it has already made an impact on the content marketing industry.  Whether we’re optimizing content for Google RankBrain (Google’s AI-driven algorithm) or using AI in our email marketing, many of us are already using intelligent technologies in our everyday marketing processes.

Does this mean that machines can now replace the role of content creators?  Hardly.  Although AI has come a long way, it has yet to master content creation.

AI-powered tools can help us curate content for social media and even generate content for email marketing, but you won’t see robots creating high-quality eBooks or white papers anytime soon.  The human touch is still needed for most content marketing applications.

In other words, content writers can breathe a sigh of relief—your job is safe!  For now, at least.

Micro-influencers Growing Stronger

Influencer marketing is now a $1 billion market and growing.  But the most important lesson we learned this year is that it’s micro-influencers—not big celebrities---who offer the most value to small and medium-sized businesses.

Micro-influencers, or influencers with less than 30k followings, are a small business owner’s dream come true.  Not only are these small-scale influencers more affordable than big celebs, they are also known for being more effective at driving higher levels of engagement.

This isn’t surprising.  Getting more eyeballs on your content means little if they aren’t the right eyeballs, and micro-influencers are in targeted niches.  These smaller communities are generally more trusting of their influencer, which greatly benefits the brands which partner with them. If you’re in the fashion industry, check out liketoknow.it. Like to Know It is a influencer/brand’s lovechild that allows influencers to link to brand products in exchange for payment. This allows their community of followers to buy EXACTLY what they showcase on their social media.

As we head into 2018, micro-influencers are poised to run the show.  Our advice: begin looking for strategic partnerships now to prepare before the best micro-influencers are being tugged from all sides.

Conclusion

To sum things up, 2017 was a year of exciting opportunities for small and large brands alike.  From tapping into micro-influencers to diving into animated content, there are plenty of effective strategies that content marketers can carry over into 2018.

What did you learn from content marketing in 2017?  Comment on our Facebook page and let us know!