Year in ReviewYou’ll be bombarded by enough 2016 content marketing prediction pieces in the coming weeks, so I thought I’d review how some of the biggest predictions of 2015 played out. These are the trends that will shape the content marketing landscape in 2016.

What is content marketing

Content marketing has become such a popular trend that even Kevin Spacey gives speeches about it. But before diving into the marketing industry’s favorite buzzword, let’s start with a definition:

Content marketing (n.):  The use of storytelling to build relationships with consumers by providing them with something entertaining or useful.

That’s it. It’s simple, and it’s not new. In fact, companies have always sought to build relationships with consumers in hopes that they’ll buy something, and content marketing has long been one of the most effective ways of doing so.

Content Marketing Technology

For brands big and small, content marketing technology plays a crucial role in streamlining the process in which you create content, engage audiences, and optimize your entire operation. While it’s perfectly possible to rely on Google Docs and Google Analytics to organize your content operation, it’s likely to result in a lot of wasted energy, missed opportunities, and workflow inefficiencies. The guideslines below will help you think about content marketing technology in the right way.

Increased Content Marketing Budgets

Contently Magazine’s 2014 survey of marketers found that 33 percent of respondents cited a lack of budget as the biggest challenge in creating effective content. So, heading into 2015, 58 percent of B2B marketers explained they planned on increasing their content marketing budget.

In 2015, B2B companies dedicated 28 percent of their total marketing budget to content marketing, while B2C companies allocated 32 percent of their marketing budget to content. To take things a step further, the most effective B2B companies spent 42 percent of their overall budget on content marketing, and the most effective B2C companies spent 38 percent.

That commitment to content marketing was used for risk mitigation, lead generation, lead nurturing and lead scoring, and it paid off. According to Express Writers, 61 percent of consumers are more likely to buy from a brand that shares custom content, and B2B companies notice a 67 percent increase in leads per month when they create content.

Increasing content marketing budgets became a necessity in 2015 because of the heightened importance of distribution, which I will cover next.

The budget increase isn’t slowing down, either, as Contently’s report on 2016 content marketing trends shows both B2B and B2C companies will increase their content marketing budget by 50 percent.

Paying to Play

Driving success through content creation is no longer a little-known secret, and with everyone publishing on a consistent basis, it became practically impossible to reach an audience organically in 2015. On Facebook, organic traffic to Pages fell below 2 percent.

Sixty-one percent of consumers are more likely to buy from a brand that shares custom content, and B2B companies notice a 67 percent increase in leads per month when they create content.
Because of this, 2015 signaled the start of the pay-to-play era. Social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) became the go-to distribution outlet for content marketers because they offer the ability to target posts to niche audiences. These platforms recognized brands would pay to showcase their content, so algorithms were changed to make it so marketers ultimately had no choice but to dish out the dollars to gain the much-needed reach.

As a result, 87 percent of content marketers said they were going to increase or maintain their budget for paid promotion.

The need to focus on distribution also brought about the popularity of paying for native distribution methods such as sponsored and branded content. Through sponsored and branded content, marketers gain the advantage of reaching consumers on platforms they visit for entertainment and news.

A growing number of editorial outlets host sponsored content, and the distribution investment has become well worth it. Sponsored posts can be targeted to niche audiences depending on which outlet brands align with, and brands get the benefit of reaching millions of readers daily based on the prominence of the outlet.

Mobile Optimization

Experts predicted mobile to figure heavily into content marketing in 2015 and it most certainly did.  Time spent viewing media on mobile ranked significantly higher than time spent viewing media on desktop devices as of July 2015 (51 percent vs. 42 percent), and Google announced its mobile-specific algorithm in April to adjust to the trend.

Coined “Mobilegeddon” by marketers, the algorithm was applied to rank the most mobile-friendly websites higher in search results, and it forced marketers to optimize copy for mobile viewers.

An eye-tracking study from Briggsby indicated that mobile viewers spend 68 percent of their time viewing content in the center and top half of a page, and 86 percent spend time viewing the upper two-thirds. So, content marketers had to adjust to writing pieces that included concise, attention-grabbing headlines and briefer paragraphs saturated with must-have information. Mobile viewers also show a tendency to look at images more than text, so unless an image advances the point of a post, it’s usually axed for more compelling content.

Optimizing content for mobile calls for double the content production, which in turn calls for more writers — a trend we’ll dive into next.

The Need to Hire Professional Writers

One 2015 prediction that surfaced in response to mobile optimization and sponsored content trends was the need to hire professional writers.

More and more content writers hired in 2015 had editorial backgrounds because there was a direct need. For consumers to view sponsored content hosted on editorial outlets, the product has to stand up to the editorial articles being published, so many brands looked to hire journalists and reporters to lead content creation efforts.

Time spent viewing media on mobile ranked significantly higher than time spent viewing media on desktop devices as of July 2015 (51 percent vs. 42 percent).  In 2015, marketers recognized that consumers were more compelled to read niche, in-depth content rather than listicles and promotional pieces. On top of that, journalists’ ability to explore different angles on popular subjects, access high-quality sources and ask harder-hitting questions align with what’s needed to produce high-quality original content such as thought-leadership blog posts, case studies and white papers.

And studies show that 80 percent of viewers read article headlines and not the body text, so there’s a direct need for writers who know how to capture the essence and key points of an article in a headline.

2015: The Year of Video

Perhaps the hottest 2015 prediction echoed by many experts was that video would be the king of content.  The experts hit the nail right on the head. I’m going to let the numbers speak for themselves and share with you some 2015 stats put together by HubSpot:

  • 78 percent of people watch videos online every week and 55 percent watch videos online every day
  • By the end of 2015, experts predicted video to take up 57 percent of internet traffic
  • 75 percent of business executives watch work-related videos at least weekly
  • 69 percent of marketing, sales and business professionals use video marketing, and another 31 percent are planning to
  • 81 percent of brand websites feature video
  • 52 percent of marketing professionals worldwide name video as the type of content that delivers the best ROI