Last week, Pardot hosted a webinar featuring a round-table-esque discussion between some of the most respected minds in the content industry: Ann Handley, Joe Pulizzi, and Jay Baer. Moderated by our own Mathew Sweezey, the three thought leaders discussed their views of the 2014 content and social landscape, the brands with the most innovative approaches to content, and the changes that they anticipate for next year.
Last year, we predicted that 2014 would bring three things to the content industry: an increase in video content, a rise in the strategies guiding content creation, and improved targeting of content based on your buyers’ stages in the sales cycle. While we expect to see a continuation of many of 2014’s content trends, including more content in general, our three content thought leaders have a few more predictions to bring to the table.
1. Better Content.
According to MarketingProfs, 70% of B2B companies are creating more content than they did a year ago, and 50% of those companies are planning to up their content spend in the next year. “We don’t need more content, we need better content,” stressed Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs.
In fact, Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, encourages businesses to think more about reallocating their budgets than increasing them. Instead of focusing on too many personas (i.e. quantity over quality), which often only results in “watered down content,” marketers should be telling pointed stories about their customers that are aligned with their long-term business strategies.
Joe Pulizzi terms this as “a move from branded content to content brand.” While branded content is content created on behalf of the company, content brand means that content is created around your audience. In the minds of the foremost content leaders in the industry, “content brand” is how marketers can move from creating content to creating better content.
2. Videos and podcasts.
An increase in video content was a big prediction for 2014, but this year, all three webinar guests have thrown audio content into the mix. As video becomes even bigger (especially now that we have simple video-hosting solutions and the ability to better track video engagement), companies will split off to explore the medium of audio as well.
In 2015, expect to see more marketers experimenting with podcasts to convey their thought leadership and marketing messages. Podcasts are less budget- and resource-intensive than video, and are a great way for marketers to break into the content scene without a huge monetary investment. And just like video, audio content is easier to digest than more generic content like blog posts, infographics, and eBooks.
3. User- and employee-generated content.
We see plenty of content generated by companies themselves, with logos slapped on them to indicate that they represent the views and messages of the brand. But what about content generated by users and employees?
One of Ann Handley’s top predictions for 2015 is an increase in user-generated content — which makes sense, if you think about it. With so many brand messages out there, the content that’s going to resonate the most with buyers is, well, content created by other buyers. Next year, expect to see more marketers encouraging the development of user-generated content, and even using it as a building block for content of their own.
In a similar vein, Jay Baer sees employees becoming a distribution channel for content, especially for B2B. “Employees have more engagement and trust than company channels ever do,” explained Jay when asked to dig into the concept of employee social enablement. “Get your employees to participate in social media, and you’ll get a powerful distribution channel in return.”
4. Social media for storytelling.
In the past, B2B marketers have viewed social media primarily as a content sharing and engagement platform. Ann Handley encourages marketers to take that one step further by using social as a storytelling medium.
The rise of new(ish) social media platforms like Instagram and Vine make this entirely achievable for B2B brands. Stories don’t have to be long (check out this site devoted entirely to stories told in six words or less, inspired by Hemingway’s short but poignant, “For sale, Baby shoes, Never worn.”), which is why Vine’s six-second limit isn’t quite as limiting as it sounds.
In 2015, start thinking about how you can tell stories via social media, whether they provide glimpses into your brand and your employees, showcase a customer, or demonstrate a key benefit of your product.
Want to hear more content predictions from Jay Baer, Joe Pulizzi, and Ann Handley? Check out the full recorded webinar here.