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First Third of the Year Trends, for 2018

About a decade ago, content marketing had its watershed moment as hard selling and SEO manipulation gave way to a more personalized experience founded on relationship building and bringing genuine value to customers. Since then, the formula has evolved and been refined as each year marketers have iterated on the way they build brand loyalty, awareness, and trust with their consumers. However, 2018 has been marked by brands quietly transforming the way they approach content.

This transformation, in part, has been a result of brands reacting to a more intellectual and savvy consumer base that is averse to in-your-face advertising and attracted to informative, entertaining, and even humorous content that enhances their digital journey and connection to the brand. Thus, content is moving away from the 500 word blog post in order to provide depth and value to the consumer experience - and it’s working. A 500 word post can attract significant traffic, but in almost all cases, will have a shorter life span. Longer blog posts (the average length was 1,142 words in 2017) have greater staying power and are attracting more audience attention and engagement. Short blog posts still belong in a marketers arsenal as a way to attract subscribers and promote thought leadership but 2018 has shown that long-from content is king.

As a result of this shift, marketers have been forced to value quality over quantity in their content production. While daily content publishing has been the standard for years, shrewd marketers are starting to see the untapped value of slowing their cadence. Blogs that are posting 2-3 times a week, as opposed to daily, are seeing increased readership and brands investing in higher quality publisher sponsored content are witnessing more positive sentiment and longer time spent on page by consumers.

Brands are also noticing the value of video content as a platform for storytelling, and as marketers have found ways to cheaply produce video, video content production has soared. Perhaps the newest evolution of video content has been the use of live video. This has proven to be a viable way to reach consumers but marketers are still perfecting strategy around live streaming. Audio content is on the rise as well and brands have experimented with sponsoring popular podcasts and even creating their own podcasts in-house to mixed results.

While content production is spilling into new formats, the need to standardize measurement of content and prove ROI is more important than ever for marketers. Every content marketing effort now needs to have measurement built-in; even top of the funnel awareness and brand affinity efforts need to be tied back to ROI. Marketers struggling to employ sophisticated measurement strategies are not alone. According to CMI, only 35% of marketers can accurately measure ROI, and in this group, only about half can measure ROI consistently across all distribution channels. As content investment increases in 2018, tools that accurately measure performance will prove to be invaluable.