The Future of Content Marketing Appears Bright Moving Into 2022

The pandemic put content center stage, reminding many marketers that they must develop content that includes purpose, context, creativity, and integrity. To do so, content must add value and enhance the conversation with brands’ target audiences to facilitate engagement. It’s clear that people are looking for ways to be inspired and entertained, making it even more important for content marketers to find creative ways to connect with their audiences. 

Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs released their 12th annual B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends Report last month which portrays an encouraging and optimistic future ahead for content marketing. The research within the report confirmed what many of us already knew: content marketers are some of the fiercest business pros around. In the most difficult of times, they get the job done– and many come through more creative and stronger than before.

I wanted to break down some of the key themes highlighted in this report.

Video and Events Present Prime Opportunities for Engagement

Ninety percent of content marketers say that short articles and posts (such as blogs) have been within the mix this past year. That is followed by videos (66%), virtual events/webinars/online courses (64%) and case studies (61%). But which tactics produce the best results? Virtual events, webinars, and online courses were named by 58% of respondents as a top performer (including 66% of those categorized as “most successful”) and research reports and short articles/posts were tied for second at 48%.

B2B marketers remain at a critical inflection point as we prepare for the future of events. The pandemic rapidly accelerated the digitization of events, profoundly changing the live events industry as we knew it. I maintain that most events and conferences will remain virtual until the end of 2022, but agree that the opportunity for virtual events, webinars and online courses showcases the importance of virtual and hybrid events as a MUST next year.

Given the results of the survey it’s no surprise that the top two planned areas of investment for next year are video and events. It’s clear that content marketers are looking for ways to more immersive engagement with their audience within a fundamentally altered environment. The good news for content marketers is that there are several opportunities to keep virtual events as an integral part of fostering connection and engagement. 

Earlier this year I wrote an article for InEvent about the 6 Mistakes to Avoid When Planning Your Virtual Event which discussed the importance of developing great content. When you begin planning your virtual event, it’s important to remember that content is often viewed hand in hand within the overall program. That is why it’s so important to take the time to put together a cohesive look and feel and ensure you’ve outlined branding for your online event. Make sure that the content you develop promotes your speakers, sponsors, and every aspect of your program. Eye-catching and captivating promotional materials are key.

LinkedIn Remains King for Organic and Paid Social Media  

It’s no surprise that LinkedIn is the top social media platform to distribute both organic and paid B2B content. It’s a viable content marketing platforms and when content is relevant for the proper audience and complimentary to the features of LinkedIn it can really pay off in the end. 

B2B content marketers in this survey rated it as the most effective for both organic and paid social media. When it comes to producing results with paid social media, LinkedIn was ahead of the next-highest rated platform by 25 percentage points. For organic results, the chasm is even wider.

Overall, more than three-quarters of practitioners said their paid distribution spending has either increased or remained steady. Social media advertising and promoted posts were the most common paid distribution tactic (77%), beating out search engine marketing and pay-per-click (65%).

Content Marketing Budgets Are Rising

Although the pandemic brought a lot of businesses uncertainty, many haven’t pulled back their content marketing investments, which was at one point considered “discretionary” spending. Forty-three percent of respondents familiar with their organization’s spending said their content marketing budget increased in 2021 compared to 2020. Meanwhile, 66% say they expect their content marketing budget to grow in 2022. Very few saw decreases in budget this year or expect them next year.

The Top Marketing Challenge Ahead

Creating content which appeals to multi-level roles within the target audience and accessing subject matter experts to create content are still a major challenge. It may be because more marketers are leveraging content collaboration tools, or because so many people have been changing jobs over the last 18 months. 

This challenge can be compounded if content marketers only focus on creating content that appeals to those in the C-suite, as research from Netline Corporation shows that the vast majority of content consumption happens within roles outside the C-suite. Marketers must find relevant subject matter experts in 2022 to develop relatable content appealing to numerous roles within their target audience. 

I discussed the future of content generation on my blog and just like any other content marketing strategy, repackaging content is all about consistency. I recommend brands create 2-3 additional content assets whenever they publish a new article, such as developing a piece of audio content, adding a voice over, or turning a presentation into a video. Through videos, user generated content, and a variety of content types they can begin to home in on what content resonates most.

Despite the challenges of the recent past, it’s an exciting time to be a content marketer. With new approaches and channels to develop content and engage with audiences, refreshed budgets and agreement that content is king, it’s clear that there is a world of opportunity for B2B content marketers in 2022. 

The Future of Content Generation

If someone offered you a crystal ball that could tell you the future of content generation, would you want it?  As a member of The Upside, an award-winning community and accelerator for thriving consultants, I participated in a recent Clubhouse event discussing the future of content generation.  This got me thinking about trends for the remainder of this year and beyond.

Following an amazing discussion with Erin Halper, CEO of The Upside, and my colleagues Rebecca Orlov, Rachel Dorton, and Lisa Weiss, I asked my LinkedIn network to provide some tips and content marketing trends they were most excited about as we enter the second half of 2021.

As you begin planning your content marketing strategy for the remainder of this year, I encourage you to keep the below trends and tips in mind.  Overall, developing high-quality content that doesn’t necessarily require more resources was a major focus among the panelists. This can go a long way toward crushing key marketing objectives in 2021.

The Emergence of Audio Platforms

Back in April I wrote an article for Search Engine Watch on whether Clubhouse was really worth the hype.  Within the post I explored how brands can use Clubhouse to build an online community to further add value and drive engagement.  My key takeaway was that although it came onto the market at the right time, I’m cautious about its role over the long term.  As Twitter, LinkedIn, and other audio apps emerge Clubhouse will have to quickly adapt and make some changes if it wants to become a mainstream platform for brand marketers.

Although I remain interested and active on the platform, I’m cautious that it’s the “popular kids” hangout and the allure and interest is largely based around buzz.  Certainly, brands can and should listen into ongoing conversations and get ideas about the topics target audiences and tuning into and discussing.  The brands that listen openly to new ideas and have a pulse on the culture and content their market is exposed to will have a long-standing advantage and edge.

Margaret Molloy, the Global Chief Marketing Officer at Siegel+Gale added, “I expect to see more audio content from an evolution of live audio platforms including Twitter Spaces or Clubhouse as well as the expansion of podcasts.  The mobility and portability are so attractive as people recommence commuting or continue to do more exercise or even simply walking their dogs!”

Danielle Guzman, the Global Head of Social Media at Mercer added, “The rise of social audio will drive growth in a conversation-first approach to content.  Start with a conversation (aka social audio platforms) and use that conversation as fuel for your content plan, putting the experts (influencers, SMEs, employee advocates) at the center of your content strategy), and then when you activate on channels, those voices are amplified in content different formats.”

I agree with Danielle and Margaret that audio platforms offer a much-needed relief for the Zoom fatigue many of us experienced this year.  Although they are mobile friendly, they’re merely a part of a set of tools we must have within our pocket.  When used properly and effectively audio can be used to help achieve success for your brand.  The future of audio platforms seems bright, and it will be interesting to see how it all unfolds over time.

Explosion of Video Content

With major events out of play the for bulk of 2021, video and webinar content became even more important—and guess what, it’s not going away.  Consumers want to get information and learn quickly and there’s no better way to do that without video marketing.  Video is a quick and effective medium to communicate your message and educate your audience. Video content is on a seemingly never-ending rise around the world.

Cisco’s Annual Internet Report reported that video content is predicted to amount to a whopping 82% of all internet traffic.  Additionally, according to a HubSpot survey, over 54% of consumers would like to see more content from their brands.  It’s pretty clear that video is what we need to focus on in 2021!  

This isn’t to say you should ignore all other forms of content, but it does mean that video must be at the forefront of your strategy.  Sarah-Jane Manco, a marketing and communications senior professional within the financial services industry, added, “I see short form video sticking around for a lot longer.  Our attention spans are shortening thanks to social media, so condensing your message into a 15-30 second video is the way forward!”  

I couldn’t agree more and encourage brands and marketers to continue to develop short content to cut through the digital noise and amplify your story.  It’s important to use a variety of video formats to fit your brand, industry, and niche, and optimize them for every step of the customer’s journey.

The More Personal, the BETTER!

Personalization in 2021 goes beyond merely addressing your customer by their name in emails or when you’re talking to them via chat. In the years to come, technologies like artificial intelligence will make data analysis more efficient and effective, allowing you to achieve hyper-personalized communication.

Providing a stellar customer experience is no longer a “nice to have;” it’s now a true necessity. Customers expect and demand seamless and personalized experiences throughout their journey with your brand.  User-generated content (UGC) is a highly effective way of creating more connected relationships with customers, especially when leveraged across social media channels.    UGC provides an additional stream of content that is typically engaging, authentic and reflective of the overall brand promise.

Building Content Communities

Creators are now in the driver’s seat and users are in for the ride alongside them.  With the rise of Clubhouse offering authenticity through voice or Slack communities across tech, building communities has been a push for marketing teams for the remainder of the year.

However, building communities specifically around content sharing and creation will allow marketing teams to continue to expand their reach, even with fewer resources.

Expanding your reach is great for brand awareness—and, of course, your metrics—but that kind of inclusion is also good for fostering a sense of community with your audience, too.

Repackaging Content

One of the major threads within my LinkedIn post was the use of repurposing content. Repackaging content is nothing new, but the idea is to turn existing content into new formats.  Tom Pick, a B2B Tech Digital Marketing Consultant, added that he thinks “we’ll see more’ video first’ content creation.  Meaning, creators will start by recording an online video with an expert, maybe live, maybe not.  The audio will be repurposed as a podcast, and the transcript as a blog post (or more than one).  Then excerpts will be pulled from a string of these to create an expert roundup post.  It’s the next stage of repurposing.”

This idea of the future state of repurposed and repackaged content will allow for us to turn existing how-to articles into visual flowcharts or revise an article into a podcast or even a mini audiobook.  The main aspect of content repackaging is that a new content piece creates value of its own.  It’s not just about re-marketing your old content simply for additional clicks or conversions.  Content repackaging is the marketing tactic that aims to give your audience a new way to consume information.  It also involves expanding your own content with new research and up-to-date information.

April Rudin the Founder and CEO of the Rudin Group added, “Personalization and the opportunity to repurpose existing content is HUGE particularly for regulated industries like financial services and pharmaceutical, I’m a fan of infographics and data visuals to help tell stories in a snapshot. To me, video should be used sparingly and in short spurts, no one wants to watch lengthy videos or listen to long podcasts without visuals.

Meredith Bodgas, the Editorial Strategy Lead at Toptal, added, “Consider repackaging of existing content to match the different platforms on which you might not be using that content.”  What I love about Meredith’s advice is that it allows us to create new and unique content for a variety of social media channels. It lets us experiment with many content formats and identify our best-working engagement tactics. 

Like any other content marketing strategy, repackaging content is all about consistency.  I recommend brands create 2-3 additional content assets whenever they publish a new article.  Consider using some of the advice within this article, such as developing a piece of audio content, adding a voice over or turning a presentation into a video. 

A good rule of thumb according to Singlegrain is that we should be spending 20% of our time on content creation and 80% on content promotion.  They offer some great tips within the article about the basics of promotion and the foundation of developing GOOD content.  Remember, content is king, and will continue to be for many years to come.

What else would you add to what’s in store for the future of content generation?  Leave a comment below or send me a tweet @marissapick