If you Google 2015 digital marketing trends the clear winner is anything to do with content marketing. If this is a surprise you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of years. Quality content is currency in the digital world as brands fight for eyeballs. What is obviously a clear trend will continue to dominate the digital marketing space until we reach what I like to call “The Honest Web“. There are still obstacles to overcome but the tools are finally available to create the user experience consumers desire.

Surfacing Relevant Content

A problem most social networks face once they move past the early adopter phase is how to manage the inescapable echo chamber they create. There are a number of factors that come into play when trying to figure out the best content to surface.

  • Blogs try to solve this problem by recommending related and popular posts.
  • Twitter tries to solve it by surfacing content from influential users.
  • Facebook tries to solve it by surfacing popular content from within your own network.

The key is to identify how users interact with your content and design the experience around their usage patterns. There is no one size fits all approach and we must truly understand our users if we’re going to create the best personalized experience. We need to take every factor into account and acknowledge as Malcolm Gladwell does in this Ted Talk that sometimes our users aren’t even sure what they really want.

User Generated Content

As much as we want to own our content, the conversation will continue to happen around us unless we are willing to share our space with consumers. Social networks aren’t going anywhere but there are opportunities to create engaging experiences by inviting consumers to become part of the brand’s public image.

One interesting site I had the pleasure of working on even encourages musicians to let fans help them write their next song. Hookist is a community designed around its users. The artist ultimately has creative control but fans are heavily involved in the process. In some of its first games, lead singer of the Crash Test Dummies, Brad Roberts, even changed his original creative direction based on the direction of the community. It’s a very specific case but the asynchronous relationship between the artist and their fans created a whole new level of engagement that previously didn’t exist.

It’s not enough to just let users create profiles and submit content but let your users help guide the direction of your content. Successful marketers don’t just create good content but they react to the content of the people interacting with it.

Interoperability

Context is king and its becoming harder and harder to create experiences that fit every situation. The middle man has now become the final destination with services like Google Now which surface content before users even search for it. New standards for how to format your content give way to newer standards. The best we can do is try to keep up by embracing these standards as they evolve. They could take the form of a single location that houses all of our content which we then pull into our own properties. They could also take the form of distributed content that services like Google Now consolidate and surface at the most relevant time and place.

It’s important to think about how your content will not only be shared but syndicated. We’ve lost control to our users and now we’re starting to lose control to the Internet itself as it uses our content as data in its massive web of information. Think about the opportunities that exist beyond your own site as people continue to interact with your content in ways they never even intended. Content doesn’t always take the form of a five paragraph blog post.

The Way Forward

It’s hard to fully realize the impact these changes have on our content marketing initiatives until we fully understand the benefits content has to help us fully meet our goals. We need to start changing the way we think about content and how users are interacting with it. It’s not as black and white as we once thought and to get control we have to give up a little. Think about all the different forms our content takes and realize the possibilities for what it can take in the future. If we’re open to this type of personalized content we can be the ones to help move it forward and make it work for us.

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