Content marketing has become an integral part of the marketing mix: Around 89% of companies report that they implement content marketing measures. But which direction will content marketing take in 2018, and what changes lie ahead?

What is Inbound Marketing? Click here to learn everything you need to know.

We’ve summarized key trends for the coming year that you should definitely be familiar with.

1. Content Formats Are Becoming More Diverse

Content production goes far beyond publishing blog posts. According to the annual studies of the Content Marketing Institute, companies use an average of eight different content formats. Social media content (83%), blogs (80%) and email newsletters (77%) are most commonly used.

In addition to these already established measures, additional content formats are constantly being created. Primarily through the rapidly developing IoT industry, new content formats are even emerging beyond the screen. For example, several companies already use the digital assistant Amazon Alexa for content marketing. To support this, Amazon launched Alexa Hub earlier this year: a platform designed to help marketers create content for Amazon Alexa.

Digital marketing publishers like Marketing School and Digiday are at the forefront of using this new technology and offer their podcasts in a format optimized for Amazon Alexa. The American Heart Association uses Alexa to provide step-by-step instructions on how to properly respond to a heart attack. German companies like Deutsche Bahn and Chefkoch are also experimenting with the new content format. Although only a few companies use the new content formats so far, these examples show the enormous potential of IoT devices in the coming year.

2. Content Personalization Continues to Progress

Through advanced targeting, content can be adapted to be increasingly personalized for a given target group. Product recommendations from Amazon or film suggestions from Netflix are no longer a novelty. On companies’ own websites, visitors can be addressed with tailored content based on their visitor behavior.

In the offline world, this personal approach continues. With the help of IoT beacons, user behavior is tracked in the store and used to play customized content on our smartphones. After IoT beacons were initially used with restraint in Germany, big companies like Payback and Real are now testing their possible uses.

But the biggest challenge for personalized content so far is the right implementation. A study by the marketing platform Sitecore shows that many marketers recognize the importance of personalization (86%) but have problems with correct implementation. They especially have difficulty managing and analyzing customer data and developing the right strategy. It remains to be seen how companies will master these challenges. However, personalization in content marketing is definitely a trend to follow in 2018.

3. Transparency Throughout the Content Strategy

Customers are demanding more and more transparency from companies regarding their actions. A growing number of companies are responding to the trend towards increased transparency by revealing details about their product manufacturing, working conditions or hiring process. Companies like Buffer, for example, disclose the salaries of their employees. Behind-the-scenes photos on social media have long stopped being an isolated phenomenon.

A study by Response Media shows that customers not only want transparency when it comes to product information and advertising, but across the entire communication spectrum and every contact channel – including email marketing and the corporate website.

For 2018, this means companies need to be more responsive to the desire for transparency and should try to embrace this trend throughout their entire content strategy.

4. Growing Significance of User Generated Content

The Nielsen study on trust in advertising shows that, in Europe, personal recommendations from friends evoke the highest level of trust (78%). The lowest level of trust is reported for text ads on mobile devices (22%).

User-generated content addresses exactly this point and is an important measure for gaining trust in the future content marketing mix. Whether video contributions, photos or blog posts: In 2018, companies will have to create targeted content that fosters interactions and forms a basis for customer communication.

But user-generated content isn’t just important for B2C companies. B2B companies like Adobe share successful designs by their customers on Instagram. And the social media management platform Hootsuite encourages its followers to share pictures of their workplaces through the #IWorkFromHere campaign, for example.

5. Machine Learning as Support for Marketers

Content marketing is all about presenting relevant content to the right audience at the right time. Machine learning tools can be a great source of support by helping marketers with the targeted selection and distribution of relevant content.

Self-learning chatbots can take over some of marketers’ interactions with users. Many German companies like Sparkasse and Zalando are already testing chatbots for their communication with customers.

In 2018, it’s safe to assume that this trend will continue to intensify. Content marketers will use more and more technology tools to make their work easier and give them more time to strategically align their content marketing activities.

Content Marketing in Constant Flux

In summary, we can say that the following trends can be expected for 2018:

  • Diversification of content formats
  • Higher degree of content personalization
  • Transparent communication strategy
  • Increased usage of user-generated content

Content marketing is constantly changing. While, in the past, it was sufficient to publish regular blog posts, today a variety of content formats, a targeted content strategy as well as open, transparent communication across all channels are essential. Content marketers who want to be successful in 2018 must adapt to the latest changes, integrate new technologies into their daily work and continuously adapt their content strategy.

Immanuel Heckert

Written by Immanuel Heckert

As a night owl and a lover of good food, Immanuel has eventually discovered his passion for inbound marketing. He has always been a good writer, and now this talent has become a profession. What always goes: Sushi and Gin Tonic.