Here are 3 content marketing trends brands can expect next year

Some transformations that reshaped content marketing at the height of the pandemic were likely to happen anyway. Key technology-driven businesses, such as remote learning and working, telemedicine, streaming entertainment and online shopping, were already on the rise. The pandemic has simply triggered a massive acceleration of these trends.

However, we were not prepared for further transformations, as we were for the global pandemic itself. People worried about their health and safety have seen a huge shift in priorities. Which had seemed extremely important to them before the pandemic slipped to the bottom of their lists. This shift has led to a drastic shift in buying decisions, accompanied by a drop in discretionary spending.

Brands have jumped at the opportunity to reach a literally captive audience with a proliferation of content. Many efforts were knee-jerk reactions as marketers hoped to take advantage of the circumstances to reach new readers. Like many other things during the pandemic, content was created on the fly.

Now that the worst seems to be behind us, brands are looking at content strategies that will succeed in a changed world. While the main lesson learned is that we really don’t know exactly what to expect, here are three content marketing trends brands can expect.

1. Agility will be essential

A universal key to survival during the pandemic was the ability to pivot. Some brands have done this in a big way, like distilleries making hand sanitizer. Others have done so in more modest ways, such as restaurants and retailers offering curbside pickup.

Brands also needed to pivot their content. Before the pandemic, brands were largely focused on telling customers what they wanted them to know about their products. Brands knew customer problems and their content told them how their products could solve them.

To survive once the pandemic hit, brands had to start listening to the cacophony of customer concerns, some as new as the virus itself. Customers demanded that the content be about them, not the products, and that it fit their situation. Brands needed to respond with genuine concern, providing customers with value devoid of even a hint of self-serving opportunism.

Completely reassessing consumer needs and adjusting content marketing strategies accordingly required great agility then and will continue to do so in 2022. Brands will need to identify pivot triggers and design processes for those pivots in the content strategy go smoothly halfway through. Choppy changes were acceptable during the pandemic; they will not be in the future.

In a climate of mistrust on all topics, consumers only spend their money with brands they trust. Earning that trust requires sharing timely, easily accessible, and honest content. In a world of constant and unknowable change, content marketing strategies will need to remain both nimble and responsive.

2. Analysis will determine winners and losers

Good content isn’t just creative. It is informed. As more and more content is released around the world, readers will find the type that relies on data and analytics. The rest will fade into obscurity. Brands can no longer afford to throw away content and see what sticks, or worse, not know what sticks at all.

Data, not the marketing team’s gut feeling, should drive a brand’s content. Remember that customers now want the content to be about them. Creating targeted, strategic content that connects to the right readers in the right places requires data. It also requires analytics to determine the effectiveness of the content after it has been distributed.

Brands should look at key metrics per channel, such as traffic, engagement, and conversion rates. They need to track changing motivations for purchasing decisions and monitor shifting priorities so they can adjust their content to stay relevant every time.

That said, analytics must take a holistic view of content performance or brands risk misinterpreting their data. For example, high-quality content should have a decent amount of time to gain an audience, not get ripped off after a few days. Day one metrics will change, so brands should resist the temptation to keep revising content every time they look at the latest data.

3. Emerging technologies will expand delivery options

Consumers have gone back to basics, but that doesn’t mean they’ve gone old school. They’re embracing new technologies and brands will need to get started in 2022 if they haven’t already. What makes content relevant to consumers has changed, as has how they access it.

As households upgraded their technology during the pandemic, many virtual assistants were added. They are increasingly using voice search instead of typing queries into search engines. Verbal queries tend to include long-tail keywords because that’s how people talk. This means that brands need to optimize their content for long-tail searches or they won’t be found.

AI technologies like chatbots don’t just provide an opportunity to free up employees while delivering great customer service. They can also improve the customer’s experience by extracting permanent content that is relevant to them. Moreover, a well-designed chatbot used for more than brand content of a website’s homepage across all channels used.

Then there are podcasts. Consumers tired of spending a lot of time in front of a screen are turning to audio instead. In just three years, the percentage of American listeners to adult podcasts has increased by more than 40%. This is another promising channel for brands, but they will need to create engaging and relevant content that is easy to hear.

As more distribution channels emerge, brands face greater challenges in optimizing and managing them. Luckily, there are plenty of content tools to help you out. Brands therefore have no excuse not to take advantage of new avenues to reach their customers and extend their influence.

Will life ever resemble life before the pandemic? No one knows, and that’s the point. What we do know is that in 2022, brands will need an agile content marketing strategy that makes full use of emerging technologies and analytics to drive it. Brands that do this will remain relevant, credible and trustworthy no matter what the world throws at them.