The pandemic has driven much of business online, and last year, even more organisations and brands realised that content marketing was THE way to reach and build relationships with their audiences. (You can read our review of the 2021 year in content marketing here).
Ready or not, content marketing is racing ahead. To help you get a better sense of where our discipline is heading in the next year – and to help you plan what to focus on – we’ve been gathering thoughts from leaders in the industry, across Europe.
Here’s what they see for content marketing in the coming year.
What are the biggest trends in content marketing for 2022?
Marvin Jacobs: Meaningful not meaningless content
We live in an extraordinary time. I can imagine that historians will later refer to ‘the early twenties’ as a transition to a new era. Many existing models have been worked out, whether it concerns how we consume, treat our planet, or how wealth is distributed. All these changes create a lot of uncertainty for consumers. Brands will become more and more aware of this – and that is also an absolute necessity to stay relevant. This also has consequences for brands to profile themselves.
The pressure to develop meaningful communication will increase. How do you see the world as a brand? With which stories do you add something essential? In this time, you can no longer get away with meaningless content. Brands will realize more and more that if they have nothing to say, it is better to be quiet.
>> Marvin Jacobs is a podcast and audio expert, creative director and founder of the audio agency Airborne.
Doug Kessler: Education as the core of content marketing
We all need to teach our prospects and customers things. The spirit of education is very different from the marketing vibe—it has helpfulness at its heart— so people don’t reject it as hard-sell. I see more and more brands in B2B tech (where Velocity plays) using education as a core of their content marketing (Salesforce, Hubspot and Facebook are great at this).
You’re an expert at something. Harness that expertise to help your prospects succeed in their jobs. Isn’t that pretty much the definition of content marketing?
A trend I wish was finally going to arrive is the B2B documentary: making films about our worlds, where we go out and find the stories instead of scripting them.
Why isn’t this THE thing already? Probably because it’s unpredictable. Stakeholders hate unpredictable things. We need to teach them. Because the best stories are out there, waiting to be discovered.
>> Doug Kessler is co-founder and creative director of London and New York-based B2B content marketing agency, Velocity Partners, and a copywriter at heart.
Jason Miller: Content marketing doubles down on structure, and wins big
If you have a kid in grade school, then you’ve very likely heard of this structured method for writing essays called the PEE method. It’s a way of writing that can provide good structure to any piece of academic writing and it holds up surprisingly well when applied to content marketing and optimizing for SEO. I’ve seen this from both big brands and small alike and it’s paying dividends in both value and rankings. Here’s how it works:
- Point – The one thing you want to say
- Evidence – Examples to back up your point
- Explanation – Explain and develop evidence and link back to the question
Think about this structure when answering questions with your content and add in video and illustrations where you can to give it that extra boost.
>> Jason Miller is Director of Marketing at CreativeX, Rock n Roll Photographer and blogger at www.RocknRollCocktail.com
Jon Burkhart: Real-time data-driven storytelling
Brands, beware. We’re entering an age of real-time data-driven personalised customer experience powered by AI and machine learning. Sure, this is a technology-driven movement but storytelling lies at the heart of it. Brands are using data to tell bold stories, and customers are loving it. It’s going to be happening in real-time more and more and that excites me to no end as I’ve always been The Real-Time Guy. Imagine Spotify’s epic Christmas Unwrapped gift which we all just received. Beautiful data storytelling about our obsessive podcast and music listening habits for the win, right?
Loads of brands are going to embrace this trend regularly, not just at the end of the year. It’s real-time and data-informed, but creativity lies at the beating heart of it. It’s storytelling with clear conflict and surprising endings. It will be so shareable it’s kinetic. This means it’s made to “flow freely” moving from person to person as they feel compelled to tell friends about it
Just like I’m desperate to tell you that Wellerman-Sea Shanty by Nathan Evans was my number one most played song on Spotify this year. Dare you to watch hundreds of sea shanties on TikTok right now. I spent 2 months making shanties for brands and marketing communities. That’s why it was mysteriously Number 1. What musical stories can I tell to my WeContent friends in 2022? You. Just. Wait.
>> Jon Burkhart is a keynote speaker and marketing guy at TBC Global. Constantly curious at heart, he helps brands grow through quick and clever content.
Cor Hospes: Sharing your brand story – internally and externally
Organizations and corporate cultures have been fragmented by the pandemic. The connection between employees is gone. They lack social contacts and direction. Some have never seen new colleagues. The importance of internal storytelling and content marketing is therefore more important than ever. To rekindle the connection between your employees and your company. But also to put your company more strongly on the labor market. Fueled by a story that literally makes sense and clarifies what your company stands for and stands for. To prevent your organization from losing its added value for your colleagues and the labor market.
So what’s your story? How do you ensure connection with content and storytelling, with events and experiences? How do you create fans? Internally and externally.
>> Cor Hospes is Founder & Strategist at Merkjournalisten, the Content Marketing Agency. He’s a writer, speaker and a content & storytelling coach.
Koen Denolf: Back to basics
I am not a big believer in trend reports. As Christopher Penn stated recently: everyone will predict a breakthrough in their domain, because that is what they see (or want to see); AI-people will see AI as a trend, even though it has been around since 2010.
My prediction (or wish) is a ‘back to basics’. Instead of chasing the next big thing, there is still so much room for improvement in getting the basics right.
It is great fun to create big content campaigns, working on awareness, but at the end of the day we want to see results. Brands should spend more time on hosting visitors on their website or content platform and leading them – with smart content – to conversions. One of these possible conversions is building an audience, your audience, on your content hub, not social media: what is the content promise we can make that attracts and binds people to your company? And finally organisations will or must see content integrated in the whole organisation, blending b2c, b2b and b2e in one. Let’s start with that.
>> Koen Denolf is Strategist & Managing Partner @ The Fat Lady. Spreading the good word of content marketing as an author, a keynote speaker, columnist, teacher and part of the Custo content marketing association board.
Jon Mowat: Gated hubs and microsites
Social media still has its place, but there is growing impatience with the big 4 platforms holding all the cards.
Brands are increasingly focused on how content marketing can drive conversions, so watch out for content moving into owned spaces such as gated hubs and microsites.
Doing this enables marketers to own the metrics and conversion mechanisms around their audiences.
>> Jon Mowat is one of Europe’s leading video strategy experts and founder of award-winning content marketing agency, Hurricane.
Carlijn Postma: Sustainable content marketing
The evolution of content marketing will continue, and I honestly believe that marketers will finally see the benefits of a more sustainable approach. Instead of focusing on short-term sales goals and running from campaign to campaign, brands will focus on the effect for the long run. They will, more than ever, see the importance of developing a long term relationship with their audiences. Especially now that cookies are about to be banned. And with that you’ll see more focus on creating evergreen content.
Content that will stand the time of the campaign and will be around for a long time. Because it is not only relevant during the campaign, but it is relevant to their audiences at different times in the audience’s journey.
Sonja Nisson: Brave voices, meaningful personal stories
One positive I’ve witnessed through confusing Covid times is a shift towards a more human take on business. Connected by a globally shared experience, with a new informality from video calls inside our homes, the wall between our business selves and who we are out of work has crumbled. And the content we’re sharing has followed suit.
Over the last year or so I’ve noticed a marked shift towards more emotive, personal, meaningful stories shared online. Just think of the difference between LinkedIn content pre-Covid and now. More people than ever have stepped out of their comfort zone and shared their thoughts and experiences, stories we can learn from. And it makes for compelling content.
I predict a rise in this trend this year. As we reshape our businesses and our world from here, we’ll see more brave, honest voices from inside businesses, sharing their thoughts, their dreams, their successes and their failures. My hope is that it won’t just be the voices of leaders. The best, the most human businesses will trust their employees to also have their say.
Simon Swan: Research in the field to know your audience better
The biggest trend in 2022 is to really get to know your audience. I’m not saying data is not important but there needs to be a balanced approach in backing up what the trends in data are saying to what your audience really is asking for…kind of balancing quantitative research with qualitative research.
I love the work of Adele Ravella and her Buyer Personas: https://buyerpersona.com/. I think more of us need to be getting out into the field and speaking to our audiences to help drive a more customer first approach. Success should not be so much measured by digital metrics but more by what your audience really values and what drives action (for your business).
So I hope 2022 sees a more customer first approach to content built on the needs of the audience rather than an analytics dashboard!
>> Simon Swan is a CIM certified marketing practitioner, with an extensive career spanning private and public sector organisations.
Your content marketing focus for the year ahead
What a diversity of different insights. How fascinating! So many clever people around Europe devoting time and thought to figuring out how to create content that makes people sit up, take notice, reflect and connect.
You’ll find a range of thoughtful comments in this post from tech-based innovation – making the most of the evolution in tech and data to created personalised content; to getting the basics right to improve what the content we create and share – real research to understand our customers better so our content is more empathetic and relevant, better structuring to ensure the message we spend so much time crafting finds its mark.
How do you choose where to focus your content marketing firepower in the coming year? We’d say, do your research and follow your heart. There are as many ways to create content as there are reasons for creating it. Lean into the trend that will help YOU connect with your particular audience and reach your business goals this year.
We wish you a happy and successful 2022, wherever you are in Europe. And we hope to see you at the WeContent in Bucharest in May.