Time to freshen up your content marketing? This collection of trends will give you some ideas to explore, from creating chilled-out content to deepening your brand’s specialisation as a content producer.
Trend #1: In turbulent times, audiences are seeking calming content
While brands have traditionally competed in a crowded content market by producing brash, noisy or attention-grabbing content, it might now be more fruitful to do the opposite, and create calming content instead.
Nowadays, many users want a personally curated experience of apps and the internet. Those who prefer a more relaxed experience may gravitate towards chilled-out content producers, and this will be reflected in which brands they choose to prioritise in their feeds, etc.., Where these audience members are concerned, the minority of brands that produce calming content will have a major advantage.
Mindfulness app provider Headspace is masterful at creating calming content. Note how the example below includes a simple image with no text, wholesome imagery, and a short caption that’s easy for the reader to understand and action.
Video is a key growth format for calming content. Per research published in YouTube’s Culture & Trends Report 2022, a remarkable 83% of Gen Z users have used YouTube to watch soothing content that helps them to relax.
Chilled-out content can give people an island of calm in a noisy digital world.
We’ve given some examples of extremely calming content here – but rest assured that you don’t have to strip everything out of your content in order to make it palatable for your audience. Instead, consider taking small steps to make your content calmer, such as using less sensational titles and headlines, avoiding high-energy music and editing, and perhaps even suggesting customers take it easy – e.g. “Make yourself a cup of tea before we start, because there’s lots of interesting info to work through in this article”.
Trend #2: Leverage data to produce unique content
Brands big and small continue to expand their use of data – whether that’s gathering user experience data to find out how people interact with a website, or using customer behavioural data to power personalised marketing.
The scope of internal data available to the average business is extensive – and some of that data can be repurposed as content. Here are just a few examples of what’s possible:
- Product/content rankings. Which of your items were most popular in the last month/year? Create listicles or rankings graphics based on the data.
- Produce content when stock/availability levels are depleted to a certain level. This can evoke the psychologically powerful notion of scarcity, as is the case with this email content from the organisers of the IFA 2022 tech conference, which warns recipients “over 80% of exhibition grounds already booked up”.,
- Share audience insights. Some brands share their market research or customer behavioural analysis in publicly available content. This report from Spotify is a great example: “How Gen Z is using audio to hear and be heard”.
- Create news stories based on customer opinion. Many brands gather data on their customers’ sentiment towards various topics. This data can be turned into news content, which can either be shared in the brand’s own content, or offered to journalists through PR outreach. For instance, coupon provider WeThrift has targeted media outlets with content based around their customers’ opinions on which locations in the UK are the best places to eat an afternoon tea.
- Using customer experience data to steer educational content. Customer feedback and data on customer behaviour can tell a brand a lot about how people are using a product, and whether or not they’re getting plenty of value out of it. If a brand’s data shows that many customers are misusing a product or missing out on key features, this can be a catalyst to create content that educates around the topic and helps the customer to have a positive experience.
Data-driven content can be something as simple as a piece of content that is informed by internal data, or something as in-depth as an interactive report with specific stats and multiple data visualisation methods. The crucial factor is that the brand uses its own, unique data to create content that provides unique value.
Not all internal data is suitable for content marketing. In particular, you should avoid using data that could be personally identified with a customer, or data that could be commercially sensitive – especially if the information could be weaponised by a competing brand.
Spotify’s annual ‘Culture Next’ report leverages market research and audience data about Gen Z listeners to create insightful content, aimed at advertising clients.
Trend #3: Better-quality short-form video
A key content trend in recent years has been the growth of short-form video.
TikTok popularised the format about five years back (although Vine blazed a trail before it), and several other key social platforms have since created their own short-form video features, such as Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts.
Short-form video formats seem to be here to stay. In the case of Instagram, short-form Reels look set to become the only format of video available to content creators. As Mashable reports:
“The company is [...] considering turning all of its videos into Reels. If this decision goes through, you won't be able to post a casual video of, say, your cat snoozing, on your grid anymore: you'll have to make it a Reel instead.”
In the coming years, as short-form video becomes familiar to a wider range of brands and marketers, we expect to see the format mature, with clearer best practices and better marketing outcomes.
As of 2022, we’ve noticed the following trends among high-performing short-form videos:
- Simple concept – e.g. a dance; a demonstration of a specific process; a practical joke; a short, top-level explanation of a topic.
- Satisfying content – the hashtag #satisfying crops up again and again in high-performing short-form videos. These videos could be about anything from a dance move to a DIY process; the definitive point is that they show something working perfectly.
- Skilled homemade production – the best-performing short-form social videos tend to have high-quality production with a homemade feel. Viewers seem to respond most positively to content that looks like it could have been made by a skilled, self-taught individual, rather than a production team.
Trend #4: Improved standards for inclusivity
Brands can always do more to make their content inclusive – and we hope that in 2022, that’s what many brands will do.
In this video interview from the Content Marketing Institute, Michelle Ngome, founder of the African-American Marketing Association, shares some excellent advice on how to make your marketing – including content marketing – more inclusive:
As Ngome notes, one of the fundaments of inclusivity is representation. This means that different groups are represented in content planning, creation and the content itself. The more inclusive your marketing is in how it’s made, the more genuinely inclusive it will be in effect.
At a more granular level, there are steps we can take to make content suitable for more people. Current best practices include:
- Replace ‘he’ and ‘she’ with ‘they’. When we’re not talking about a specific person who identifies as male or female, using the pronouns ‘he’ and ‘she’ is unnecessary. How many times have you read content that refers to a hypothetical person as ‘he’? We can communicate exactly the same thing, while making content gender-neutral, by using ‘they’.
- Feature diverse sources. Think about the people and institutions featured in your content. Do they reflect the diversity of society, and of your audience? If not, you should make a specific effort to be more inclusive in terms of the material that goes into your content. You may find it helpful to record things about the people featured in each piece of content, such as gender and ethnic background.
- Use accessibility features. Current technologies make it easier than ever to ensure content is accessible to a wide audience. In particular, you can tap into features such as YouTube Studio’s captioning, and best practices such as the use of large buttons, links and controls.
Trend #5: Increased specialisation
If there’s one thing we can say for sure about content marketing in 2022, it’s that the competition is getting tougher.
According to HubSpot, 66% of marketers said they would increase their budget for content marketing between 2021 and 2022. Although this may reflect inflation to a certain extent, it also expresses the reality that it now takes more for content to stand out: more investment in the content itself; and more overall investment in distributing content to audience members via organic and paid methods.
This scenario presents deep challenges for many brands, during what has been a challenging period for the global and local economies.
For those who wish to avoid increasing expenditure on content, we believe the answer to heightened competition may lie in increased specialisation. Brands should focus consistently on the content topics and formats that relate most closely to their brand identity, so that there’s a rationale for audiences to seek out that brand’s insight on a given topic.
In Target Internet’s case, content specialisation means keeping a narrow focus on producing informative content – whether that’s an article or a podcast episode – that deals with a topic to do with digital marketing. Meanwhile, for a banking provider, such as Starling, specialisation could mean offering advice on how the audience can manage their money, as demonstrated in the following video:
If your content marketing activity is aimed at retaining and developing an audience, rather than merely reaching a large volume of new viewers, you should think carefully about your brand’s specialisation as a content producer. Having a deep specialisation can keep the same audience members coming back for more – whether they return to your blog regularly to consult an expert source which they trust, or they listen to your podcast once per week on the commute to work.
The only trends that really matter…
There will always be new trends in content marketing. Some of them will stick around and change the way we make and consume content in the long-term. Others will fizzle out as little more than fads.
With that said, there are some trends that are certain to have profound effects on the outcomes of your content marketing campaigns. These are the trends in your own audience data.
Whatever formats and platforms you use for content marketing, you should be able to assess the content’s performance using some kind of analytics tool, such as Google Analytics for website and app measurement, or on-platform tools such as YouTube Analytics.
In your content marketing, it’s crucial to set KPIs and keep assessing your content against these metrics, in order to monitor performance against your business goals.
Look for the trends in which content attracted the largest audience, held viewers’ attention for the longest dwell time/play time, or led to the most conversions from views into sales or sign-ups. Sure, you should experiment with the trends you can identify in other brands’ content – but it’s the trends in your own data that will provide the insights that relate the most strongly to your own content and your audience.