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Content Marketing in 2014: Trends You Need to Understand to be Successful

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bigstock-new-year---next-and-previou-48446960 Last year around this time, I deemed 2013 the “year of content marketing” and I think I was right. Content marketing has existed for a lot longer than a year, but in 2013, this form of connecting with customers and promoting your business exploded. Today, it seems like every small business, large corporation, and even solo entrepreneur is talking about content strategy.

But the internet stands about as still as a troupe of river dancers. Let’s take a look at major trends in content marketing and what you need to know to succeed in 2014.

Trend #1: Mobile is where it’s at.

According to reports, 22% of the world’s population now owns a smartphone, up from just 5% in 2009. Of course, in many countries those rates are even higher; some companies even have an over 100% subscription rate, meaning that many people have more than one smart phone.

Admit it: you would break out in a cold sweat if you lost your phone. Actually, most of us would feel sick if we just forgot our phones at home. We live and die by our phones, sad as that may be.

So, if your content isn’t mobile-friendly, you’re missing out on a huge market. A huge, geeky, obsessed market. Do you have a responsive blog theme or a mobile website? What about an app? How do your readers interact with your content via their mobile devices?

Get ahead of the curve. Don’t just make your content mobile friendly. Customize it for the mobile audience to make the experience as good as possible for your mobile users. If you go above and beyond to provide a great user experience, you’ll outpace your competitors. The sad fact is, most content creators are still doing the bare minimum when it comes to creating mobile content.

Trend #2: Content curation is as important as content creation.

Over the past few months, one phrase has popped up on my radar more and more: Miley Cyrus

Just kidding. The phrase I’m really talking about is content curation.

No matter how big your content creation team, you can’t keep up with consumption. That’s where content curation comes in. Your audience doesn’t want to know you as just the person (or company) creating great content. They also want to know you as the person (or company) recommending great content.

If you’re afraid of promoting your “competitors,” you’re thinking about the situation incorrectly. When you share someone’s great content, you get some of the credit, even though you weren’t the creator. You build your brand as the expert in your niche/industry. You do have to be careful with what you promote (you don’t want to send customers away), but don’t be so scared that you only promote your own content. A true leader in content marketing curates as well as creates.

Trend #3: Having a Director of Content on your team is increasingly important.

As your business continues to create more and more content, it will become important to have someone on your team who will manage it all. Your Director of Content should have a diverse set of skills, in order to be able to both create content and come up with a strategy for your content that makes sense for your business goals. This person should also work closely with (if not oversee) your social media team and email marketing team, and they should have open lines of communication with all departments in your business. I recommend hiring someone with the ability to time travel if you can, but content marketing is a big, time-consuming job.

In 2014, I believe it will also become increasingly important to boost your Director of Content’s budget so they can pay for contributors and designers. I know a lot of businesses who aren’t spending much on content beyond their Director of Content’s salary. While there are sources of free content out there, the right Director of Content can stretch even a small budget to give you an amazing return.

Is your business too small for a Director of Content? Then you Director of Marketing better have a strong, strong grasp on content marketing.

Trend #4: Guest posting is bouncing back in new ways.

Over the last three years, guest posting went through some weird transitions. Three years ago, as a freelancer, I had clients knocking down my doors to pay me to publish guest posts on others’ sites on their behalf. Then, things changed. Too many low-quality writers inundated the blogosphere, and most bloggers couldn’t keep up with requests, most of which were for crap posts that didn’t add anything of value to the blog. On top of that, readers began to cry foul as some bloggers published more guest posts than posts of their own.

Many blogs locked down like Fort Knox, no longer accepting unsolicited guest posts. Some blogs decided not to accept guest posts at all. But in the last few months, I’ve seen a bit of a shift. Bloggers are not on guest post lock down like they have been in the past, but what they’re looking for is changing. It isn’t just about quality content anymore. It’s about filling a gap.

No blogger can be an expert on every topic in their niche. So, many bloggers are extremely receptive (and in some cases actively looking for) people who can write about topics where their own knowledge is weak. In my experiences, bloggers are even looking for monthly contributors, not just one-time guest posters.  If you want to make guest posting part of your content marketing strategy for 2014, start looking for those gaps and pitch bloggers on filling them.

Trend #5: The best content is entertaining, not just educational.

In past, we’ve drawn lines in the sand. This content was entertaining. That content was educational. Increasingly, though, I think readers are demanding both.

Entertaining doesn’t mean your blog has to be ha-ha, laugh-out-loud funny, but it does mean that you have to have a little special sauce spread on your posts. Maybe you add some personal stories to help people understand a point. Maybe you improve your writing to add some clever phrases. Maybe it means that you aren’t afraid to be a little goofy sometimes.

I used to say “it depends on your niche” but I don’t think that’s the case any longer. I think your educational posts have to have a little pizazz. Boring content just isn’t cutting it anymore.

So there you have it, my top five trends for content marketing in 2014. What trends do you see for content marketing this year?

Image Credit: Bigstock

Why Blogs Are the Future for 2014 and How to Prepare Your Blog for the New Year

Author:

blogs are the future

As the calendar inches ever closer toward the new year, there’s never been a better time to talk about blogging. Everywhere you go these days, someone’s saying something about how many blogs there are and how the blog world is over-saturated. Could these ideas actually be true? Are blogs over, or is 2014 a good time to start your own? What will 2014 hold for blogs—how will things change, and how will they stay the same? If you already blog, how can you prepare your blog for the next season?

To help answer those questions, let’s look at what the experts are saying about why blogs do matter—along with strategies for making the most of your blogging efforts.

Blogs Still Matter

Despite what you may have heard, blogs are not done yet. “The need for an online presence has never been stronger,” says Jayson DeMers at Search Engine Watch. “[But] the landscape has never been more competitive.” Whether you’re thinking about improving your business’s search results or looking to become an authority in a specific niche, blogs are powerful, especially when you know how to use them. Below, consider what experts are saying:

  • “Extremely Relevant.” In February 2013, Clayton Lainsbury wrote at the content marketing site Crowd Content Resources that “intelligent marketers still know that blogging is extremely relevant if you apply it properly in a social and mobile driven world.” His point is that the world is online—and blogging gives you a way to reach it.
  • “There’s No Better Way.” In an April 2013 blog post at Social Media Today entitled “Blogging is More Important Today than Ever Before,” author Nicole Beachum said, “There is not a better way to add relevant content to your website on a regular basis than to utilize a blog.” Citing reasons like search engine optimization and keeping up with the competition, Beachum goes so far as to say hiring a professional is a savvy step.
  • “Effective Marketing Strategy.” According to Content Marketing Institute’s 2014 Report for B2B content marketers, 62% of marketers still see blogging as an effective content strategy.
  • “A Public Record.” There are intangible benefits to blogging, which is something personal bloggers like Lisa Endlich understand well. For individuals as well as businesses, blogging offers a place to chronicle your story and connect with like minds.

How to Blog Strategically in 2014

Based on a Google Talk given in October at PubCon 2013, staying ahead in the blog world is simply a matter of knowing what to expect. With that in mind, here are some tips for making the most of your blogging efforts, at least in terms of search results, next year:

  • Focus on Quality: Search engine algorithms are always changing, but one bottom-line principle stays the same: High quality content works. Rather than worrying about how to trick the search giants, focus on publishing the highest quality content you can.
  • Benefit Your Reader: If you aren’t answering the #1 reader question of “Why should I care?” you’re sabotaging your own blogging efforts. Look at your blog right now—what does it offer? What do your readers gain? Why should they come back? Make those answers crystal clear in order to prepare your blog for the new year.
  • Blog Like You Talk: As voice searching grows in popularity, blogs that are written the way people talk may rank higher.
  • Niche = Authority: The more specific and focused your blog topic, the better your chances of becoming an authority in your field. Rather than blogging about food, for example, blog about gluten-free, dairy-free recipes. Rather than blogging about lifestyle, blog about being a stay-at-home dad of twins in New York City. Look for ways to specialize, and you become more valuable.
  • Make the Most of Social Media: Social profiles are not only good for building relationships, but also they help you increase online authority. Search engines look at social activity—how often your blog is mentioned, linked to, etc.—to determine ranks.
  • Know Your Goals: Gone are the days when all you hope for with a blog is a reader. Moving forward, bloggers will need to determine their exact goals (Conversions? Subscribers? New leads?) to quantify success.

Your Thoughts

Will you or your business be blogging in 2014? What changes are you making to prepare for the new year? What changes do you think are important?

Image credit: Bigstock (altered)

Prophecy or Pontification: The Best and Worst Predictions About 2011

Author:
Crystal Ball

Every year content creators gather their thoughts and look ahead to the next year. We see many New Year’s goals and resolutions posts, as well as predictions for the year to come. We sit back, look into the new media crystal ball and ask ourselves, “What will this year hold?”

Prediction posts are fun to read. It’s exciting to start a new year and think of all the possibilities we have in front of us. But what’s also fun and interesting is to look back at the year before and see who got it right and who didn’t. Some bloggers and new media enthusiasts even go back to their own predictions from the following year and post about whether they were dead on or dead wrong.

What a great idea right? How about we take a stroll down memory lane, a look back at a few of the New Media predictions that were made for 2011, to see who was spot on and who possibly missed the mark.

It’s All In Good Fun

Before I go on, let me clarify that making predictions takes guts in the first place. So, even if their prediction didn’t come true, it in no way means they’re not worthy of our attention. I’ll keep reading their blogs, following them on Twitter and shaking their hands at events. If all of us could predict with precision what the next year would hold, then that would mean there would be nothing to take us by surprise. I don’t know about you, but I love surprises. For example, who could have predicted the Netflix blunder (Qwikster anyone?) or the Kindle Fire or Google Plus? I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Three of the Best Predictions About 2011

Prediction: Journalists and news organizations will rely more on social media to get the story – by Mashable

“What we’ve known as the role of the foreign correspondent will largely cease to exist in 2011. In 2011, we’ll see more news organizations relying heavily on stringers and, in many cases, social content uploaded by the citizenry.”

While I wouldn’t necessarily say foreign correspondents are completely dead and not needed, I would say Mashable got it right when it comes to their statement regarding news agencies relying heavily on uploaded social content.

Back in June I wrote an article about how social media was quickly becoming the leading way to communicate during a national disaster. It also seems it’s become a go-to source for journalists looking for information when disaster strikes. We see Twitter, Facebook and YouTube used on national news broadcasts on at least a weekly basis.

Prediction: Marketers embrace the idea of customers telling the storiesLisa Petrelli

“I think 2011 will be the year that brand marketers – and C-Suites for that matter – will begin to finally ‘get,’ and ultimately embrace, the idea that it is much better for their customers to tell their stories and share their stories than for them to continue to try to control the entire message.”

We saw this everywhere in 2011, from TV commercials (Ford) to companies hiring bloggers as brand ambassadors. Bloggers traveled the globe, were spotlighted in commercials, hosted Twitter chats and went to events sponsored by a company. As she said in her prediction, customers would rather see a real person’s enthusiasm for a certain product than its features and benefits. As some have predicted for 2012, I believe the concept of a brand ambassador will continue to grow in popularity with companies of all shapes and sizes.

Prediction: Bloggers will need agents –  Jennifer James

“As brand/blogger relationships grow I also see more mom bloggers needing agents to act on their behalf to negotiate contracts for spokesperson and brand ambassador opportunities.”

We saw this several times in 2011 and I believe we’ll see it more and more in 2012. As she pointed out in her “Gearing Up for 2012 Mom Blog Predictions”, the sway group was formed in 2011. It’s an exclusive agency who works with bloggers, connecting them with brands. She also mentioned this NYTimes article about a fashion blogger who hired a New York agency to handle all of her negotiations.

Three of the Worst Predictions About 2011

Prediction: The newness of social media will wear off – As seen on Junta42.com

“The novelty of social media will begin to melt away and with it the undue animosity hurled at it on a daily basis.”

You might disagree with me on this one, but I don’t think the novelty of, nor the animosity towards, social media wore off in 2011. A “novelty” is something new and unusual. Companies are still learning how to embrace social media and finally started realizing they needed a social media budget.

This post also predicted that social media would be viewed “less as a ‘game-changer’ and more as an obvious channel.” It seems an obvious channel to those of us who are in the trenches of social media every day, but not to the general public. And of course, Google+ entered the picture, which means another new social media network for everyone to learn and embrace – and inevitably decide if we love it or love to hate it.

I’ve actually read several 2012 predictions that basically say this same thing: more companies will invest in social media, social media will become mainstream, people will stop referring to it as new media, etc. We shall see, right?

Prediction: Quora is the future of bloggingShervin Pishevar

@Scobleizer I believe @quora is the future of blogging.”

Unfortunately for some, Quora was not the next big thing. It was being hailed as more useful and elegant than Twitter and Facebook. Even big names like Robert Scoble (he later trashed Quora, which is a whole other story) and VC Mark Suster were excited and on board. I remember being excited about Quora for about a week, and then I stopped using it. Why didn’t it become the next big thing? Some say it had design flaws, was confusing to use and was up against some major competition such as Yahoo Answers.

Prediction: 2011 is the Year of the QR code – Way too many people predicted this to even list their names

I put this QR code prediction under the “worst” category for two reasons: 1) Many people still have no idea what they’re for, and (2) For those of us who do know what they’re for, we don’t use them. At least that’s the case for me and several of my geeky friends. I can’t even get the code to work half the time on my Android smart phone. (No comments from the iPhone peanut gallery, okay?)

Yes, we did see a ton, and I mean a ton, of QR codes appear on packages, online (why?) and on print mail in 2011. But I wouldn’t call 2011 a successful year for QR codes.

Allison recently wrote a post titled “Are QR Codes Dead?” I agree with her that they’re not completely dead yet, but they will be if companies don’t start getting a little more creative with them.

Your Thoughts on 2011

Do you recall any predictions that were made for 2011 that were either right on the money or missed the boat completely? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Looking Ahead to 2012

With 2011 behind us, we can now look to 2012. Deb asked the BlogWorld community on the BlogWorld & New Media Facebook page what some of their predictions for 2012 were. I also asked our team to chime in with their predictions. Here’s a list of New Media predictions for 2012:

“ The majority of people will happily stay with Facebook — they’ll SAY they’re unhappy, but they won’t leave — and Google Plus will be used by a few specific groups of people (just as MySpace was used by bands long after the general public was tired of it.)” – AFMarCom

“More interest in Pinterest!” – AFMarCom

“I think self publishing is going to be big this year” – Ainslie Hunter

“Pinterest and Google + will both go mainstream in 2012.” – Rick Calvert, BlogWorld & New Media Expo Founder

“I also think that Pinterest will go mainstream this year and be a big deal – maybe even growing to overshadow Facebook eventually. I also think that we’ll continue to see more and more people in the general public understand that not all blogs are online journals and people will start holding bloggers to higher standards, the same way they’d treat a newspaper or magazine. Lastly, especially with Google owning their own social network now, I think we’ll continue to see deeper integration of search and social, so you can’t just be an SEO or an original content creator – you have to be both.” – Allison Boyer, Feature Editor for the BlogWorld blog

What are YOUR predictions for 2012?

Image: SXC

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