Content Marketing for SME’s in 2018 – The Insights You Need to Excel

Continuing on with our January theme of starting strong in 2018, today let’s look at where content marketing is set to go over the next 12 months. Trends are all well and good, but if you’re not submerged in the content marketing world continuously, chances are you’re not particularly interested in them. Let’s keep it really focused on what you, as a small or medium sized business, need to know about content marketing in 2018 to ensure that the effort you put in brings results for your business.

Branch out into New Formats

This is perhaps the biggest area in which content marketing is set to change this year and over the coming years too. Incredible new technologies are coming on-stream at a rate of knots, and if we want to get the most out of what technology can offer, we’d better keep up!

Live Video is the big name in social media marketing in 2018. Video has been picking up pace in recent years, but the opportunities live video presents has blown pre-recorded video out of the water.

As a writer, I’m comfortable as far away from a camera as I can get! I get very up in my head when a camera is in front of me, so if you’re thinking, there’s no way can I do live video, I hear you. But, if we want to grow our businesses to new heights, to achieve results we’ve never gotten before then we must be prepared to try new things – even if they scare the living daylights out of us.

Here’s some statistics around live video that might help negate the pressure of forcing yourself out of your comfort zone. On Facebook, users watch three times more live video than pre-recorded and comment up to 10 times as much on them. In research carried out by Livestream, 82% of people said they’d prefer to watch a live video than read a social media post.

But video isn’t the only area worth exploring this year. According to the Content Marketing Institute, businesses engaging content marketing successfully use 8 different types of content on average. There is so much more that you can be doing than just blogging or creating social media updates. What about newsletters, podcasts (no camera involved there!), e-Books, or webinars? These are just the established content types. We haven’t even mentioned the newest kids on the block, Virtual Reality and AI content.

As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to explore new strategies 20% of the time while relying upon what has worked for you before the remaining 80% of the time.

Drop the Hard Sell

If you weren’t already aware, people are fed up being sold to. This trend has been getting stronger and stronger, and in 2018, if you’re still creating content that focuses on sales rather than value, it’s time to change your tune.

Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Survey from 2015 spells it out clearly for us. In Europe we’re a sceptical bunch! Our trust levels are down across the board in every category when compared to the other respondent areas of Asia – Pacific, Africa / Middle East, Latin America and North America. The highest level of trust in Europe is to be found from recommendations from personal contacts at78%, next comes consumer opinions posted online at 60%. Our lowest trust rating goes to text ads on mobile phones, at 22%, followed by ads on other mobile devices at 26% and online banner ads at 27%. This tells us that we need to focus on the areas of trust in the best way possible, but how? Build a tribe of loyal followers by creating content that resonates with them on a deep level. Which leads us nicely onto the next point…

Be Real

Along with our trust in advertising has gone our gullibility when it comes to nice things businesses spout that don’t mean anything. As much as I am a believer in the power of words, when it comes to building trust, actions speak louder than words. In 2018, if you want to solidify and expand your tribe of loyal followers, then you must figure out who you are as a business and then ensure that every action, matched by every piece of communication, that comes from your organisation backs that up. It can seem like a tall order, but if you’re being genuine then there’s no need for pretence – and it gets a lot easier.

It still surprises me how many people try to be all things to all people in their business. Apart from the sheer effort involved in doing that, it doesn’t make any sense! The world is a big place, there will be people you get and one’s you don’t, the same goes for business. You don’t have to work with every single client who walks through your door. If you know what you’re best at and can assess their needs properly, you’ll realise that not everyone is a match for you – and vice versa. If you want to get ahead this year and in the future, you’ll accept that and be honest in your dealings with everyone. Not everyone will like you for it, but they’ll certainly respect you – and those who like and respect you will carry you and your business far.

Break New Ground (or, don’t be a sheep)

There is a tendency in content marketing to stick to tried and true practices. It seems like the safe option, if it’s worked for everyone else then it should work for you too, right? Not necessarily so. In fact, research now shows that saturation of a topic correlates to a drop off in searches about it.

If, for example, you work in selling baking supplies and you notice that as the programme, The Great British Bake Off came on, lots of people in your industry decided to ride on the back of it for their content marketing. It might seem like a smart move to follow suit, it’s working for them, why not? For one, the content with that slant is already done, unless you can come up with a new angle. Also, the crest of the wave of this idea was most powerful, if you jump in at the end instead of getting carried along with the surf, you’ll land with a thump on shore amongst the froth, wet and miserable.

To get the best results come up with some fresh, innovative ideas that others haven’t thought of. Look to what is coming up in your industry and grab the bull by the horns. Don’t worry that others aren’t talking about it right now, that’s what you want. You know your industry, and you’re an expert at what you do, take comfort in that fact. Trust yourself and write about new exciting things. If you excite yourself when you’re writing, chances are you’ll excite your reader too.

Focus on Quality

No matter what type of content you decide to produce in 2018, there is one overarching rule, make sure it’s good quality. No scrap that, make sure it’s great!

Rather than churning out 5 lacklustre pieces of content a week, focus on the great stuff that will wow your audience, give them real value and help you to stand out for them. Creating great content can take time, that’s ok, research has shown that between 2015 and 2016 the numbers of people who reported posting daily dropped by 53%. Over the same period there was a 38% increase in people who posted monthly and a 7% increase in those posting weekly. If you can produce excellent content every day, year in, year out, then more power to you. But, let’s be practical, most businesses struggle with this. While creating content consistently is important, it’s more important that you create and stick to a timetable that works for you and that the content is top notch.

Above, we mentioned all the different types of content you can explore creating during the year. While Live Video can bring great returns in terms of engagement, this can only happen if it’s done well. Bad live videos are cringeworthy and even your most loyal audience will be hard pressed to tune in. When I say it has to be great, that doesn’t mean that you have be a natural on camera. Heck most of us won’t be! What it does mean is that before you start you need to know:

  • exactly what the point of the video is
  • the message you want to deliver
  • the talking points involved
  • and how you’re going to wrap it all up

Getting organised before going live on camera is so important. Plan your script and get to know it. You don’t want to seem like you’re reading from it, but you must know what you’re going to say.

Spend Time on Distribution

Now that you’ve done all the hard work to create some amazing content you need to focus on distribution. It doesn’t matter how great your content is if no-one can find it. Remember, it’s not about getting clicks, it’s about engaging people and inspiring them to action! So, you want to find the right people at the right time in the right place. Yikes! Thankfully, the technology is there to help us do that. You don’t need to be a tech whizz, explore the options on the various platforms you use to get your content into the world. Test, test, test and when you find what works, work it.

A quick note on Facebook, as you may have heard they announced some big changes coming down the tracks this year. Although this prioritisation of meaningful engagements may affect the way your content gets seen on the social media platform, before you lose your head, remember that if you’re doing all the above right, you’re in a good position. Keep going.

You don’t need fad trends which may fall out of favour as quickly as they arrived. The above developments in content marketing will stand you in good stead this year and going forward, because they focus on developing great relationships with your audience and providing real value.

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