For nearly two years, content marketers have shifted gears, switched focus, executed 360s, and navigated turbulence so often it feels like we’ve created a whole new storm category – let’s call it the marketer’s maelstrom.
Should we bother trying to forecast the patterns that will sweep across our industry in 2022?
I think so, and here’s why: At its core, content marketing is about the future – preparing audiences and customers to solve their problems, meet their challenges, and reach their goals.
To do that, you’ve got to stay ahead of your audience’s needs – and the trends that affect how they find and engage with the content you create.
So, once again, we’ve asked industry thought leaders (including Content Marketing World speakers and Content Marketing Award winners) to help us shine a light on the trends and pathways to consider.
A few common themes emerged despite the forecasters’ varied areas of expertise. Technology and data-focused considerations (including the end of third-party cookies) figure prominently in the 2022 outlook.
Yet many contributors explored the opposite end of the spectrum, emphasizing people-focused content considerations such as writing with empathy, communicating with authenticity, and building a sense of community.
Compare these predictions with your trend and planning for content marketing in 2022. And please share your predictions (and your thoughts about those shared here) in the comments.
I’ll kick things off with a few words about what I see coming:
The quality of the content experiences you serve up can make you rich or poor, trusted or irresponsible, purposeful or irrelevant. Brands that offer sub-par experiences on their websites, at an event, in a whitepaper, etc., may never have a chance to win people back. Show off your best work in the new year because customer patience will be thin, and choices will be plentiful.
Sharpen your focus on video, audio, and multimedia experiences
In 2022, video will continue to grow. If you need to add videos to your content, you need to plan for it as part of your process. It’s a lot of work – here’s how to get started:
Marketers should prepare to develop content beyond text. As audio and video become more indexed, those without multimedia content will fall behind. 2022 will be the year that the concept of “every company is a media company” will finally take hold as marketers begin building their own content hubs. – A. Lee Judge, Content Monsta
Content marketers should plan to create and promote more immersive, interactive content such as multimedia stories. Start exploring ideas now – ideas that matter to your audience and that center on people. Also, start lining up resources, including someone to take photos and video if you won’t be handling those yourself. – Michelle Volpe-Kohler, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland
I anticipate the continued growth of podcasting – including video podcasts – that features internal and external thought leaders as guests. Just take a look at all the different evolutions of podcasting platforms. Spotify now offers video podcasts to almost everyone. Also, keep in mind that many brands and some verticals aren’t participating at all yet. So, there’s definitely room to grow brands through podcasting. And podcasts are a great starting point to produce more content. – Christoph Trappe, Voxpopme
Lean into video content across all your marketing channels. A video content strategy is no longer nice-to-have but, rather, a must-do if you want to keep up with consumer expectations. Scale your content marketing strategy to produce and share more video content with these five steps:
In 2022, I expect more businesses to jump on the podcasting bandwagon, as it’s a content marketing medium that allows businesses to stand out from the crowd – and do so using the most intimate medium: audio. All the major music streaming services now offer podcasts, and the Podcasts app is native on all iOS devices. Podcasting has become ubiquitous. As a medium for businesses, podcasting offers a way to literally get in the heads of their potential and current clients. Yet, the number of active podcasts is <500,000, which is dwarfed by the number of active blogs at over 700 million. – Rob Walch, Libsyn
Companies are overusing Zoom content for marketing videos. We started getting 2022 inquiries for in-person video projects in September 2021, and that’s super early for us. Marketers should be planning their video budgets and getting in touch with their video partners sooner rather than later. – Tony Gnau, T60 Productions
Experiment with creativity and innovate
Expect to move to Web 3.0. Because of tokenization, content creators and content entrepreneurs can now control their own supply chain. This means that they don’t have to monetize on a platform (Facebook, TikTok, or YouTube). They can create tokenized content experiences in the form of community tokens and NFTs. In addition, powerful collectives are forming called DAOs, which benefit from network effects and shared ownership. What does all this mean? Small creators can now fund themselves, investing in more content and taking attention away from content marketers. – Joe Pulizzi, The Tilt
Less data, more creativity. Look at Gen Z and Millennial communication tools and check what works for your brand. Try memes, TikToks, and filters, and let go of the corporate images that senior management has approved as brand safe. Nobody wants to see that! – Sascha Welters, Wayne Parker Kent
Content marketers need to get much more creative in 2022. Data, analytics, and all the measurements are still important, but they all have limitations. They only tell you what people want based on what they know. We need to get creative in the points of view we take, the stories we tell, and the experiences we deliver. – Carla Johnson, speaker, author, and storyteller
Tell stories that inform, educate, and inspire
2022 will be the year of telling stories. While education is our bread-and-butter, I’m intentionally aiming to tell more human-centric stories. In SaaS, our customers are the real heroes of the industry, and we’re aiming to tell their stories in a way that inspires as well as educates. To prepare, I’m working with our sales and support teams to identify customers and create processes for capturing their stories. – Amber Erickson, Flowhub
Too many content marketers forget the basics. What does the company stand and go for? What’s in our DNA? Use those stories as steppingstones in all the content you create, and let your employees link their own stories to it as a connection between their own ambitions and the goals of the company. Younger employees do not want to work for just any company. Your organization must have a story; it must make a social impact or contribution. That gives you added value and clarity, which will resonate with your employees. I foresee the growing importance of content marketing within internal communications. – Cor Hospes, Merkjournalisten
Because conversions could happen at any time in our world of nonlinear customer journeys, marketers must adopt a paradigm of conversion storytelling. This involves focusing on customers’ changing motives and preferences, serving messaging that’s tailored for relevant channels and stages of the customer journey, and experimenting and analyzing constantly. – Nicole Martin, Pace
We will continue to see a focus on storytelling – specifically brand storytelling. Brands will focus on articulating where they fit in with consumer values and beliefs since that is playing a much bigger role in consumer brand selection. To connect beyond product, brands need to inspire audiences with authentic stories and thought leadership and by highlighting the people aspect of every company. It will be absolutely critical for organizations to have a clear, defined brand voice that can be represented authentically and consistently across new and emerging channels. We will also see a shift from buttoned-up, refined content to more organic, unpolished, and user-generated content, thanks to the growing popularity of channels like TikTok and Instagram Reels. – Jill Grozalsky Roberson, Sitecore
Tech and data will dominate the marketing conversation
If you’re not all-in on technology, you need to get on board now. So many tech solutions are getting smarter, more effective, and more efficient. With artificial intelligence powering many technologies now, it can help you achieve better results. Determine your business goals and outcomes, identify tasks where marketing artificial intelligence tech can assist, and find partners who can help you. For 2022, invest time in piloting a few use cases (many of which could be achieved with a free trial), so in the long run, you can focus more on what you love about being a content marketer. – Cathy McPhillips, Marketing A.I. Institute
Get excited to understand more about content – what you’ve got, what’s working, etc. – than ever before. Content intelligence can provide a 360-degree view of content, enable us to make data-driven content decisions, and deliver relevant AI-powered content experiences. What account intelligence is to ABM, content intelligence should be to all B2B marketing. – Nick Edouard, PathFactory
Invest in augmented reality (AR). With the advent of Apple Glasses, marketers need to start thinking about how the world around them will be heightened by the connection of information that will be overlaid onto the real world. Consumers will begin to expect organizations to have a brand presence and be accessible to their needs. – Marc Majers, Kent State University
Marketers need to prepare for the onslaught of AI-enabled technologies. One of the first steps in harnessing the power of artificial intelligence is to curate your corpus. Go through your content, piece by piece, to remove old and outdated materials. Eliminate duplicate and triplicate pieces of information. This is something we all talk about but never seem to make time to do. The better your content, the better your AI system will ingest and use it. – Val Swisher, Content Rules, Inc.
Incorporating artificial intelligence into marketing analytics is no longer enough. Marketers must stop guessing at the copy they create and use AI, instead, to learn which words, phrases, tones of voice, and even sentence structures their target audiences want to read, watch, or hear. That doesn’t mean removing marketers from the loop entirely – humans must always guide AI for it to work optimally. It means learning how to coexist, knowing when human involvement is essential, and having the wisdom to triple down on that. – Kate Bradley Chernis, Lately.AI
Marketers should look to harness the blockchain for more accurate data. They should be thinking about ways to create NFTs and/or social tokens for next-generation community building, engagement, and revenue generation. – Bernie Borges, iQor
Using data to drive content strategy will be more important than ever before. With so much content available, it is critical to use data to determine what existing content should be optimized and what new content should be created. Prepare for this by setting up Google Search Console and a Google Analytics 4 property to collect the data. – Brian Piper, University of Rochester
AI will dominate on all platforms. Expect to see Google rely on more AI capabilities to determine whether the user wants a video, image, audio clip, or text result. Google has already started to use AI to modify the titles of websites listed in its results, and this will only get more prevalent. Content marketers would be wise to learn what the AI looks for and layer that on top of what they are already doing well. While I don’t generally advocate for a heavy focus on Google’s algorithms when it comes to SEO planning, this is one area where learning the intricacies of what’s working might be a good endeavor. – Eli Schwartz, Product-Led SEO
Approach with empathy, sensitivity, and purpose
The heightened awareness of DEI is crossing over into inclusive marketing. While brand authenticity remains true, the commitment to DEI will remain at the forefront as brands aim to reach new audiences. We will see this happen in content, visuals, and influencer marketing. – Michelle Ngome, African-American Marketing Association
Two big trends are converging as we head into 2022. First, The Great Resignation is creating a job market that’s unprecedentedly competitive for talent. Recent research tells us millennial professionals aren’t just looking for more money – they’re looking for purpose in their jobs. Simultaneously, consumers increasingly want to buy from brands that stand for something and share their values. To attract consumers and talent, brands will need to tell stories that clearly and authentically demonstrate that their companies have a mission to make things better in the world. Every content marketer should be getting ahead of this because a top-down request to put a strategy together is only a few months away. – Joe Lazauskas, Contently
Thanks to the pandemic forcing many companies to do more business online, many discovered areas where their content was inaccessible. They’re now working on accessibility. If you want to maximize the reach of your content marketing efforts, then ensure your content is accessible. – Meryl K. Evans, meryl.net
We’re all struggling with known business problem fatigue. It’s no mystery which issues have been plaguing our collective audience of business leaders – issues like broken supply chains, Zoom fatigue, worker shortages, the climate change tipping point, and on and on. That means it’s harder than ever for customer-focused content marketers to offer differentiated, highly relevant content that can truly fight for attention with news outlets and industry publications. Add to that the need to motivate audiences to give us their first-party data to prepare for the cookie-less future, and we have quite the content conundrum to solve in 2022. – Stephanie Losee, Autodesk
My mantra for 2022 is “Whoever cares wins.” The pandemic has shown us, once again, that humans have a visceral need to feel connected with other humans. There’s an opportunity for brands to rise above salesy messaging and tap into the need for purposeful, human stories that make their audience feel better connected to one other and their communities. Being seen as a force for good will be a powerful differentiator. – Lauren Quaintance, Storyation
Be prepared to flex your credibility muscles, dust off those customer story-gathering skills, and be completely honest with your audience. Audiences will increasingly expect brands to show more of themselves. It might be a podcast with your HR leaders talking about fear, resilience, and grit. Perhaps you’ll do a movie about your CEO with her kids to demonstrate your company’s values. Maybe you’ll tell the warts-and-all stories of how things went wrong with your customers – and how you fixed it. Or perhaps you’ll share how your interns joined up to bake a cake for your account managers at month’s end to help them keep customers happy. Use your imagination but, whatever you do, keep it real, and be brave. – Gina Balarin, Verballistics
It’s time for marketers to embrace authenticity in their communication. Through the pandemic and Black Lives Matter, something inherent in the way people want to connect with brands has changed forever. Use your brand’s voice to denounce misinformation and injustice. Share real stories, and back up your statements with data. Ensure what your brand says aligns with its values. I also think people want micro-communities now, more than ever. The pandemic may have widened our focus, but people are going to want to pull back into small groups. The more you can build reputation through community and shared experiences, the better poised you’ll be for business in 2022. – Ahava Leibtag, Aha Media Group
In 2022, smart brands will start to focus on sustainable content strategy and the carbon footprint of their random acts of content. We’d have to plant 16 billion trees each year to offset the carbon of all the content no one ever clicks on. Expect a ruthless review of what content is actually working – and greater demands on the content operations teams to really sweat their inventory. – Karen Hesse, 256
Create niche unity and build audiences through community
Find your niche and your community. If you aren’t looking at the community around your services/products, you are just shouting into the wild. Our customers tell us what makes them tick and what they want from us – we just stopped listening. Turn to your community, and they will give you the best insight into your marketing you could dream of. Also, find your niche – what truly makes your business tick and distinguishes you from all others – and work that angle. The world is loud, chaotic, and a blur of advertisements – if you want yours to stick out, you have to find your niche. Not sure what that niche is? Just ask your community, they’ll tell you. – Meg Coffey, Coffey & Tea
Marketers will need to build a sense of community. Articles about loneliness in the age of remote work and digital lives are everywhere we look, and COVID only exacerbated that problem. People want to connect with people – they just don’t know how to do it. A great brand will be one that manages to create a sense of community (possibly, but not necessarily around their products) and cultivates and interacts with that community. Bonus points if you can do that while taking a stand on an issue. There are a billion tools out there to help you create a sense of community. If you don’t already have the internal resources for that kind of thing, start a Facebook group, a Discord channel, or a Slack community, or maybe just a kickass newsletter, where you provide ample opportunity for feedback. – Jonathan Forisha, The CE Shop
In 2022 and beyond, content marketers must find and cultivate unique tribes. Rather than taking a broad-swath approach, focus instead on a few key channels that you can nurture for multiple hours a day. Consider where your most loyal audiences will be and join their communities. Bring value to those communities by providing relevant information and empowering them with your thinking rather than selling your services or products. Don’t spend 2022 creating content that seeks to drive a conversion. Create content that recognizes and values the unique aspects of each tribe. Provide deep, honest connection points, and the sales and loyalty will follow. – Amy Balliett, Killer Visual Strategies | Material Killer Visual Strategies, a Material Company
Content marketing is (OK, should be) different than traditional marketing because it focuses on educating people and being genuinely helpful. However, too often, marketers publish content to meet a deadline or “check the box.” Or they gate content in hopes of building their email list. In 2022, I urge marketers to think about building communities instead of building lists. Think about how you can bring people together so you can learn about and from them – and provide a forum where they can learn from one another. A community is far more powerful than a list. And focusing on helping others help each other instead of growing a list makes your job much more meaningful, too. – Michele Linn, Mantis Research
With audience sentiment changing rapidly, it’s important to have your antennas in place to really listen to your audience. Create stories that give voice to those who are underrepresented and have eye-opening tales to tell. It will not only make your brand look good, but it will also actually do good – and will stand out from the content sea of sameness. Blend human stories with facts, stats, and science to engage both the hearts and minds of your audience. – Annie Granatstein, Marriott International
The trend to just produce volumes of content isn’t going to go away. That means there will be a lot of mediocre, generic content out there that will never garner much interest or attention. But for brands that have narrowed their focus/niche and can teach with a depth of authority to a very specific audience, it’s going to be a heyday. It’s the first step to building a community around your content and being able to truly serve that audience. When members feel connected to you – and one another – communities become very sticky and will yield amazing results (financial and non-financial) in relatively short order. – Drew McLellan, Agency Management Institute
Content that delivers interesting, novel information and leverages keywords in a natural way will continue to boost page rankings and bring eyeballs to a brand’s digital properties. Marketers will also likely take cues from the best writers and journalists out there and include a wide variety of voices in their content. Smart marketers understand that effective content doesn’t simply rehash brand messaging – it dives into thoughtful discourse on topics that are relevant to their audiences and welcomes non-brand experts to weigh in, as well. Thought leaders live on Substack and Medium, pushing out newsletters and amassing huge followings. Brands should be thinking about how this model might also work for them. – Carol Lin Vieira, BX3
The metaverse is not just a passing phase – brands should be building community management strategies now. At its core, the future of an evolving metaverse reinforces the notion that online human connections are here to stay. Brands need to find efficiencies in their community management practices and anticipate volume growth through new channel and platform adoption. The more comfortable people become joining these digital worlds and spaces, the more they will share. It’s a great time to challenge conventional devices, platforms, and communication systems and think about where, when, and how your brand fits in. – Erika Lovegreen, ICUC
Create authentic audience connections
Brands need to check their egos at their door and partner with other brands or groups that already have communities that reach various subcultures. What better way to understand who our audiences authentically are, what they like, and what their lifestyles are like? Think past channels or platforms and start to join communities – not just to acquire, but to listen and learn. These unique circles are hard to reach, but they’re where the deepest relationships run. – Amy Do, Barkley
Focus on audience-centric content strategy. No matter the industry, or company’s product, or achievement (or the rise of AI), your content should always be about your audience, never about you. How can you educate and empower them to ultimately solve their pain points? This is what a thoughtfully developed audience-centric content strategy can deliver. Why? To build trust and connection. Focus on developing high-value information that answers consumers’ questions by guiding them on the best solution for their needs. Ditch the “transactional only” mindset and think about how to build human connections that convey a deeper understanding of the customer. – Beth Kapes, Moving Words Into Action
Ninety-two percent of B2B buyers are more likely to purchase after reading a trusted review. With the increase in online influencers, there is increased scrutiny around the validity of their reviews. It will be increasingly important for content marketers to find real people with real opinions to leverage for insights. – Jessie Coan, Demand Spring
“Hanging out” with your customers is a marketing trend that I see glowing up in 2022. People want to feel connected with brands. Engaging through live video is a great way to do that. Marketers and influencers (both internal and external) will work together to create more opportunities for customers and fans to connect with brands through live video and chat platforms like YouTube and Instagram Live. – Chris Craft, NeoLuxe Marketing
We are living in a glorious era for content marketers, where the needs of the audience and the needs of Google have finally aligned. In the Covid era, audiences have demanded new levels of authenticity and empathy in our marketing, and Google continues to move toward prioritization of the same thing. Search intent and high-value content will win every day over keyword-stuffing and corporate bragging. Content and SEO are free to be the best of friends, and the opportunities ahead of us are exciting. – Ali Orlando Wert, SmartBug Media
The best content marketing programs have always started with understanding – and serving – a target audience in a unique way. But audience interests and expectations are changing faster than ever. In 2022, the best content marketers will implement strong systems to regularly monitor, measure, and respond to audience trends, no matter when, where, or how those audiences want to consume it. – Krystle Kopacz, Revmade
With the acceleration in digital adoption, the changing customer journey, and increased customer expectations in how, where, and when to interact with your business, you will need to be prepared for the demands of today’s digital customer relationships. What will content marketing look like when most consumers see the world as all digital?
As user journeys fragment and cookie tracking become obsolete, it will be important for marketers to take steps to own their audience and be able to contact them directly. But that’s not something users will give up easily. Step back from selling the product and think about what value your content marketing efforts can truly bring to your audience. Continuously ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?” and make sure you have a darn good answer. – Inbar Yagur, GrowthSpace
Find memorable ways to distinguish your brand
Organic traffic from search and social will decline, as tech giants will get even better at keeping their visitors and selling ads. But the ROI for ads will also decline. Who will win in 2022? Brands that do remarkable, memorable things with their content. They either have 10x quality, or they take a stand. These brands will win at word-of-mouth (direct traffic). – Andy Crestodina, Orbit Media Studios
We spend so much time trying to be visible, we forget the job is to be memorable. That should be our entire goal in 2022: Be more memorable. Make it the year of resonance (not reach). If 2020 and 2021 showed us anything, it’s that people want to feel seen. They want to connect around shared ideas and beliefs. In 2022, don’t just grab attention. Learn to hold it – not by shouting louder or launching more stunts, but by speaking to the personal, emotional reasons others might care about something. Don’t be “the best.” Be their favorite. – Jay Acunzo, Unthinkable podcast
It’s not enough to create content anymore. You need to create quality – and do so consistently – to attract and maintain an audience. People have so many choices when it comes to what content they’ll consume. You have to stand out in a good way by adding value to their lives. How will your audience be better because of what you created? If your content is bad, it won’t get any attention. If it’s annoying, you risk getting blackballed by the people you’re trying to attract the most. – Ruth Carter (they/them), Carter Law Firm
Currently, marketers are focused on providing quality information in a professional presentation. However, everyone else is doing that, too. Instead, they need to focus on building an emotional connection with their viewers. They can do this through telling stories and vulnerability. This will allow them to build trust and credibility. And the human connection will bring people back for their content consistently. – Tim Schmoyer, Video Creators
Differentiation based on company or solution capabilities rarely impresses B2B buyers. The recent evaluators we interviewed tell us that most solutions are alike, so they choose the provider whose sales and marketing teams are most helpful to them, answering their questions throughout the buying journey. Buyer personas that merely profile the buyer’s goals, concerns, and responsibilities don’t provide enough insight. Marketers are seeking to understand the questions buyers ask and the knowledge they need before they can trust and select a provider. It’s time to stop profiling buyers and start profiling buying decisions. – Adele Revella, Buyer Persona Institute
Deliver the experiences your audience wants most
Prepare for audience apathy. Whether it’s “Ted Lasso” or “Squid Game,” consumers crave content that makes them yearn for the next episode or next season. The content from most brands causes consumers to change the channel – if it reaches them at all. We need to create “Ted Lasso” experiences for our industry. – Dennis Shiao, Attention Retention
In B2B, we’re evolving from rational sales messaging to more emotional and experiential content for both brand building and sales generation. Inspiring, helpful, and entertaining content should bring delight to each customer touchpoint. – Susi O’Neill, Kaspersky
The world has been living in black and white with flickers of color over the last 24 months. As science advances, people are coming back to full-color living. They’re ready for adventure, and your brand should be as well. The status quo won’t do — time to step it up and tap into your customer’s imagination. Engage your audience with a fresh sense of exploration and joy. – Maureen Jann, NeoLuxe Marketing
Enterprises continue to realize that to deliver truly omnichannel experiences, the building blocks of these experiences – content and data – need to be managed in a channel-independent way. We’ve seen this have an enormous impact on enterprises’ technology choices and stack construction over the last several years. In 2022, we predict that this impact will extend into how marketing teams are staffed. Savvy marketing teams will add data scientist team members, and they’ll work more closely with the content team than ever before. – Jarrod Gingras, Real Story Group
Marketers will go beyond traditional customer personas to learn more about what makes their target audiences tick. Whether shared experiences, learned behaviors, or unconscious motivations, we need to understand our audiences on a more granular level to provide more relevant content and experiences. Marketers need to be prepared to do more specific audience analysis and questioning. They need to be more creative with getting to the root of their audience’s psyche. Consumers want to be understood by the companies they do business with, and in 2022 we will heed that call. – Andi Robinson, Corteva Agriscience
In 2022, people won’t want to read your content anymore. Sorry! They are going to want to do something with it. Content marketers who “productize” their content by creating usable templates, calculators, workflows, or interactive graphs out of it will be the ones who rank on google search, attract traffic, and see the most conversions to their products and services. If you’re seeking to rank for a certain topic, ask yourself what you can create that the reader can use immediately to help them accomplish their goals, and you’ll be well on your way. – Natalie Mendes, Atlassian
Invest time and budget wisely
It’s time to update your older content. Content Marketing is no longer new to your business. So, while you’ve documented your strategy, used customer and SEO insights to drive your content plan, and consistently published quality content, you may now be wondering how to maximize your efforts. That’s why I see content marketers in 2022 revisiting old content that has a high page authority but has since fallen from its page-one ranking or no longer ranks at all. We’re helping companies delete and re-direct old content that is no longer relevant, update content that used to rank, and re-publish with newer stats, links, and information (and a new date). – Michael Brenner, Marketing Insider Group
2022 is the year we will simplify the way we measure our content marketing ROI. Consider constantly measuring value per subscriber. Take the number of content subscribers you’ve added and divide it by the total revenue for the same time period. There you have it: your revenue per subscriber. – Andrew Davis, Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnerships
Strive for direct content-marketing revenue. Here’s how: In addition to content for lead generation (marketing as a cost), savvy organizations will also sell content directly (marketing as revenue). This will require 1) proprietary data; 2) exhaustive aggregation of publicly available data; 3) synthesis and simplification; 4) tactical applications; and 5) an original voice, perspective, and aesthetic. – Aaron Orendorff, Common Thread Collective
First, budget for writers. With B2B heavily relying on content marketing and blogs becoming advanced multimedia engines, brands must begin to realize that writers are needed for all facets of the content marketing journey. Social copy isn’t something your product marketers can just write. Also, we must focus on why we’re measuring all the data we measure. Ask questions: Do we really need to collect that much data? Are we utilizing it to make a better experience, or are we collecting it to check a box? Finally, work cross-functionally across teams to focus on keywords and SEO strategies that can help everyone in your organization win. – Jenn VandeZande, SAP Customer Experience
Adapt to search shifts and life after cookies
Marketers will need to look beyond just having well-researched, keyword-optimized content by keeping user experience front of mind, too. Sites that once ranked well with high-quality content and below-average page experience will struggle to rank for highly competitive keywords. The inclusion of Core Web Vitals this year will likely have ramifications for content producers by demoting sites if they fail to meet Google’s target. – Mark Scully, 256
Google’s use of MUM in search means Google will answer searchers’ complex queries in the SERPs and find answers to image-based queries that lack keywords. To prepare, content marketers need to: 1. Beef up topical authority. 2. Utilize/optimize more and better images/video. 3. Make sure mobile UX is on point. – Reva Russell English, LOCOMOTIVE Agency
We will be increasingly challenged to keep the right balance between content that search engines and algorithms favor and content that users like. I’m still not entirely sure that it’s the same content, are you? – Matthias Bill, SIX
Search will continue to become more democratic, meaning newer websites that are fast, have great content, and deliver an excellent user experience will have an opportunity to rank high on Google. Incumbents that don’t continue to invest in improving their SEO through content, technical SEO, and authority will be surpassed by newcomers. – Manick Bhan, LinkGraph
2022 will be focused on learning how to operate in a cookie-less world. Unfortunately, this means we’ll know less about who our audiences are. We’ll have to stay compliant with data privacy regulations and test new methods to reach the target demos. Quoting one of my favorite bands, Counting Crows, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone …” – Khalil Garriott, James Madison University
Modern AI search engines are tuned to amplify brands that resonate with online consumers. Google loves established brands with large, engaged followings and emerging brands that are gaining momentum. Despite exhaustive research, it’s impossible to know the exact signals search engines evaluate or the weighting of each signal. So, rather than guessing which technical signals will curry favor with search engines, why not build a compelling, story-driven brand that resonates with online consumers and generates the signals Google is looking for as a side-effect? Brand storytelling naturally leads to content that generates engagement, backlinks, and search engine authority. – Dale Bertrand, Fire&Spark
With cookies going away, we are in the midst of a generational transformation in digital media. In every boardroom, CMOs are building their organizational vision for 2022 and the cookie-less future of reaching consumers. It’s created a surge of demand for non-interruptive forms of advertising and communication, which is why we’ve been seeing a global surge in demand for content marketing. As companies put their cookie-less digital marketing strategies into action this coming new year, the role of ad agencies will also be elevated to help brands retool for non-interruptive content marketing initiatives. This will create a significant new revenue opportunity for innovative agencies that can create their own content marketing offerings. – Peyman Nilforoush, inPowered
The impact of the EU Cookies Directive and associated, consent-based iOS updates will place renewed importance on the value exchange between brands and their audiences. In 2022, brands will need to really earn the right to engage with an audience by offering genuine utility and personalized content experiences. – Brendan McGinley, Head of Client Services, 256
Expect trends to collide and disciplines to converge
Prepare for the great merger of marketing content, content marketing, and content operations. Content is becoming a business strategy. Full stop. Copywriting, storytelling, measurement, AND structured content operations are becoming a single, functional strategy. Content marketers will need to upskill into strategy, technology, and content structure. Content strategists will need to upskill into creative storytelling. And everybody will need to upskill into measurement design. – Robert Rose, Content Marketing Institute
Teaming content with PR can help brands get ahead. Two of the top organic keyword ranking factors (according to Google) are high-quality content and links pointing to your site. Amping up PR efforts to earn media coverage with links to your content can help brands get more from it. – Michelle Garrett, Public Relations Consultant, Garrett Public Relations
Marketers need to prepare for the increased pairing of data science with behavioral science. Data science advances will help marketers pinpoint what messages they should deliver, when, and to whom. And behavioral science will ensure we craft those messages to have the best chance of triggering automatic, hardwired decision defaults. – Nancy Harhut, HBT Marketing
As the lines between B2B and B2C marketing continue to muddle and more brands center their focus on B2P (business-to-person) connectivity efforts, we will see the rise of more “person-to-business” marketing. The result will be a greater influx of content solopreneurs and influencers who build their brands on YouTube, TikTok, Discord, and Instagram while becoming multi-millionaires off the backs of corporate sponsorships and funding. – Peter Loibl, Content Marketing Institute
The love is growing between sales and marketing through content! Finally, there is a sense of common ground, where marketing acts as the content power partner for sales enablement activities – something well appreciated on “the other side.” At last, there is more cooperation instead of an unappreciated hand-over. Let’s keep that up in 2022! – AJ Huisman, CMFF
Audience building will become paramount. Why? Several marketing trends are merging, including: 1. Journalists are being deluged with an ever-increasing number of pitches, which means earned media is increasingly harder to land. 2. Third-party tracking is sunsetting, which means the cost of paid media will grow while targeting and effectiveness plummet. 3. Organic social media has declined in value as the social platforms depress brand messages and outside links to keep users on-site.
To overcome these challenges, businesses must attract and build their own audience – preferably through email subscribers. Businesses can figure this out on their own, but it will scale faster and go a lot more smoothly if they bring on talent that’s actually done this before. – Frank Strong, Sword and the Script Media, LLC
Audience building – preferably through email subscribers – will become paramount for #ContentMarketing in 2022, says @Frank_Strong via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet
Knowledge management is merging with content marketing. Content marketing has always centered on value-added content that guides users along their journey and drives deeper brand relationships. The traditional team approach, however, has been to engage agencies retrospectively or work in siloed ways to extract valuable content from the brand. By taking on real knowledge management (backed by appropriate tech and content management stacks), value-added stories and content can be farmed and aggregated organically across the enterprise. Instead of searching for good stories or commissioning them from the outside, teams can curate, refine, and syndicate the massive amounts of value-added learning and stories that the business generates anyway. The cultural, process, collaboration, and technology best practices are coming together to make this new paradigm a scalable possibility. – Noz Urbina, Urbina Consulting / OmnichannelX Conference
Emphasize writing quality
Content marketers will get serious about the quality of their work. Only 30% of respondents to the State of Writing 2021 survey are “very satisfied” with the performance of their written content. One way to improve that is to put quality assurance measures in place, like working with a proofreader. – Sarah Mitchell, Typeset
2022 will be the year content marketing goes back to school and sticks to the point. The PEE chain is best known in the academic world as a way of writing that can provide good structure. 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:
In 2022, we should (finally) commit to quality over quantity. Everyone’s inbox is a hot mess. We’re too busy doing too many things, often because we’ve committed to a “plan,” without stopping to ask whether it still makes sense. Are we serving our audience? Would WE respond and get value from what we’ve created? If we can’t answer that with an enthusiastic YES, then we should rethink our strategy. – Carmen Hill, Chill Content, LLC
Skill up for expanded roles
Fresh, current marketing skills will be in demand. Whether it’s to fill an open role or to adjust to customer demands, marketers need to stay sharp. Learn digital tactics like designing an engaging chatbot experience. Refresh traditional skills, including solid writing and storytelling. Soft skills – like creativity, critical thinking, empathy, and indirect people management – are always in demand. Understand new marketing trends. Read trusted blogs, join webinars, pick up a new book, engage in the #CMWorld community. There is so much free and paid training available – take the time to stay current. – Penny Gralewski, Commvault
This year, we should skill up our marketing skills to be equal to our content skills. If it’s not a trend yet, we should make it one (please ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ). We’re pretty good at content creation now, but we often lack the ability to market our content well and understand the marketing objective for which we create content. Let’s create more marketing muscle! – Bert van Loon, independent strategist
Personalize and customize your conversations
Next year’s big trend will be about putting the personal front-and-center. 2020 was about dealing with the shock of COVID (and surviving), and 2021 was about settling into new routines and establishing new relationships completely virtually. 2022 will be about nurturing those virtual relationships and growing them. Maybe we’ll get to do the occasional in-person visit/event, but a lot of our client and customer relationships will remain largely virtual. Content will need to find ways to make audiences feel like they have a true relationship with the brand/organization. This will mean an increased focus on personalization and hyper-specific targeting. – Andy Seibert, Imprint
We will see a shift from content marketing to a mass audience to personalized content (marketing) services to an audience of one. I suggest that marketers:
In 2022, we are going to see a rise in microcontent interactions with our audiences. The software and hardware are available, and the customer expects quick and short contact, experience, communication, and interaction with our brands. This means content marketers need to focus on the quality of their content for conversation design, chatbots, and voice, as well as on the quality of the short, modular content blocks that are used by several search engines. – Tim Hanse, Crossphase
Recent study findings show 74% of marketers know how to identify the right accounts, but only 11% feel confident they can engage their buyers! Marketers must deliver personalized content experiences strategically throughout the entire buying journey – even post-sale – to increase engagement and revenue. – Randy Frisch, Uberflip
Marketers will start to unlock the potential of personalized video at scale as disruptive video technology becomes more widely available through video mark-up language (VML). The first movers will be mega brands with big customer databases and deep pockets. But it won’t be long before engaging your customer base with personalized video will be as accessible and inexpensive as email is today. – Neil Gordon, 256
Embrace timely social trends
Marketers need to embrace livestreaming. We often stick to using it to conduct on-camera interviews or for webinars, but we could be doing so much more. Could you use it to showcase the rollout of a new product or service? To create a live newscast or entertainment show that includes video, music, graphics, and more? If you aren’t already livestreaming, I suggest watching and learning from what others are doing, researching the software, and just getting started. Already livestreaming? Start thinking outside of the box: How can you take the livestream beyond standard interviews? How can you use it to surprise and delight your audience? Look at some of your favorite live shows or events and see if there are elements you can replicate in your own livestreams. – Amanda Subler, Content Marketing Institute
I see three trends dominating:
The Great Resignation: It will be vital to both advertise unique benefits and stand out as a company that cares about its workforce – perhaps by highlighting CSR efforts, DEI initiatives, employee testimonials/personal stories, career advancement opportunities, etc.
Chip shortage considerations: Brands will need to reevaluate their advertising tactics to maintain customer loyalty and retention and be prepared to meet the demands of consumers when inventory is available.
E-commerce: Think about how to incorporate shoppable units seamlessly within editorial landing pages. If you have existing e-commerce partnerships with specific vendors, talk to your native advertising partners about ways to integrate these two experiences into a cohesive article page and/or create shoppable units via slideshows/carousels. – Lizzie Blumenthal, Nativo Inc.
The creator economy will continue to grow and gain steam in 2022. Making NFTs available for your community will increasingly make members feel even closer to the content you are creating. Start now by considering an NFT strategy and what you can exclusively offer. – JK Kalinowski, Content Marketing Institute
The combination of The Great Resignation and the emergence of more automation, AI, and machine learning tools will begin to shift the landscape of creative marketing activities and supplement the work of creative and strategic roles in organizations. In the coming years, content enrichment platforms will enable marketers to deliver more relevant content that aligns more precisely with what people are experiencing in the moment. The resulting improvements in engagement will make it well worth the effort to learn and adopt these platforms and practices. That said, the imperative for human talent in creative fields is to showcase their personalities and differentiate the originality they’re capable of – both without machines and, perhaps more importantly, alongside them. – Kate O’Neill, KO Insights
Amplify, expand, and optimize
80% of B2B sales interactions will occur in digital channels by 2025 (Gartner). To prepare, B2B marketers must optimize for digital-first buyers with: 1. Customer intelligence for data-informed content decisions 2. Self-serve content buyers actually want, from virtual events to mobile video, and 3. Industry expert and internal SME partnerships for trusted content. – Lee Odden, TopRank Marketing
Focus on marketing optimization tech to get the most reuse out of your core content. Martech tools have improved dramatically over the past few years, which has created new opportunities for content reuse. There’s literally so much content that you can’t depend on Google to drive your users to older content. Use new martech tools and emerging channels to reuse content and get it in front of your users in a fresh way.
Analyze high-value content for opportunities to reuse components of existing content. Add modern tracking that helps you control, analyze, and track the response to older content. Implement content distribution and governance with modern martech tools that fit your organizational profile and budget. – Buddy Scalera, IQVIA
I believe we’ll see more content marketers focusing on content amplification in 2022. After all, organic reach is nonexistent, so we will need to be proactive in ensuring our content gets in front of more of the right people every day. That starts by understanding how and where we’re going to amplify our content effectively and baking that into our content strategies. – James Tennant, Converge
International expansion will start to explode. As ROI softens domestically, many firms will start to explore global expansion into new markets or increase their presence in existing global markets. Keep in mind: This is not a translation of content game – it’s a transcreation of content game. Make sure that local content marketers can build content for their market utilizing your English-language content as a reference point. – Michael Bonfils, SEM International
I predict that there will be major publisher mergers and acquisitions that make it hard for smaller entities to compete in organic search. Content marketers should consider internal amplifiers like AI and NLP to get more out of their existing resources. Also, Google will need to change the way it evaluates diversity in its SERPs as conglomerates begin to own more and more real estate through acquisition. Content marketers need to monitor their SERPs for flux and actively fund competitive analysis efforts. – Jeff Coyle, MarketMuse
Get agile to grow
As we look toward 2022, content marketers should prepare for the shift in consumer behavior. Many consumers are working remotely, and their daily activities are changing. Content marketers must reassess the time and cadence of communication to ensure they’re properly aligned. – Juntae DeLane, Digital DeLane
As the pandemic panic subsides, ambitious brand owners should reactivate growth plans. There will be a trend in 2022 where savvy marketers will realign their content strategies, understand how things have changed for their target audience, and adapt to those needs.
The pandemic hit pause on your content marketing plans, but don’t just lazily hit “play” again now. Rewrite the lyrics, mix up the melody – the same old song won’t get you to No. 1 now. Ensure your revised strategy really sings! – Paula Connor, 256
As we move into 2022, marketers will need to continue to operate in a world caught at various stages between lockdown and “new normal” and ensure that their marketing plans allow for the ability to be reactive, as well as proactive when needed. – Melanie Deziel, StoryFuel
Marketers will stop focusing on individual assets and start building ecosystems of high-value, owned content for two reasons: 1) to enable first-party data collection at scale that reduces their dependence on third-party cookies and third-party audiences; 2) to create a connected digital experience that’s fueled by customer-centric content. – Andrew Wheeler, Skyword
Product content is the new marketing. Marketers, especially in SaaS companies, need to think holistically about content. Tap into the keyword-rich technical documentation portals to drive SEO. Work with a cross-functional team of content producers to flesh out the full customer journey, going beyond conversion. And support the team that is building digital self-service, as that experience will drive renewals and expansions. Most importantly, don’t recreate the wheel and cause duplication for customers. Work with teams that are already doing these things! – Megan Gilhooly, Reltio
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
This content was originally published here.