Content marketing in 2016 brought such weird and wonderful developments that you’re likely starting 2017 with more questions than answers. But there’s no need to hide under your duvet just yet. 4Ps’ content team have glimpsed the future and it’s brighter, louder and more engaging than ever before…

The New Buzzword: Virtual Reality

It’s been a hot topic for a while, so let’s get this one over with first. As VR becomes more accessible and social campaigns start tapping into 360° video, it seems like the most exciting opportunities for brands involve the Oculus Rift. Whether you’re adding an extra dimension to an experiential event, or looking to (literally) walk audiences through your brand story, we predict early adopters of the VR trend will be one step ahead come next awards season.

However, as with any strategy, make sure a VR campaign fits with your brand’s personality. If your brand is more traditional or is aiming for an audience that’s less tech-savvy, there’s something to be said for producing more traditional content.

The New Onsite Priority: Video Content

Rich media has long been a priority, but the rise in onsite video’s popularity is set to grow again in 2017. Digital Executive Oliver Wilks predicts that:

“Brands will put more resource into video content in 2017, and sites will become more inundated with ‘rich’ media i.e. autoplay videos on landing pages, as we see with a lot of luxury brands already. We might even see autoplay videos in the content podium within search results, as we do within a Facebook feed… it wouldn’t be surprising!”

The New Distribution Angle: Real Time Content

We may have all started 2016 on #PuddleWatch (remember that?), but as the launch of Facebook Live makes livestream more mainstream, RTI content production looks set to be big news for 2017. Whether it’s a good old-fashioned event livestream or something a bit more creative, content that keeps up with the clock offers digital media a way to reach audiences used to always-on social coverage. Offering content which benefits the host publication as well as your brand leads to more positive coverage, and could be a whole new way to earn backlinks to onsite content following Google’s tightened guidelines.

The New Influencer Strategy: Micro-Influencers

While 2016 was the year of the mega-influencer, 2017 sees the rise of a more modest trend. Senior Content Executive Serrena Pang comments:

“Influencer Marketing will continue to evolve rapidly, despite being a relatively new discipline. In previous years, brands often paired with the biggest influencer out there. To remain authentic in 2017, brands and influencers alike must become more selective in their collaborations. Brands should opt to pair with micro-influencers – key opinion makers who have a small but loyal and highly engaged social following. Expect to see more influencers popping up everywhere, from brands’ social channels to their email newsletters and websites, as more long-term, integrated partnerships are created.”

The New Brand Trend: Brands as Publishers

While brands acting as publishers is not strictly a new trend, our Head of Content, Kelly Green, predicts it is one set to continue, albeit with a slight twist:

“With the internet becoming more saturated with content, editorial teams need to think more ‘niche’.  This means creating content that speaks to a highly-targeted audience, has a clear purpose, and provides authentic value (for the SEOs out there, think ‘long-tail’), rather than merely re-hashing an over-discussed topic.

“Print is also making a comeback. Towards the end of last year, we saw Airbnb partner with Hearst to launch a new bi-annual print magazine. While the traditional magazine industry has been in decline over recent years, brands such as ASOS and Net-a-Porter have bucked this trend, crossing the e-commerce-editorial divide with successful print publications. Airbnb’s latest venture could signal a resurgence of brands using print to engage audiences and cut through the noise in 2017.”

The New Social Trend: Dark Social

When Nike moved to WhatsApp in 2016 to create localised fan communities, they saw an unprecedented rise in engagement, with positive reactions to the more personalised approach. As the ‘Big Four’ social networks become increasingly swamped with branded accounts and paid advertisements, moving to more ‘private’ social platforms allows brands to connect with their audience more directly to truly increase brand loyalty.

How do you see branded content shaping up in 2017? What kind of rich media should you be using to engage your audience? Who do you think your brand should be partnering with in the New Year? Drop us a line – whether it’s onsite or offsite content strategy you’d like to explore – and we can chat through what the future means for you and your brand.

4Ps isn’t just another content marketing agency. To discuss how your brand could use rich, strategic content to boost your bottom line, give us a call on +44 (0)207 607 5650 for a no-obligation coffee and chat. What could a search marketing consultant from 4Ps do for your brand in 2017 and beyond?