2014 Content Trends: How to Prepare for the New Year

The business game is changing quickly. This is nothing new; since the advent of the Information Age, available technologies and changing consumer predilections have changed almost non-stop and at light speed. Of course, this requires you to adapt along with it.
But where to begin? Throwing content at the wall when your business’ reputation is on the line is not only foolish, it’s an exercise in ignorance of the myriad findings that are shaping business practices in a platform-agnostic, on-the-go world. The process begins with understanding the nature of new platforms, your role in utilizing them, how to track the success of each effort, and the way your content manifests in an increasingly crowded landscape. In this post, we’re outlining a number of 2014 content trends you should know about.

The Multi-Platform Playing Field

Smartphones’ usurpation of Internet traffic has become common knowledge to those leveraging the World Wide Web for marketing purposes. But the trend portends further reaching insight than first blush might belie. The adoption of Internet enabled cellphones is just the front end of a wave of changes that’s not only introducing new platforms, but fundamentally changing the web experience.

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The first change involves the interface options and form-factor of new devices. The desktop PC never fully standardized the viewing experience of websites, due to monitors of differing resolutions, coupled with changing HTML and CSS standards, but it did provide a consistent understanding that viewers would see images on a 1.X ratio resolution monitor with a mouse and keyboard. New devices not only introduce vertical-dominant layouts, but multi-touch and gesture interfaces that, in addition to their unique capabilities, open the door for innovation in the process.
As these devices grow in ubiquity, the business owner will need to adapt to these changes. Adopting web layouts to fit differing resolutions and interface capabilities will facilitate access in the pocket of consumers worldwide. From a content perspective, this requires a more integrated approach to marketing that can mean a boon for savvy organizations.

Integration Nation

This bevy of platforms is accompanied by a plethora of new sites, solutions, and applications. Coupled with print media, television, static advertising, and brick-and-mortar stores, customers are experiencing your business in a multitude of ways, each bearing its own capabilities and expectations. The key to effectively leveraging these options lies in understanding their synergy.
As customers change the way they shop, the integration of available avenues to create an integrated customer experience is key. Branding, functionality, and selection will need to span every platform with content to reinforce the prescribed brand image. This integration is not limited to online shopping either. In fact, research has shown that 82 percent of millennials actually prefer brick-and-mortar stores. This does not mean that your online shop should suffer, but it does mean that all aspects from the depiction of your wares in marketing videos, to the feel of these same wares in store, to the image they portray on social media, should reinforce brand goals in tandem.
Furthermore, this integration of marketing opportunities likely extends beyond your current conception of applicable communications methods. Email, social media, and online shops are, of course, important. But a Content Marketing Institute study of B2B companies actually found that in-person events are the most effective method of marketing. Expand your reach through new methods of connection and maintain a consistent experience between them.

Measuring Your Marketing

The laundry list of analytics and Big Data movements have fueled the perception that much can be gained from statistics. This understanding is accurate, but with caveats. Traditional methods of tracking marketing success have monitored site traffic and page views. While these metrics offer some insight, understanding the capability of analytics requires some further explanation.

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In time, experience has challenged the wisdom of this technique and introduced a new conception of analytics. When working to understand customer behavior, a combination of analytics should be used that, in aggregate, give a more effective picture of marketing effectiveness. The metrics involved should work towards a predetermined goal. If you wish to build a following on your business blog, a combination of organic traffic, bounce rate, and percentage of returning visitors should guide the ship. If you wish to build an email following, monitoring click-through, average time spent on page, and page views can help you understand how to craft content and improve your pitch.
This approach not only provides valuable insight, but helps guide the ship in an arena where reaction to content is often rather nebulous. Following one metric may lead to misconceptions and a bucking of successful content decisions. Looking at multiple metrics gives a clearer picture when navigating uncharted waters.

Cutting Through the Noise

As content proliferates in the New Year, being a part of the conversation will become much more difficult. This stems from the fact that major websites are putting out more content than ever before simply to hold on to readership. According to data, the Huffington Post puts out 1,200 articles per day. Assuming that your business lacks a robust and prolific writing staff, it is unlikely that you’ll be able to compete at this level.
The more fruitful path then, especially for smaller businesses, is to understand your unique value in the market. Look at your organization and consider what it is that you provide that no one else does. For B2B organizations, this generally means becoming an authority in your industry. For B2C organizations, this generally means understanding your current customer base and espousing a lifestyle through your products and marketing that resonates with them. If you don’t currently offer a unique value proposition, spend some time looking for space in the market with which to occupy. Ultimately, this process will give your content sticking power. Volume drives search rankings, but quality resources receive inbound links, which put you on a more even playing field.
The competition for attention in 2014 will be fierce, but understanding the impending changes can help give you a microphone in a noisy room. Go multi-platform and adopt technologies and techniques that deliver a consistent experience across all of them. Use combinations of analytics to gain insight and guide content efforts. Finally, understand where you stand in the market and deliver information and content that fits that profile. The combination will put you in the best position to make yourself heard, and drive sales in the process.

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Casey Rowland
Casey Rowland | Director of Marketing

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