The hallmark of a good long-term content strategy is its adaptability; even if you start out with an awesome strategy and a packed editorial calendar, if you remain stagnant with that approach for too long, you’ll eventually hit a plateau.
How should a content strategy adapt? That depends. When new technologies emerge, it pays to take advantage of them, and when your competitors adapt, you should too. When reader preferences begin to change, you need to stay ahead of them. And even barring those trend evolutions, it’s a good idea to audit your strategy periodically, test new methods, and ditch underperforming ones.
With those potential adjustments in mind, here are five main ways your content strategy should adapt in 2016 (and beyond).
1. Fewer, better pieces
The content market gets more competitive every year – a trend we’ve been seeing since the Google Panda algorithm update of 2011. As more brands step up their content marketing efforts, and new brands emerge with their own strategies, users can’t keep up with the escalating amount of available content, so instead, they’re limited to consuming less of it (proportionally). By some estimates, only one-fourth of all content produced ends up getting any likes or shares at all – a powerful indication of overall performance. That means if you want to maximize the ROI of your content marketing campaign, you need to find a way to keep your content unrivaled in quality. If you’re keeping your time and monetary investments the same, you can achieve this by developing fewer pieces at a higher overall quality; one knockout performance piece is far better than even four or five mediocre ones.
2. Authoritative proof
Part of the reason content marketing evolved as a strategy in the first place is the growing tendency for users to distrust brands and advertising. When users feel like they’re being sold to, they instantly stop listening. The problem has been compounded by the sheer prevalence of advertising, turning the world into a constant blur of white noise. Content marketing approaches audiences with a provision of value, giving users something without expecting anything in return (as a gateway to user trust). Now, as content marketing has become so prevalent and so often used as a sales tool, users are beginning to distrust content the way they have advertising. To counteract this, you need to prove your own authority; find ways to establish yourself to new users and demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about. Securing new relationships with other influencers and showcasing your history are two gateways to this approach.
3. Multimedia content
Video has always been popular, but its growth in popularity is showing no signs of slowing. Most major social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, are continually offering new features and incentives to increase video sharing and viewing capacity, and YouTube’s user base and monthly activity seem to have no upper limit. Users want to see more videos (and images) compared to written content, yet written content is still far more popularly produced due to its higher level of approachability. Now is the time to take advantage of this; invest in more multimedia content, either by making videos and infographics exclusively, or by incorporating more visuals into your traditional formats. Don’t be intimidated by the perceived degree of difficulty; even the basic equipment in your average smartphone can produce some stellar visuals.
4. Relationships over opportunities
Older content strategies could survive by jumping from one opportunity to the next, publishing wherever and whenever possible with little regard for the long-term potential. It’s easy to use channels like this, tapping them for whatever resources they offer and moving on when you’re done. However, today’s content marketers can benefit far more by investing time developing an ongoing relationship with these publishers and syndication networks. Reader loyalty is becoming increasingly important – so it’s not enough to get in front of a new user. You have to convince them to stick with you for the long haul. To do this, you need to make yourself a part of the community and invest yourself in those relationships.
5. Smarter syndication
Over the past few years, there have been two paths of development that have led to greater potential in audience targeting. The first is the diversity of social interaction platforms available; every year, new unique platforms emerge to cater to a new demographic or present a new type of functionality. The second is advanced targeting through big data, such as Facebook’s recently released organic audience targeting feature. If you want to stay alive in the competitive content world, you have to be smarter about the way you syndicate. It’s no longer a game of volume, achieving success based on how many platforms and how many users you reach. It’s a game of relevance, achieving success based on what type of users you reach and how you reach them.
If you implement these five smart adaptations to your existing content strategy, I can almost guarantee you’ll see a bigger impact and a higher return than you have in the past. It’s inherently risky to try something new, but if you don’t grow and change with the times, you could get left behind. Remember, content marketing is a long-term investment, so if something doesn’t work, you’ll always have time to readjust and try again; don’t let your fear of change stand in the way of taking your content strategy from “good” to “great.”
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