Content Marketing Trends You Need to Pay Attention to in 2021

By: Megan Elizabeth Clark

Coming from 2020 into 2021, I’ve recapped some of the biggest trends we are seeing right now in content marketing and what they mean for your brand or business moving forward.

Biggest Content Marketing Trends of 2020 Continuing Into 2021

  • High quality and relevant content: Consumers are at an all-time low in terms of tolerance for interruptive or irrelevant content.

  • It’s all about building trust: Consumers have stopped taking you at your word for what your business can offer.

  • In-person is now virtual: The online space is now the replacement for physical space.

  • Experiences sell products: The move from transactions to experiences.

  • Fans, not followers: No longer just about creating an audience of followers, but an audience of devoted fans.

What Does This Mean for Your 2021 Content Marketing Strategy?

This means you need to put out content that is:

  • Valuable: Wow I can’t believe how much information I am getting!

  • Emotionally compelling: I feel the same way!

  • Consistent: I’m not confused at all about what this brand is and what they can do for me.

  • Surprising or delighting: I never thought about it that way!

  • Working: I feel like this brand is committed to only providing me with valuable stuff.

  • A break from the norm: They are so different from everyone else!

  • Exclusive: It’s like they know me!

  • Community-oriented: I’m so glad I’m not alone.

Read on for a deeper dive into what this all means and how you can specifically build this into your content marketing strategy for 2021.

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Consumer Tolerance for Interruptive or Irrelevant Content

The online space is so full of people trying to make a sale and consumers are exhausted. There is way too much noise online for selling, and heading into 2021 businesses need to really focus their content marketing strategy on building trust, adding value, and nurturing their consumers.

With over 10,000 marketing messages served to us every single day, it’s no wonder that consumers today are exhausted or bored with the same old pop-up marketing ad that doesn’t feel personal to them.

Moving into 2021, it’s all about capturing your audience where they are, and then once you have their attention, making good use of that time by adding value and not just immediately asking for the sale. Most of the content you are putting out shouldn’t even ask for a sale, it should be delivering value, building trust, or bringing someone into your community. This kind of content sells itself.

How to build this into your 2021 content marketing strategy

  • Create free, value-driven content: Your audience wants to know what value you are going to provide compared to your competitors. They don’t just want to hear about the benefits, they want to experience it first hand. And they want to experience low-risk wins with you where it’s easy to get value right away. As a business or brand, you should have at least one free offer that acts as an introduction to your product or service, demonstrates the value you provide and draws your audience in so that they want more. This could be a downloadable guide, a free course, an email challenge, free recipes, and so on.

  • Publish community-generated content: There is no better way to build trust and remain relevant with your audience than to include them as part of your story. Incorporate ways for your audience to directly engage with you and capture that content for use in a future email, social media, or website post. The opportunities are endless for ways you can bring your customer onboard as part of your marketing and the benefits are two-fold: You come across as more authentic and customer-focused and your audience helps you generate powerful and relevant content. A company that does this really well is Lush Cosmetics who features consumer-generated content on their Instagram profile.

  • Do customer research and keep learning: As a business, hopefully, this is something you are already prioritizing. However, a lot of businesses will do their target consumer research upfront as they are launching and then forget to continuously check-in and make sure this an ongoing priority. As you grow as a business, your audience will grow as well. Their needs and wants are likely going to change. If you don’t change with them, they will find someone who will.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

The Decline in Trust and Truth

Going hand in hand with the increase of marketing messages is a rise in consumer distrust. According to The Edelman Trust Barometer, distrust in businesses is at an all-time high in 2020 and that isn’t likely to change moving into 2021. In fact, today’s consumers are far more likely to trust and want to learn about your brand through your content rather than a traditional ad.

This is why today’s content marketing strategy is all about building trust and engagement. Focus on building loyalty with your content in 2021 by prioritizing the needs of your consumers over your needs to make a sale.

Your consumers don’t want another expert or another promise. They want someone who understands their experience, can speak to it authentically and can offer a solution that feels personalized. Then, deliver on that promise again and again.

How to build this into your 2021 content marketing strategy

  • Launch a blog: A blog is a great way to engage with your audience and provide value right away. Not only can a blog build trust in your business, but it is a great way to share your company’s story and speak directly to your audience in a more personal way. If you can’t remember the last time you updated your blog or you’ve been avoiding launching one, it might be time in 2021 to jump on the bandwagon.

  • Start a podcast: There is no medium quite as personal as a podcast due to the fact that you are speaking directly into the ears of your listeners. With a podcast, you can provide more of a personal and authentic window into your business, mission, and story. Listeners expect off-the-cuff, authentic, and genuine dialogue as part of a podcast and as a result, this can be a great medium for building trust. Podcasts are not new but are still a relatively unexplored medium for brands and businesses to capitalize on.

  • Call out the BS: How can you get real with your audience through your content? Can you call out the BS in your industry or question the norm with your product or service? When you break away from the norm or expose inauthenticity this will build trust in what you are offering.

Photo by Edward Jenner from Pexels

In-Person Is Now Virtual

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a major shift for all businesses. As restrictions continue limiting physical contact and accessibility to physical experiences, consumers today are expecting their virtual experiences to fill the void. Consumers want to be transported away from their bedroom or living room where they’ve been spending the last ten months.

As a result, a business needs to not only exist online but create an experience online. This is done by creating content that builds connections and community and/or allows consumers to escape their current reality (even if only for a few moments.)

How to build this into your 2021 content marketing strategy

  • Create video content: According to HubSpot, 43% of survey respondents say that branded video is the most memorable type of content shared by companies. The rise of TikTok and Instagram Reels are great examples of this trend. Try incorporating videos onto your homepage, starting a YouTube channel, or sharing tips or how-to videos every week on Instagram or Facebook Live. This type of content brings your brand to life and lets viewers transport themselves to whatever world, reality, or story you are sharing.

  • Build communities: Create free spaces for your community members to engage, learn, and share content. Your customers are far more likely to be bought into your mission and your offer if they can engage with like-minded people and have a space to grow as a community. Consumers today are craving community and spaces to connect with new people. A Facebook group or a community-generated blog are easy-win ways to provide that space for your audience.

  • Play with virtual or augmented reality: This kind of strategy is not accessible for all businesses, but as we continue to build on what’s possible for virtual and augmented reality this trend is going to continue to grow. It might be time in 2021 to think creatively about how your business could benefit. A great example of this is Wayfair, a furniture company that uses augmented reality to help users visualize what an item would look like in their home.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Moving From Transactions to Experiences

Consumers today aren’t purchasing products or services, they are purchasing results and experiences. With an increase in competition online, you can guarantee that your consumer has other options than your product or service. What will make your business stand out is a focus on transformation, experience, community, and results.

How a consumer experiences your brand is often more important than price or product. Consumers are willing to pay higher prices for a product or service that will offer them a transformational experience or provide the results that they are looking for.

Building an experience around your brand involves all aspects of your business from social media to customer service to website design and everything in between. When it comes to content marketing, the content you put out needs to match the experience you want to create for your consumer and needs to highlight the results you are offering (not just the product itself.)

How to build this into your 2021 content marketing strategy

  • Put yourself into the shoes of your consumer: How are they experiencing your brand online? What is the first thing they are seeing or reading when they go to your website? What does your Instagram aesthetic say about your brand’s personality? Is it obvious what your product or service is going to do for them? All of these things come into play when your consumers are making a decision. If you don’t know the answers to these questions, it might be time to do more research (as mentioned above) or ask for feedback (mentioned below.)

  • Post timely and consistent content: Part of creating an experience for your customer is by showing up where they are online. If you aren’t posting consistent and timely content, a competitor will grab their attention instead. You don’t have to post daily, you just need to determine and set a weekly schedule that you can stay committed to on a consistent basis. The more you post the more value you can provide to your audience and the higher likelihood that you will be in the front of their mind when they are ready to make a purchase.

  • Create a suite of content experiences: Think about how all of the elements of your brand (your website, blog, YouTube channel, social media, etc.) come together to tell a story. Streamline the customer experience so all of your deliverables seem and feel effortless to the consumer and tell the same story.

Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels

Build Fans Not Followers

An audience of fans who take action, share your content, and buy all of your products or services are far more valuable than an audience of followers who like your content, purchase once (maybe), and never engage. This is what every business strives for, yet a lot of the content that businesses put out focuses on building one-off followers instead of nurturing their fans.

Nurture your fans, and you will gain more fans. Focus on building more followers, and you risk losing fans who don’t feel like they are being prioritized. A business has a higher likelihood of being successful with 1,000 loyal fans as opposed to a business with 10,000 followers.

Your fans are what drive your business and it’s important to not only focus on growing your customer base but maintaining and nurturing the customers you already have. Your fans are the algorithm to your success.

How do you build fans and not followers? After you’ve delivered on that transformation and experience for your customers, seek out those success stories, and give your customers a voice in your content marketing strategy. You need to ask for their feedback and their opinion and you need to share their stories. People notice when a company is listening to them and taking their feedback seriously. They also notice when a company spends all its time talking about itself instead of its customers.

How to build this into your 2021 content marketing strategy

  • Share testimonials and customer stories: Start building a plan (if you haven’t already) for how you are going to capture and share customer stories and testimonials. Consumers are looking for social proof that your product or service works. Remember, people don’t trust businesses they trust people. By sharing (with approval) a customer’s journey or story you are making your brand’s story about your customers and not about you. This helps build trust and establish a community of loyal fans.

  • Create shareable content: Create content that can easily be shared (a downloadable PDF or a value-packed carousel post on Instagram for example) or that creates so much buzz or conversation that viewers want to share and talk about your content with their friends. Think about how you can surprise or delight your consumers with content that gives so much value or is so off-the-wall (like this video of a real Lenovo employee who talks to you about virtual reality in a pit full of snakes and insects) that they can't not share it.

  • Ask for feedback: Do you ask for feedback in your blog posts and regularly check the comments? Do you post Instagram stories where users can type in their answers to your questions? Do you send feedback forms or requests for feedback through your email campaigns? If you aren’t asking for feedback, how can you know that you are delivering what people actually need and want? By engaging your customers in your content and taking their feedback seriously, these customers will become loyal fans who will share your content, talk about you to their friends, and refer your business to everyone and anyone.

The Big Takeaway for 2021: It’s Not About You — It’s About Your Fans and the Experiences You Are Creating for Them Through Your Brand

Businesses can no longer rely solely on their website or advertisements to carry the message of their brand. Today’s consumers want to experience your brand through high-quality, relevant, trust-building, visual, and interactive content.

In 2021 these trends are going to continue to expand, and as a business you need to find new ways, like the ones above, to engage with your future customer.

Article originally published to Medium

Written by Megan Elizabeth Clark

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