Four marketing mega trends nobody’s talking about

marketing mega trends

By Mark Schaefer

This is the time of year people post their prognostications for the next year. The predictions will be … predictable: More video! More Snapchat! More podcasts!

Well, OK. It’s pretty easy to make a prediction based on what’s already happening. But there are less obvious tectonic forces rumbling through our marketplace. Here’s a view of some of the underlying shifts, the marketing mega trends, you need be considering in 2017:

1. Content Marketing Re-constructed

If you are operating under the idea that what worked in content marketing last year will work this year, it’s time to update the perspective. The world of 2017 will look nothing like the marketing world of 2015. These trends will be forcing dramatic change:

Information density — You have undoubtedly seen the dizzying statistics about the amount of content flooding the web. Finding an unsaturated niche is becoming more difficult and competing in a successful way will be more expensive. That is the fundamental idea behind the concept of Content Shock.

A failure to launch — The 80-80-80 statistics are simply too bad to ignore. About 80 percent of marketers are not satisfied with the value they are receiving from content marketing. 80 percent of the content we publish is never even seen. And yet, 80 percent of all busineses say they are still increasing their budgets for content. That does not seem sustainable, does it?

Right now, marketers are pumping out content because they’re afraid not to. But at some point there has to be a financial reckoning. Probably 2018?

The social media dead-end — Facebook, LinkedIn and the others don’t want links any more. They want the content because they want eyeballs dwelling on their site, not yours. This cuts at the heart of the inbound model. Today, content goes in, but nothing comes out.

Bot writingAutomated content is here. If you thought there’s a lot of crap content on the web now, you ain’t seen nothing yet. But over time the quality of automated writing will increase, the costs will continue to drop and within 2-3 years we will have content rivaling anything created by a human, produced nearly for free. The market will be analyzed automatically, populated with content automatically, and monetized automatically. Three years from now, a lot of people in the content marketing business will be out of jobs.

2. The rise of the private networks

For the first time in history, the number of people posting on private networks like Messenger, WhatsApp and Snapchat exceed what is being posted on public social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

People are tired of putting everything out in public for commentary and criticism. They want to connect in a more private and intimate way. But that poses new challenges for marketers.

First the bad news: All this public social data and engagement is going behind a privacy wall.

Now the good news: A lot of private information that used to be in text messaging is now in the hands of the Facebook overlords. If they decide to share that data with us, marketing will be revolutionized.

This is an enormous shift in how and where people communicate but not a lot of marketers are talking about this yet.

3. The Influence Crunch

In 2012, influence marketing was not much of a thing but I predicted in the book Return On Influence that it would become a mainstream marketing activity. That’s one prediction I got right! The reason behind the trend is simple. Nobody sees ads on TV, the internet, mobile, or traditional publishing like they used to. We are moving toward an ad-free society. Where are marketers going to place their ad spend?

Influencers. You can’t block ’em. You can’t ignore ’em. And they have legions of passionate fans they can activate. What’s not to like?

Here’s the problem. There are only so many influencers to go around. Tying up an influencer for your brand can create an unusual strategic advantage. So we will be facing an influence crunch. Prices will be going up which will finally force companies to think rationally about what they’re doing in this space. One young lady was paid $30,000 for one Snapchat story. Do you think influence marketing is a thing?

The trend toward influence marketing combined with a limited number of effective influencers will provide a crunch for marketers.

4. Content in the cloud

One of the most powerful mantras in this digital space is to never build your house on rented land. Meaning, keep all your content on your website.

Today all content is moving to the cloud. It’s time to give up and surrender to Facebook. They want the content, you’ll have to give them the content. Seriously. It’s time to surrender.

People don’t want to visit your website any more. They don’t even want your app. They want all their information in their newstream. This means we will be optimizing for Facebook — as well as Google  — instead of optimizing for people. Yuck. But that’s the world we live in, so let’s deal with it.

This trend is creating enormous problems for publishers. How do you monetize when Facebook and Apple own your audience?

So those are a few thoughts on the coming year. What’s your view?

SXSW 2016 3Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant. The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world. Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and Balint Foldesi

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  • I am still trying to own my audience, but I am still pretty small beans. haha I am working hard on building my personal email list, because ultimately, I want to drive traffic to my novels. It all feels a bit overwhelming at times, I will admit. I used to think of myself as the Little Engine That Could, but there is no single track anymore. More like a multi-lane speedway. And I’m still driving the antique car. lol

  • Last Thursday, I participated in the 2016 Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit in Baltimore (a great event!). I asked a panel of noteworthy content marketing to react to your concept of “Content Shock.” The panel’s consensus: to combat Content Shock in 2017, you will have to be outrageous. Expect to see mild-mannered milquetoast brands publishing over-the-top content, just to gain attention. The brands that don’t will lose the war. I think I agree, from what I see taking place. Content marketing will no longer be a playground for the faint of heart.

  • Yup. The customer journey is a tangled mess! : )

  • Moira McArdle

    Great article Mark. So my question is: if people increasingly want everything in their news stream, and it is more customized to their interests (based on data and personal preferences), how will folks make balanced decisions? Search seems to play a big role in this for some (me anyway) – where do you see that?

  • Andrew Barrett

    Great article, Mark. I’d be curious to know how this information breaks out across demographics, specifically age. Is there a new generation of content consumers that will be reared on the results of everything outlined in your article, so none of this even pertains to them? Evolution.

  • Kitty Kilian

    The future is already here. Soldiers play virtual reality games with drones, apps for small businesses steal your competitors marketing information (iSpionage), social media are more powerful than governments. Can’t say I am happy about it, nor very optimistic. There is no democratic control, now, in this technological vacuum big businesses and secret services and smart nerds call the shots.

  • Last Thursday, I participated in the 2016 Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit in Baltimore (a great event!). I asked a panel of noteworthy content marketing practitioners to react to your concept of “Content Shock.”

    The panel’s consensus: to combat Content Shock in 2017, you will have to be outrageous.

    Expect to see mild-mannered milquetoast brands publishing over-the-top content, just to gain attention. The brands that don’t will lose the war. I think I agree, from what I see taking place. Content marketing will no longer be a playground for conservative marketers (92% of them). Only the brave will survive.

    Mark, you write, “Right now, marketers are pumping out content because they’re afraid not to. But at some point there has to be a financial reckoning. Probably 2018?”

    Instead of a financial reckoning, I think there will take place The Content Moral Panic of 2017, an exodus of the chicken-hearted.

  • Lincoln City Homepage

    The consumer always has the power. Just post links to your website on Facebook and Google+. People will click if your headlines are good. The answer to all this is pithy headlines.

  • Pithy. And outrageous.

  • For those who believe publishing content for search is content marketing, know that you are mistaken. That every blog you publish that does not receive sharing, traffic, readership and engagement will have the opposite effect, acting like an anchor tossed overboard. Down into the depths it goes.

  • Mark, I love these observations. We’ve been seeing them evolve and been discussing them for quite some time. But seriously, are your really suggesting companies just give it all up to Facebook, Google and Apple? Really? Is that your recommendation? I could kinda buy that with one major objection. FB, Apple and Google are not allowing companies to fairly distribute content. They are not an independent “platform” but quickly morphing to become self-serving governing agencies. They are controlling what the user sees based on their own (FB / Google) monetary / political gain.

    Regarding this attitude of giving up, I’m hearing the exact opposite. Brands and consumers are both fighting against this level of control. Advertising value / performance is being questioned. Users on both sides of the equation are becoming increasingly disturbed by this questionable influence and are aggressively looking for alternatives. As these alternatives are found, the “FANG” either copies or buys them (think FB’s very recent attempt to copy Snapchat). But, eventually they’ll become so top heavy, they’ll get crushed by their own weight of inefficiency.

    Marketers and publishers need to get smarter, not just give up and succumb to someone’s control, someone who has no interest in anything other than their own market dominance. This game needs to seriously change or the concept of “social” and everything we’ve evolved to will die. If we optimize for the “FANG’ and not the people, the people will find alternatives and those trying to control them through these channels will suffocate.

    In my “future” view, I see a revolt. Eventually the governing agencies will catch up and, like they did in the earlier part of the 20th century, legislate against self serving monopolies. But before that, the consumers on both sides will (need to) battle for control of their own destinies. The difference is, unlike 75 years ago, they can (and are), with a click.

    As an aside, I personally don’t believe people have an issue with good advertising from publishers they trust. What they have an issue with is the boatload of unauthorized tracking, surveillance and potential “nasties” that comes buried under that advertising.

    The good news is that all of this turmoil will create a positive outcome, much like you identified with your comments about effective influence marketing. However, there aren’t just a few. There are billions. All we need to do is get back to the basics of what created this all in the first place and why it happened.

    Just my 2 (well maybe a few more) cents!

  • Mark, I have mixed feelings about your final point. First, yes, I agree, we will come to terms with publishing on Facebook. But does that mean we have given up? I don’t think so.

    If we believe our content (1) benefits our audience and (2) bolsters the case for us (by association or through a POV that leads someone closer to our solution), then we should value distribution of our content, through any platform. When FB become a key distribution channel, for that content in whole rather than just a promotional snippet, it is still valuable distribution. That isn’t giving up!

    As behavior shifts and many of us choose fewer apps and destinations, becoming one of the go-to sources will be increasingly difficult. But again, that doesn’t mean giving up on your own site (even if much of the same content is in both locations). When you make it onto that short list, that connection is even more valuable, because they are even more selective today.

    So yes, I agree, we will come to terms with publishing on various platforms (add LinkedIn to the list for B2B). But if we actually believe in the value of distributing what we are publishing, that definitely doesn’t mean we are giving up.

    (And hello again, it has been too long!!)

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  • They won’t. We will be surrounded by like-minded content. We already are to some extent. I’ve proposed an idea for an app that provides counter points!

  • What I am proposing here is foundational across every platform, so it affect every type of content consumer as far as I know.

  • True. I’m sure you’ve read about the trend where hackers hold small companies hostage for a ransom to het back control of their computers. “Small nerds” as you put it are the criminals, the judge, and the jury. And at the same time we are turning our cars and homes into computers. I’m not optimistic either.

  • I somewhat agree. I think we will more courageous marketing, but I’m not sure “outrageous” is sustainable for most companies. : ) Thanks for the great comment Bob. I would have liked to hear that panel!

  • that’s part of it.

  • I’ll have to think about that one. I have often said that the economic value of content that is not seen and read is zero, but you’re suggesting it has a negative value? Can you explain more?

  • I have a new blog post coming out soon where I interview five major publishers. All of them recognize the need to cede control to Facebook. But they also have different survival strategies in this environment. Losing control of the content is the least of their worries. They are losing contact with the customer, and that is death. When everybody only wants content for free, we will lose our best writers, our best news channels. Already starting to happen.

  • I think we are in agreement. I’m not saying we give up on our content, or methods od distribution. We need to hold on as best we can. But as you say, “becoming the go-to-source will be increasingly difficult.” When we turn our content over to Facebook, we also turn our readers over to Facebook (or many of them). Instead of a link that goes back to our site, we turn over the content so that Facebook is the destination.

    In this environment, the only strategy I can think of is that we rely on Facebook, Apple, and other places that want to own our content as a place to build such a strong authority that people will want to come to our site any way. Difficult. Not giving up, but difficult.

    And yes, good seeing you too!

  • I know, and that is somewhat frightening. Change is good, however control by any single entity is not. I’m really looking forward to this next post! Yes, people “expect” content for free but as we all know, nothing is truly “free”. One of the issues you mention is the loss of writers and news channels. Can’t wait to hear where they are going and how they’ll be compensated when they get there. Really looking forward to that blog post!!! Thanks for digging into this, it is a hugely important topic people need to be aware of and plan for.

  • Kitty Kilian

    You’re not? You seem to be able to see silver linings everywhere 😉 I am sure I would have been a luddite in the past. Anyhow. It is amazing how you seem to be able to foresee these trends indeed.

    I would be very very interested to read those computer generated stories you rated so highly – in the post about robot writing – is there any way you might share them with us?

    I have been having discussions about this post with my son of 18 – who says computer stories will never have personality – and my husband – who says: we can always unplug the computer 😉

    in Holland there is a lot of commotion right now about a book that was recently published on privacy and the net – awareness seems to be growing. I am, by the way, sure that if we get laws restricting the use of data, we might still turn back a lot of the damage. The internet should not be in corporate hands – the hard wiring I mean.

    I do admire how you keep thinking straight – if Facebook owns us, then we have to surrender – and at the same time I revolt. I want an alternative way. I want to keep our mental freedom. I don’t want for us to get drawn into loops of content that are generated for each of us personally and that cater to our very own needs.

    My son says: it was always that way, you always only read the newspapers that you liked and picked out books of your choice. He is right, there. But now we cannot see how others are deciding for us and that is scary.

    So. I am not saying anything new, just mulling it over.

    But how about sharing those computer stories? I am damn curious.

  • “Courageous” beats “outrageous” any day. You should have been there to set the panel straight.

  • You know, when you do something, and it’s not seen by anyone, others will say that it’s not done. Same is with blogs.

  • On Influencers, I think you are correct if we think of “influencers” as people with large followings on platforms…but if we think about “influencers” as real 3rd party experts or real customers who are advocates, the influence field could actually become more powerful

  • One could easily imagine a lot of zero value pages having an effect on the overall trust, credibility, and authority of a site. Weaker site.

  • FYI – Larry (Wordstream) wrote a Moz blog this week about changing headlines (click baiting) for improved click through to influence RankBrain. ?

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  • I definitely agree that the whole influence field will grow more powerful. But it will be more expensive to navigate as their “dance card” fills up. Thanks for the comment sir.

  • I can see that.

  • Ha! Maybe next year!

  • Morning Mark. Hope you are enjoying your SA trip (I’m just a smidge jealous!). Curious if you’ve measured the amount of time you spend on average engaging on your blog posts.

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  • Now that would be a cool approach! Can’t wait to see this app!

  • kaushan

    Hey Mark! Great thoughts.
    I am publisher and all you wrote is very relevant.
    Facebook distribution actually pretty cool. You can have much better experife (speed/video/interaction) without having to manage your severs. Money from servers can be used for marketing. With virality is a big thing because you don’t need to pay for spikes.
    It will gonna work perfectly and other distribution apps will appear for other niches.

    Influencers are just other mix of media brands and soon will be the same thing. Platform will do a job of saturate that to avoid dependencies.

    Media sites or app will change to more functional and useful sources. Just to look content it does not make sense to visit site but to partesipe and get special perks people will come.

    It’s gonna be fun time 😉

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  • Brilliant. We don’t want “content” created by brainless bots, but we are willing to talk to a bot to get information. We trust influencers above marketers and we don’t care who’s domain hosts it.

    Info is so last century. People love people. So very human.

  • Thanks for taking the time to comment sir.

  • Thanks. Always an honor to have you stop by Warren!

  • Jeff Domansky PR

    Mark, awesome list of trends! Thank you for sharing it. One other trend suggestion? I think user-generated content is still in growth mode on every social media channel and may even rival influence marketing.

  • Absolutely. A miss on my part. Thanks Jeff!

  • Fascinating finds, Jeff!

    If content marketing will be automated in the next 3 years, where should they focus on pivoting to to stay relevant?

  • Fascinating finds, Mark!

    If content marketing will be automated soon, where should content marketers focus their efforts to be able to pivot and stay relevant?

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