It’s almost the end of the year and it’s safe to say the massive C-word isn’t going away any time soon.

That's right, I’m talking about content

There’s no doubt that content marketing will continue to feature heavily in marketers’ lives next year, but let’s take a look at some of the biggest trends within this channel from 2015.  

The rise of influencers

Alex Ayling, Head of BBC Worldwide Digital Studios

This year it felt like online influencers came of age. We saw an increasing professionalisation of vloggers, Instagrammers and the like, leading to the ASA having to publish a new set of guidelines.

We also saw a very public exposé of what being an Instagram celebrity can be like. 

Brands are cottoning on to the power of aligning themselves with this new breed of authentic, self-made internet influencer. 

It has always been vital for brands to build and then retain consumers’ trust, and having more formal ways of engaging with influencers will help everyone do that.

Maia McCann, Director of Content at LittleThings.com

Mums of all ages are starting to be recognised as incredibly valuable influencers because of their sharing power. The story of what LittleThings did for Miss Colorado 2015 drives this point home. 

Our trending editor found NJ.com's video of Miss Colorado's monologue on a Saturday when it had a mere 200,000 views. We framed it and featured it on Facebook that morning, and thanks to our readers the video had been viewed 2.5m times by Monday (two days later). 

That trend was picked up on by major media outlets, and Miss Colorado's performance was subsequently featured on The View, Ellen, Dr. Oz, and multiple other stations, shows, and media outlets.

Even more user-generated content

Sophie Turton, Content Marketing Specialist at Bozboz

This year I've been pretty obsessed with user-generated content (UGC). 

Rather than creating content, more and more brands are creating opportunities for content creation - instagrammable moments, inspiring experiences that encourage their customers to get involved in the creation of their brand. 

Instead of broadcasting, they are creating opportunities for conversation. It's an exciting dialogue that offers unrivalled insight into customers as people, rather than statistics that can be manipulated by clever marketing copy.

The shining pinnacle of UGC this year has to be Nintendo's Super Mario Maker, a campaign that asked Nintendo's 'fan developers' to create their own levels. 

Within the first two weeks, they had created 2.2m levels that were played 75m times.

Nintendo super mario maker user generated content

In our own campaigns at Bozboz, we've seen engagement levels increase by an average of 70% when we encourage customers to be the creators.

The growth of native advertising

Nick Fettiplace, SEO Director at Jellyfish

One of the most interesting areas for conversation this year has been the growth of native advertising

One of the highlights of the year was Foster’s ‘Helluva Tour’ campaign which included Vine-style travel videos as ads, as well as native advertising in the form of a reality/comedy television series on Channel Four about four strangers taking ‘the road trip of a lifetime’.

A stronger focus on distribution

Anna Francis, Content Manager at Search Laboratory

I think there has been a real focus on content distribution throughout 2015. 

Brands are realising that creating great content is only the first step in a long digital marketing process and that in order to garner success, content needs to be strategically pushed out to the right people in the right places.

Increasing link between content and social

Anna Francis, Content Manager at Search Laboratory

During 2015, content became inextricably linked to social media.

Brands realised that social media provides an ideal platform for content amplification and that different forms of content can be created solely to be used on various social channels. 

This focus leads to more paid social media advertising, in order to boost the reach each piece of content had so it was seen by more people, as part of an overall content distribution plan.

Nick Fettiplace, SEO Director at Jellyfish

For me, one of the most exciting changes within the realms of content in 2015 has been the way in which we see it getting served.

First up, the number of tweets being displayed within the mobile SERPs soared in the early half of the year following a new deal between Twitter and Google in February. 

Not only did this mean more content from Twitter appearing on Google, but it also signified the growing allegiance between SEO and social within integrated digital marketing campaigns. 

Then came the evolution of real-time tweets showing up in Google, just a few months later in May 2015.

Content becoming more mobile-friendly

Anna Francis, Content Manager at Search Laboratory

When Google introduced its mobile algorithm in April, there was a huge boost to make all content mobile-responsive and to focus on the usability of content on smaller screen sizes in order to enhance user experience.

In 2015 we saw content marketers focus on responsive campaigns that worked on mobile just as successfully as on desktop, in order to generate the same amount of traffic, engagements and leads. 

Use of schema increasing and improving

Nick Fettiplace, SEO Director at Jellyfish

Emerging knowledge and use of schema have gone a long way in getting richer content types more easily understood by search engines. 

As such, we’re seeing a much greater diversity of content within search campaigns and it feels as though the industry as a whole is gradually getting to grips with utilising all that is available to it. 

This has made search engine result pages a much more intuitive and engaging place for users and my gut feeling would be that schema will fast become a commonly upheld web-standard among developers as we begin to see more and more benefits from it within our marketing campaigns.

Jack Simpson

Published 9 December, 2015 by Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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