Content marketing is still in its infancy, but some practices already have gained favor and others have faded away. Below are some of the expected trends this year.
Crowdsourcing for Content Creation
Crowdsourcing will be hot in 2012. AOL's purchase last year of the Huffington Post, which has relied heavily on crowdsourcing for content creation, marked a turning point. Suddenly, it became a valid business model to tap into people's willingness to create content for free or for low pay in return for online exposure. Now, companies of all sizes are eager to try such crowdsourcing to generate content.
Watch for consumer crowdsourcing on social media to be extremely popular, too. On Facebook, companies will continue to invite followers and consumers to upload photos and videos and tag themselves as friends. Also, we'll see more contests inviting people to upload images and videos to Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and other sites, showing them experiencing brands. With crowdsourcing, a company gains brand exposure by leveraging the power and reach of the crowd rather than spending money to create content itself.
Content Curation, Aggregation and Syndication
Content curation also will be hot in 2012, but content aggregation and online syndication are losing some heat. With the release of the Google Panda Farmer algorithm changes last year, the practice of simply aggregating links and republishing content gathered from across the Web lost much of its usefulness to website owners and businesses.
However, as a door closes, a window opens. In the world of content marketing, that window is content curation. The success of sites like the Daily Beast that find and share the best online content has put content curation in the spotlight. Unlike aggregation and syndication that simply republish links or content, human beings select what they consider the best content in their areas of expertise, share links to the original content and add their own commentary. It's such added value, along with convenience, that is giving content curation momentum.
Brands as Media
Brands publishing content in a manner similar to media companies will be hot in 2012, but using the social Web for traditional marketing is out.
More companies are beginning to understand that social media sites and tools aren't the place for their usual marketing pitches. Instead, companies realize they need to think like publishers, not marketers, to connect their brands with online audiences. So this year, informative editorial material, along with sporadic marketing information, will define branded content online. Look for brands to use more video and mobile-friendly content, too, in response to the growing number of smartphones and tablets.
Related: 10 Tips for Better Content Marketing
Content Marketing Integration
Silo marketing is out in 2012, and complete marketing integration is in. There has never been a more pivotal year for companies to take off their blinders and fully mesh all aspects of their marketing--online and offline, traditional and social.
All marketing initiatives in 2012 should feed off one another, surrounding consumers with content and experiences from which they can select how they want to interact with the brand. Whether Facebook contests, mobile campaigns or simply in-store signage, all roads should lead back to a single brand promise and a central online destination, such as a company website or blog.
With marketing integration comes a greater need for performance tracking. Watch for companies of all sizes to leverage social-media management and monitoring tools such as HootSuite, SproutSocial and Radian6.
Bottom line: Content marketing will continue to evolve. Stay focused on the trends described above, and you'll have a solid foundation to adapt to the inevitable changes.