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The Content Corner: Content Trends for 2016

The beginning of a new year is generally a time where people on a personal and professional level look ahead and prognosticate. When it comes to almost any digital media, the one thing we can be certain of is that the pace will quicken, the offerings will expand, and something totally unexpected will jump out and surprise us. However there are several specific areas related to content that everyone should keep an eye out for in 2016.

Man looking through binoculars

Video

As one might expect, video is going to continue to grow as a method to communicate with our various audiences. In fact, as of 2015, users are spending more time with digital video than with social media. Several factors are key in the continued growth of video in 2016 with two related directly to social media. The first is the continued rise of various social media platforms (especially Facebook) as the primary home for uniquely generated content. This push towards more and more platform-specific content is something that I have previously discussed and will touch on below. This will impact video through 2016 and could lead to a very disruptive year for YouTube especially.

Facebook is also continuing to change the impact of video with its Facebook Mentions and live video features. Despite what was a rocky start, Facebook Mentions live video feature is now being effectively leveraged by prestigious organizations such as BBC and is no longer limited to celebrities. The opening of this feature to any user with a verified Facebook account should lead to even more live video being created on the platform. Any agencies in the process or already striking out using Facebook Mentions and the live component? Let me know in the comments section.

Social Media as a Content Platform

Long ago, I remember when my main content discovery method was an RSS feed and social media was more for interaction with people I actually knew. However, changes such as LinkedIn Pulse, Facebook’s Instant Articles (and Mentions) and Twitter Moments and the death of the 140 character limit (now apparently to be 10K?) have established all of the major social media platforms as content publishers and content discovery vehicles.

With the growth of Mentions and the recent changes to Twitter, you can expect any social media channel that has not yet prioritized content creation and publishing as part of their feature set to rapidly do so. How does this ongoing content grab by social media impact how you create, share, and host content in 2016? What does your agency’s homepage and site look like by the end of this year? Does it become the sharing platform to your content created and hosted on various social media sites? Is it already?

Storytelling

These last trends could all be filed under the heading of “Making Your Content Stand Out” since 2016 will definitely be a year of even greater content saturation as the last few stragglers finally jump on board the content marketing bandwagon. As public sector communicators, we will need to work even harder to create even better content to penetrate the onslaught of private sector marketing content and rise above the noise to serve our audience.

Storytelling is already one of the most effective ways to communicate with your audience by sharing experiences and evoking an emotional connection to your brand. 2016 will definitely see storytelling continue to be an often used tool in content creation. Video is, of course, a very effective method of sharing a story about your agency and how it can impact the public and most importantly, one individual. Long-form content stories as mentioned below can also be effective as well as podcasts. In an era where opinions about government are low, telling these positive stories of how our agencies can make a difference will only become more and more important.

Long-Form Content

Long-form content is another way to stand out among the many content creators and the rise in content production that should occur in 2016. The New York Times and BuzzFeed started making a big deal out of their long-form offerings in 2013. The trend for more in-depth discussion of topics even prompted Sports Illustrated to tout the fact that they were long-form since 1954 or long-form before it was cool.

I could (and may) write an entire post about long-form content, including its contradictory rise despite a parallel increase in quick, disposable content and TL;DR and how it actually performs well in SEO rankings. Regardless of this, many of our agencies are the foremost experts in their fields across the country and the world. Long-form content creation (content generally greater than 1,200 words) is a perfect fit for the discussion of complex topics and critical research. I’ve heard a number of agencies bemoan the fact that they produce long-form content, but 2016 should be the year where you re-examine how many words users are willing to read online. Twitter isn’t dropping its 140 character limit without a reason.

As we forge ahead into 2016, we should again commit ourselves to focus on creating content for our users and be sure it helps solve specific problems or helps to reinforce positive impressions of our agencies. This will help us prepare for any new and unexpected trends that will certainly come along. And finally, just as with your long-form content, make sure you keep an open mind and are ready to completely re-examine everything you were doing in 2015. I wake up every day basically assuming that the way I am currently doing things is inferior and there has to be a better way.

In 2016 or 2046, striving to make better content and better serve our users will never be a mistake.You’ve just finished reading the latest article from our Monday column, The Content Corner. This column focuses on helping solve the main content issues facing federal digital professionals, including producing enough content and making that content engaging.

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