If 2020 has taught the business world nothing else, it’s that an online presence is more important than ever. But with so much competition, though, it’s important to create content that stands out from the crowd.

Hit 2021 with a full head of steam by getting in front of these seven content marketing trends.

1. Streaming Video Continues Its Ascent

The pandemic forced many companies to move their usual in-person events online out of necessity, but they’re now finding them just as effective at engaging their customers, influencers, and industry associates.

Even if the pandemic is fully in our rear-view mirror by the middle of 2021, streaming video has found a permanent home in many company’s marketing strategies.

And why shouldn’t it? The information is just as available, and the cost of hosting a streamed event is vastly lower for the companies throwing them as well as the people attending them.

Helpfully, the adoption curve on streaming video was greatly shortened due to the pandemic forcing everyone to become at least moderately tech-savvy. So companies can worry less about losing business to customers who won’t or can’t adapt to the change.

2. Short-Form Video

Continuing with the video trend, short-form videos such as those on TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram continue to explode in popularity, and with them one of the best ROIs in marketing.

You’ll need to optimize each video for each specific platform as they all have their own requirements (image size, length, etc.), but all that really means is you can repurpose your content and derive greater value from the same video.

So, your six-minute YouTube video can become two three-minute Instagram videos and five or six TikTok videos. It all depends on how you write and structure the content.

3. Podcasting

Group working on a project.

Podcasting seems to be one of those areas with no end in sight. Every day more and more people tune in to more and more podcasts, and there’s no reason you can’t create one that focuses on your company, industry, and/or customer base.

Podcasts also offer a fantastic opportunity to increase your perceived authority and expertise by talking with other notables in your industry, driving new areas of inquiry, and interacting with your listeners.

4. Featured Snippets

Featured snippets are the area at the top of a search results page that provides the answer to simple questions like, “What is the elevation of Mt. Everest?” Or, “What’s the difference between sponge and cake?”

How a site’s information gets featured as a snippet is something Google holds very close to its chest, but in general, you want to:

  • Shape your content into short, easy-to-read chunks.
  • Use structured data—e.g., markups and such—so it’s easy for Google’s algorithms to put your material to their best use.
  • Focus on specificity. One question. One answer. Step-by-step directions that fulfill a specific need.

A snippet, then, becomes much like a loss leader. Your site traffic may not increase since the person asking the question gets their answer on Google’s search page, but awareness of your site and its authority should go up.

5. Focus on the Mobile Experience

Woman looking at her phone.

With screens getting larger and sharper and 5G just beginning its rollout, the mobile experience still has huge growth in front of it.

Literally, billions of people use their phones to get the information they need without ever feeling the need to open up a laptop. More importantly, Google knows this and prioritizes the mobile version of your site over the tablet or desktop version.

So, user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) must be as simple and intuitive as possible, and, of course, the site must load as fast as possible (< 3 seconds is the standard).

In fact, mobile has become so important to Google, a case could be made for making the mobile experience more helpful and engaging than in the other iterations.

6. Out with Ad Hoc Marketing

Too many companies—even ones with a successful online presence—play fast and loose with their marketing strategies instead of sitting down and planning out how and why they’ll get their message online.

This doesn’t mean you have to adopt an inflexible roadmap—the ability to quickly adapt to new trends is a critical survival skill for even the largest businesses.

However, at the very least, your content marketing plan should include at least one definite, quantifiable goal for the next six to twelve months such as raising brand awareness, increasing conversions, or even just time spent on your site.

Having a plan helps keep your marketing on track and in one voice, and reduces wasted time and money on duplicative campaigns or ventures with no reasonable ROI.

7. Online Instruction

Even before the pandemic, anyone who needed a quick tutorial in anything from simple vacuum repair to advanced cake decoration knew that YouTube is their one-stop-shop.

And since the pandemic, nearly everything is being taught online now, and it’s not likely to change even with everyone vaccinated.

Creating online courses for current and future customers is a practically unbeatable value add. Not only do your customers become more familiar with your products and services, but you also have an unparalleled opportunity to introduce them to new ones.

So, for instance, when Adobe or Affinity offers online courses that teach people how to become better at retouching a photo, they also demonstrate the value of paying for the products and services they offer and induce them to explore new products and services that might be of use.

Online instruction also offers a great way to build an entire community around your business. As lovers of Apple, IKEA, and Crossfit will tell you, people actually do want to feel a sense of gratitude and loyalty to companies that take the time to create high-quality instruction for them.

The Takeaway

While mastering these trends is important and should help improve the visibility of your business and the success of your marketing campaign(s), it’s even more important to remember that long-term success will only follow if you have the high-quality content to keep your customers coming back for more.

Content companies compared.