Content trends to avoid and follow in 2020

There’s no denying that the ways in which we consume and interpret content have changed. Of course, the ways in which we create content have had to change alongside that.

Think of how much daily content consumption has adapted since the start of the century – from newspapers to phones, books to kindle, magazines to blogs, now smartphone-led video and podcasts. Consider how much content you wade through everyday; it’s no wonder that content has to be as sharp and exciting as ever to grab people’s attention.

As we move into a new decade, it’s important to create content that’s intelligent and right for you and your audience. But with trends that come and go, it’s sometimes hard to know exactly what intelligent content is. Our team combined their content expertise and compiled a list of the trends in content creation we think you can expect to see in 2020 – as well as a look at whether they are the ones to follow or the ones to avoid.


The good

1. Thought leadership

People have been talking about thought leadership for years – because when it’s done right, it’s still one of the most effective and valuable forms of communication and content. If you’ve got something to say, adding your own value and expertise can transform the conversation and make it so much more valuable to your readers.

Telling the stories that no-one has heard before is what thought leadership is all about. It’s still going strong in 2020 and is set to remain at the heart of good business and growth for years to come.


2. Authenticity

People are smart. They can see through slick marketing and false words, and are asking more and more questions about what they’re actually reading and who is behind it. More than ever, it’s important to be ethical with the content you create – are you being entirely honest? Are you being entirely authentic? Are you lying or trying to hide some details?

There’s nothing more damaging to a brand than to be caught out being dishonest or inauthentic – but it still happens all the time. Don’t be one of those people in 2020. Being authentically and honestly yourself is the best way to have your audience connect with you and your content – and avoid a messy situation!


3. Strategic content

Passive distribution – that’s the same content for everyone – just won’t cut it anymore in 2020. Similarly, generic, incohesive and unplanned content will only result in disappointed consumers. More than ever, purposeful and planned content is important in keeping your readers engaged, involved and receptive to what you’ve got to say – they won’t like to read something that sounds like it’s designed for the masses, and they won’t want content they could read somewhere else.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 65% of the most successful content marketers have a clear and documented strategy behind all of their content. A plan can ensure that all content stays on track – whether that’s around a particular theme or working towards a particular goal. The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to get a plan sorted – as we enter 2020, what do you want to achieve with your content this year?


4. Video and podcasts

YouTube has been around for over 10 years now, and is increasingly establishing itself as a content force to be reckoned with. More and more people are turning to the video platform to decide what to think, do and buy. According to Google Stats, more than half of online shoppers use video – like a review or video advertisement – to make their purchasing decisions. Video can be a persuasive and engaging medium, and putting a face to your words can make all the difference in how people connect with you. In 2020, consider filming yourself speaking rather than simply chucking it on your blog – who knows, you may find yourself a vlogging hit!

Similarly, podcasts have been around for yonks, but are taking off more now with the rise of streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. 42 million people listen to podcasts every week, consuming audio content ranging from hard-hitting interviews and research pieces to lighter comedy segments. A podcast can’t be underestimated as a viable form of communication and a new way to reach those who need to hear what you have to say.


5. Writing for people

In 2020, you can expect to see a new kid on the block; BERT. Not the one from Sesame Street – it’s Google’s ‘Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers’ that uses neural networks to analyse natural language in searches. It’s the newest addition to the software monolith’s search engine tool, and it’s taking a better look at how people speak and write naturally as opposed to formally-structured sentences. Basically it’s learning how to ‘read between the lines’.

What we may soon find is that content written for SEO first and people second will start to drop in popularity. The good news is that if you’re already writing for an audience of people – rather than using clunky phrases designed to tip off search engines – then you’re ahead of the curve. BERT’s improving Google’s ability to recognise and understand natural language, so be sure you’re writing for the people who’ll read your content, not a search engine!


The bad

1. Short content to meet ‘short attention spans’

It’s easy to feel like attention spans are getting shorter when we’re bombarded with faster content and 10-second versions of events. However, there’s actually little to no real evidence to support the fact that attention spans are shrinking (the most often-cited ‘study’ is frustratingly vague and lacks any real credentials). If anything, attention spans are evolving – people are just becoming more selective about the content they consume and devote their valuable time to.

If you’re creating content believing that attention spans are shrinking, it’s more likely to be reduced, intelligent and uninspiring. There’s a real danger in trying to trim your intelligent ideas down too much for the sake of being quick and easy, and you don’t want to compromise your great thinking and expertise.

The world is complicated and there are no simple answers to how you should tailor your content – but a well-reasoned and articulate piece of writing will offer far more insight into a complex subject than a half-paragraph or quick and easy generalisation.


2. ‘Quantity over quality’

If there’s anything we all know, it’s that the internet is a busy and hectic place. 300 hours of Youtube videos are uploaded every minute, 3.5 billion Google searches are made a day, and 100 million Instagram posts are made in 24 hours – so it’s crucial to be crafting content that stands out from the crowd.

There’s already enough rubbish out there simply taking up bandwidth, but there’s often a lot of pressure to keep up with it. In our years of experience supporting thought leaders, we know that there’s no point churning out a wealth of content that doesn’t add any value to the conversation, or that just repeats what everyone else online is already saying.

The old saying ‘quality over quantity’ has never been more true – in an online environment that likes to churn out large amounts of content with no substance, be one of the few creating the content that matters.


3. Unadaptable content

In 2020, it’s looking like there’ll be an increasing push towards content that’s accessible for all. While traditional written content is great and enjoyed by many, you never know who might be missing out on your great thought leadership if they can’t get a hold of it. More and more, creators are supplementing their video content with captions, or adding audio transcripts for written content. It’s a big adjustment to make, but consider giving it a go on some of your pieces this year.

Similarly, it’s unrealistic in today’s era to expect unpromoted content to take off. Simply posting something on a blog isn’t enough to get the reads you’d like. If you’re not posting or promoting your content on Linkedin, or via other forms of social media, you’re missing out on a big chunk of people accessing your great thought leadership. Share everything you write – in a place that you know people are already hanging out; it’ll make a difference.


4. Controversial marketing without caution

While it’s often been a rule of thumb for businesses to avoid controversy like the plague, in recent years companies have begun to use controversy to their advantage. It’s a risky move, but can pay off extremely well if planned and managed properly.

Take Nike’s ‘Believe in Something’ campaign. On the back of the controversy around NFL players kneeling during the US national anthem in 2016, Nike made Colin Kaepernick – an NFL player who’d been left unsigned after his involvement in the protests – the face of their brand, encouraging people to take a stand for something they believe in. The controversial move paid off – Nike sales increased by 31%, they received an estimated $43 million in free advertising, and their stock hit an all-time high.

Controversial pieces usually find success among millennials and Gen Z consumers, who like to see brands take a stand and engage with social justice issues. But while it’s clear that controversial marketing can be successful, it can easily turn sour when not properly planned.

We don’t want to entirely categorise controversial marketing as a bad trend. Of course, it’s important to have an opinion on matters and take a stand on issues. But if controversial content is something you’re considering in 2020, approach with caution. Be prepared for all the eventualities of what you’re saying, and know what to say if there’s any fallout.


Crafting intelligent content

2020 is going to be an incredible year for content creation and thought leadership, and we’re excited to be here in the thick of things.

While there is no shortage of bandwagons to jump on and trends to follow, one thing will always be constant in the world of content – intelligent, considered and meaningful content will always be the most valuable to consumers.

Needing help with a content creation plan for 2020? Here at Intelligent Ink, we plan, craft and edit thought leadership content to elevate your impact and build your reputation. Get in touch to see how we can help you make your mark with thought leadership.