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Published June 17th 2015

How To Be A Content Marketing PreCog: 4 Ways To Predict Future Content

In the film “Minority Report” a character called Agatha has knowledge of what is about to happen enabling the PreCrime department to take preventative action before crimes are committed. Agatha is a PreCog, short for for precognition, meaning to know beforehand.

As a content marketer or publisher wouldn’t it be great if you had foreknowledge of the topics and content that will resonate with your audience next week? Such knowledge would allow you to write the perfect piece of content. You would literally be from the future. And that would get you plenty of attention.

We look at how you can become a Content PreCog by tracking emerging content and gaining insights by content trend spotting.

We’ll show you how to:

  • see what emerging content is engaging your audience
  • predict future trending content
  • act on trending content before your competitors
  • improve the future performance of your own content through trending insights

4 Hacks To Be A Content PreCog

Credit: Dreamworks/20th Century Fox

#1 Find The Emerging Content Engaging Your Audience

One of your must-dos as a content marketer or a publisher is to know what is engaging your audience. Questions you will continually ask yourself include:

  • What formats or topics are beginning to gain traction with my audience?
  • On which networks are these formats or topics emerging?
  • Who are the influencers that will help this content to trend?

Your ability to answer these questions will affect the degree to which you can create and amplify your own content; and ensure that it is your content trending next week, not your competitors. If you answer these questions right, you make your own future.

So, what is the content engaging your audience right now?

I mean right now. What new content, by which I mean content published today or in the last 2 hours, is beginning to gain some traction and resonate with your audience?

BuzzSumo Trending feeds will show you the content resonating right now. This live dashboard shows you the content published today that is trending and getting the most shares. The ‘trending now’ option will show you the content that has the highest velocity of shares (the change in volume from the last time period checked). If you flip to ‘most shared’ you can see the content that has the most shares so far today. You can also filter down to content published in the last two hours.

Below is a screenshot of the emerging content on technology that was published in the last two hours and which is starting to trend.

Many of these emerging stories will become mainstream in the next few hours or days. You have a golden window to get to them first. This is so Minority Report right now.

Create Your Own Custom Feed

If you really want to see the near-future, You can use BuzzSumo’s preset topics such as marketing, sports and entertainment but what you really want to do is create your own custom feed to see content is emerging and trending in your area.

Simply go to and click the plus button to create a trending feed for your industry and topics. You can create a topic feed or a domain feed.

The topic feed is any number of topics you want to track. You can also add hashtags and BuzzSumo Trending will find content that is shared using the hashtag.

The domain feed can include multiple domains, for example all the main industry sites about say men’s fashion or home insurance. Or simply all the specialist sites about say Big Data or Kitchen Design.

Once you have set up your trending feed you will be able to see the content that is emerging and resonating with your audience today, and on which networks it is gaining traction. You can also turn any trending feed into an RSS and pull it into Feedly or FlipBoard or other reader. Below is my Trending feed for Big Data pulled into Feedly.

Content Alerts

The other tool every Content PreCog needs is BuzzSumo alerts. These will alert you in real time when new content has been published about a brand or topic or by a domain or by an author. Alerts are your very own Spider Sense.

You can create an alert for say “Inbound marketing” and be alerted every time new content is published about the topic. However, as with all superpowers it needs to be managed carefully. In the last month there were a thousand articles published on “inbound marketing” so you might want to refine your Spider Sense and set the alert so that you are only notified when content has say 25 shares and starts to trend.

You can also create alerts for brands or domains. You can be notified every time a competitor publishes new content. Yes, you can can get these as daily alerts as well. Below is a screenshot of my Alerts dashboard for BuzzSumo.

So is your Spider Sense tingling yet? get on top of emerging content and be the person to break it first to your audience.

#2 Three Emerging Content Types That Become Next Week’s Trending Content

Great, so you now have a set of trending feeds so you can see what content is emerging and resonating today or this morning. How does this help you predict future trending content?

We have been researching this question and we have found 3 emerging content types that are likely to trend over the next week. In essence these are content types that get picked up, discussed and which become the subject of blog posts over the following week.

Real Industry News

By this I don’t mean those puff press releases that companies issue and which many publications routinely publish. I mean real news that will affect the industry in some shape or form. Good examples are major acquisitions.

When LinkedIn acquired elearning company it was clear it had the potential to change the elearning market for professionals. As soon as this news emerged it got shared widely and over 400 blog and news posts were written about it over the next month.

LinkedIn’s news post about the acquisition on the 9th April got 13,000 shares and a Mashable review the following day received over 11,000 shares. Mashable were quick to jump on the news and wrote a considered article about the implications.

In this case it was major news and took some time to be digested, posts were consistently published throughout the next week. In fact in this example posts were still being published and well shared a month later. A post on ‘What It Means To The Online Learning Industry’ published in mid-May was shared over 2,000 times.

News content by its nature tends to trend quickly but by spotting it early you can give yourself an edge. You have a little time to create and publish a considered piece of content that gets lifted by the tide of interest in the news.

New Research or Survey Data

New research or survey data doesn’t tend to have the immediacy of industry news. It can take time for the new data and the insights generated to work its way through mass of day to day posts that companies and publishers have scheduled. In our experience it can take a week or so for new survey data to trend. This gives you a great opportunity to pick this up early and produce a great piece of content using your own charts and images.

Some research is widely published such as Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends report. However, not everyone gets to see such research immediately and most people are interested from a particular perspective which gives you a great chance to leverage this emerging content.

Mary Meeker’s latest internet trends report was published on the 27th May. The report has implications for almost every industry but I looked at how it was leveraged by content marketers. NewsCred and Contently were fast off the mark, Contently publishing “5 Takeaways For Content Marketers From Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report” and NewsCred publishing “9 Trends Marketers Need To Know From Mary Meeker’s 2015 Internet Report” on 29th May. Joe Pulizzi and the CMI followed up with “Can’t-Miss Content Opportunities in MaryMeeker’s Trends Report” on 6th June.

New Products or Features

One emerging content format I like to watch is new tools or features that make life easier. It is hard for people to keep up with the relentless pace of new products.

For example, Twitter launched Periscope its live video streaming on 26th March, hotly following on the heels of Meerkat. I suspect even marketers keen on shiny new things struggled to keep up with the implications and differences. Recognising this opportunity on April 9th Hubspot published a guide to using Periscope followed by Kristi Hines on April 15th who wrote a comparison with Meerkat on Social Media Examiner.

This is an example where the audience want to learn more but where it takes time for people to get to grips with the new product and its implications. When content on a new product or feature starts to resonate if you act quickly you may have a week or more to create valuable content to meet your audience’s needs. This can include ‘how to’ style posts with videos or slideshares.

In summary, when you are reviewing your trending feeds keep your eyes open for these three content types that may well fill your trending feed next week.

#3: Act On Trending Content Before Your Competitors

It is not good enough to simply see emerging content before your competitors, you need to act on it.

You want to be the ‘go to’ source for people that want insights or to know what is happening. There are a number of steps you can take to show you are ahead of the game.

  • Share trending content – be one of the first to share new content
  • Comment on emerging content – go beyond sharing to comment or raise discussion points. What does this news, product or research mean for your industry?
  • Share and lead discussions on emerging in industry forums.
  • Share on new platforms. If emerging content is resonating well on say Twitter but hasn’t been shared on LinkedIn yet, you can share it in a leading forum or on your page.
  • Write your own review or take on the merging story as outlined above, and position yourself as a thought leader. Even if you’re just asking the questions, not providing all of the answers, you become a respected commentator

#4: Improve The Future Performance of Your Own Content

The key is to produce interesting and informative content about emerging trends. If you are unsure what a development means you can always ask say 5 influencers for their perspective. This is a good way to involve influencers in your content and to get their help when sharing it. You can reach out in many ways, and it can be as simple as a Tweet.

See who’s shared it

One useful tip is to see who has already shared the emerging content on Twitter. You can do this simply by pasting the URL into BuzzSumo and click ‘view sharers’. If there are more than 10 or so Twitter sharers then we are able to show you show who shared it. These people are likely to be early adopters and the ones with a retweet rate of over 2 are likely to be influencers. Add these people to a Twitter list to watch what they are sharing. Also reach out to influencers, it might be as simple as I see you shared that new research, what do you think is the most interesting aspect? Influencers are key to getting your content amplified and the very best way is to get them involved before you even publish content.

See what’s trending

Review the content that is gaining traction on trending. What formats are being shared. Think about whether you can add value with different content formats. You can also make it easy to consume by using say Slideshare. You can provide summaries of emerging content and placing it into context. You can add value by creating useful charts and images, and including background material.

See what’s being shared

Review where content is being shared. If content has not been shared on some platforms you can try being the first to share the emerging content and your own content on these platforms. Content on Slideshare can perform particularly well so being the first to get emerging content on platforms such as Slideshare can pay dividends.

Neils Bohr once said “It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Luckily, it’s easier in content marketing than quantum physics. Maybe this is a better quote for us.

William Gibson: “The future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed.”

Step into the future trending content right now: Try our Trending Content tool for free.

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