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January 12, 2017

Non-obvious Digital Trends for 2017

by Tom De Baere

digital trends curating digital trends content marketing purposes

Predicting digital trends is something many bloggers turn to as we move from an eventful 2016 into the new year.

When this type of content hits my inbox, I’m interested, but also often disappointed. The digital trends usually are a repeat of the obvious trends like “mobile is still hot”, or declaring the year 2017 as the “year of virtual reality”. Or they hit me at the other side of the spectrum: the predictions are way too futuristic or advanced for any brand to adopt and monetize in a single year, or a couple of years from now.

Most trend predictions are useless, because they aren’t really objective. They are often self-serving, meaning the vast majority of them has some type of product or strategy to cash in on this hot trend.

Coincidentally, I recently discovered a book written by Rohit Bhargava, that has some strong foundations that build against the idea of these obvious trends.

It covers a methodology to uncover trends, which makes an interesting read. In this blog post I want to cover that methodology, and link that to modern marketing and content marketing strategy building.

Non-obvious Trends 2017

non-obvious trends 2017

The 15 non-obvious trends of Rohit Bhargava.

Rohit Bhargava is a trend curator, marketing expert, storyteller and the Wall Street Journal best-selling author of five books on topics as wide ranging as the future of business and why leaders never eat cauliflower (not a joke).

He’s also the author of an interesting, yearly updated book called “Non-obvious Trends”. Rohit has been updating his non-obvious trends book for the last 6 years, and he just release his 2017 edition early december 2016. It now features about 15 carefully curated trends that are extensively described. If you want to know more about those trends, I guess you’ll need to buy the book ;-).

The way he approaches trend curation, and the link that I make with modern marketing is interesting…

Trend curating defined, the Bhargava style

As a comparison, a curator at an art museum finds masterpieces that are related, based on a shared point of interest. The curator then organizes the pieces into a collection building a more cohesive narrative around the individual pieces through context.

Bhargava elaborates on the notion of curation, listing five habits of trend curators. These 5 habits are:

  • curious,
  • observant,
  • fickle (in the sense of “moving from one idea to the next without becoming fixated, or overanalyzing each idea in the moment”),
  • thoughtful,
  • and elegant (that is, they seek “beautiful ways to describe ideas that bring together disparate concepts in a simple and understandable way”).

Put a little differently, trend curators always ask why, see what others miss, learn to move on, take time to think, and then craft beautiful ideas .

To do that, he developed what he calls “the haystack curation method”…

Digital trends & The Haystack Curation Method

content curation - the haystack curation method

Content curation – the haystack curation method of Rohit Bhargava.

For his own work Bhargava uses the haystack method. This is “a process where you first focus on gathering stories and ideas (the hay) and then use them to define a trend (the needle in the haystack) that gives meaning to them all collectively.”

I guess you could call this method a low-level form of data mining. The haystack method has five steps:

  1. gathering (saving interesting ideas),
  2. aggregating (curating into clusters),
  3. naming (creating elegant descriptions),
  4. elevating (identifying broader themes),
  5. and proving (validating without bias).

I myself have been curating content since February 2012. Each time I read an interesting document, webpage, or image, I store it into my Evernote.

Meanwhile I have about 2600 documents that have been stored and tagged with relevant tags so I can find them back when I need them.

Bhargava extends that curating method by adding more idea sources :

  • Personal conversations at events or meetings (ask lots of questions)
  • Listening to live speakers or TED Talks (write down memorable quotes)
  • Entertainment (TV shows and movies that actually make you think)
  • Books (nonfictions and fiction)
  • Museums (the more obscure the better!)
  • Magazines and newspapers (as unexpected or outside your realm of knowledge as possible)
  • Travel (even if it doesn’t seem exotic or far aways)

As you first read this list of sources, the list of activities might seem obvious. But to have this curation process work for you, you need to find a way to uncover the interesting ideas from them.

In his book Bhargava describes the process on how he goes about. I guess you’ll have to read the book to find out how he does that.

Curating digital trends for content marketing purposes

content marketing mix - content curation

Image source: Curata 2014, content marketing tactics planner.

To me the interesting thing about this book is that we can learn from this data supported, data driven curation method to make our marketing strategy stronger.

Curating within the context of content marketing is somewhat related to what Bhargava is doing. In essence, using curation, Bhargava adds value by providing insight, hence adding value for the reader.

From my experience, you can split curating for content marketing into a strategy elements, tactical elements, and a toolset to support your content curation efforts:

Strategic content curation:

Collecting, analyzing, and drawing conclusions from a larger set of content. You can fit the haystack curation method of Bhargava into this strategic type of curation.

If your content marketing strategy contains thought leadership, then it’s a crucial element of your content marketing operations to have a structured method to collect, analyze en work with the curated content.

Additionally, curating content on a regular basis will fuel ideas that align with your overall content marketing strategy.

On a longer term, strategic content curation also drives your longer term thought leadership.

Content curation tactics:

The most found type of content curation, is tactical content curation.

Examples of possible curation tactics include:

  • Collect the best of others: the best ebooks, the best research on a topic, etc.
  • Get influencer to help curate: collect input from multiple influencers and bring them together (on topics such as tips, hacks, predictions, etc.)
  • List great examples: an obvious tactic, because everyone always seeks examples of others.
  • Get your audience involved: ask your audience for input on who to curate insights from.
  • Discuss content of others: a typical content curation tactic, in which the title is change, quotes are used, text snippets and other elements of original content, but in which you add an opinion or extra insight.
  • Newsletters: newsletters can surface curated content, and bring that as a service to your audience. If you mix it with original content, it brings the best of both worlds, and increased the open-rate of your newsletter.

Content curation tools: 

How can you create a system to collect and curate all the amazing content out there, without losing your oversight and time? Luckily a long list of tools exist to curate, clip, collect and collaborate content.

  • Saving content: Tools like Evernote (my favorite), memit  (save documents), Flipboard , Pocket, etc.
  • Discovering content:  Clearvoice, ContentGems and Curata  (algorithm driven content recommendations), Pinterest,, Trap!t, Feedly, Twitter lists, Google Alerts, Storify , Similarweb , and much more;
  • Publishing curated content:   Scoop.itCurata , PublishThis , TrapIt , Storify , Sniply and more are examples of (large and small) tools that  facilitate the publication of curated content. Users can fine-tune, customize, and categorize content sources for review and then disseminate in one place. The publishing and promotion allows you to repurpose curated content across your blog, social, newsletter, and automated marketing platforms.
  • Social employe / ambassador tools: a special category of tools are those tools in which your employees or ambassadors share curated content with their social network, to show that they are plugged in into the expertise your customers are seeking. In that way they increase their relevance to their social connections, and spark conversations. Typical tools in this category include Hootsuite Amplify, LinkedIn ElevateTrapIt , Bambu, Oktopost ,   DynamicSignal, GaggleAMP, SociabbleSocial Chorus,, and a brilliant new tool called Ambassify (from Belgium!).

The start of 2017

good luck in 2017That’s it for this one. In this case, a curated blog post ;-).

2017 already announced itself as a busy and successful year for me. I hope to keep on serving you the best of my thoughts.

As an entrepreneur in full startup of a fast growing company, 2016 has been challenging to bring you at least 1 post per month. Somehow I did manage, but I missed a few beats. In 2017 I would like to keep that pace, and not miss a single beat ;-).

If you have ideas or topics you want me to write about, feel free to let me know on Twitter @tomdebaere.

For now, I wish you a healthy and successful year, full of fascination , inspiration and passion for what you love.

Happy New Year!

Warm regards,

Tom De Baere