It’s no secret that consumers are taking control of what content they choose to see. The makers of the ad blocking software Adblock Plus recently reported that it has over 100 million active users worldwide, and a study by Forbes revealed that only 1% of millennials surveyed would trust a brand based on a compelling advertisement.
Marketing is getting tougher, and marketers need to do a better job of planning and creating content that hits the mark. To help marketers better understand what audiences are looking for, we surveyed 670 consumers in the U.S. to learn how they consume content, what they like, and how it makes them feel.
We published our findings in the ebook, Consumer Attitudes Towards Content. Below, we outline the seven commandments that emerged from the research so you can put your resources towards creating the best possible content.
Let the People Speak
We asked respondents to “describe something people who produce content could do to improve your online experience.” The response covered a lot of ground, but there were seven major themes that emerged from the data. We used these themes to develop the 7 commandments for a good content experience. Below we outline each commandment and provide a representative quote for each theme.
1. Deliver actual value.
“Stop using the internet for marketing. You are making the internet boring.”
Our study revealed that 43% of those surveyed are less likely to trust brands as publishers of content. This skepticism reinforces the idea that content marketing is all about driving value and building trust over time, and not just about pushing a product. Brands have to focus on building relationships over time, instead of trying to “close on the first date.”
Red Bull has emerged as a leader in creating valuable content for their target audience. The brand sponsors and hosts a number of extreme sports events and has created one of the most innovative snowboarding films to date. Their participation in the extreme sports community isn’t about selling an energy drink, but about pushing the limits of extreme sports and, above all, entertaining fans.
2. Don’t be annoying.
“I would appreciate less popups and disruptive ads.”
Last year mobile google searches surpassed desktop searches. In this new post-Mad Men mobile-centric world, traditional advertising strategies are no longer effective. Consumers have built-in Adblock or simply switch screens during commercials. Advertisers have to focus less on being the loudest voice, and more on being the most helpful one.
3. Help them find what they want.
“Ease of navigation could be improved on some sites I visit.”
Last year Think With Google started to re-imagine the way we conceptualize content and popularized the term “micro-moments.” In a nutshell, micro-moments are instances of intent, when consumers turn to their mobile device (or desktop) for answers and information.
Meaningful and relevant content is more valuable to marketers than banner ads and billboards in these moments because they do something more than simply promote products. Great content informs, assists, and entertains. By providing real value in these moments of need, brands can forge a long-term relationship with consumers, create positive associations, and build brand advocates.
4. Demonstrate authority (and be professional).
“Credibility of the content can be improved.”
Choosing the right content type plays a role in building trust. For example, our survey revealed that consumers are more likely to rely on articles and videos for major purchase decisions. However, sometimes in our effort to be heard and to feed the “content hungry beast,” we put out content that isn’t fully formed or fleshed out. Maybe it could use some more work or better research.
Putting out content with real value is tough, so try to minimize your efforts by “using every part of the buffalo.” Turning tent-pole content into derivative content can help you maximize the reach of your quality content. For example, if you produce a well-researched e-book with original data, create derivative content like a whitepaper, webinar, and blog post showcasing the research to maximize the reach of your hard work. This strategy will not only help you produce credible work more consistently, but will also improve the ROI in the long-term.
5. Design for mobile users.
Our study revealed that consumers still show a strong preference for reading presentations and infographics on computers instead of tablets and phones (which are generally not responsive to window size). If you want to optimize for mobile publishers you need to do more than optimize for mobile, they need to re-think the structure of their content and break up content into digestible nuggets so that mobile readers can easily access information in-the-moment.
6. Provide an outlet.
“Allow me to share my knowledge.”
Matthew Lieberman, a professor of psychology and of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA, discovered that our brains are constantly on the lookout for content that others will find helpful, amusing, or interesting. We are social creatures, and neuroscience reveals that our brains are hardwired to seek out information that we can share. Leverage this quality by giving your audience an outlet to share their knowledge and opinions.
When we asked our respondents to choose a “favorite” type of content, social media (23%) and emails (22%) were the most popular choices. These two types of content are based on social interactions, and tap into this notion that our brains are designed to search for information we can use to help others in our social network.
7. Personalization should not be forced.
“It would be nice if they would just let me decide what was relevant to my life instead of trying to tell me that what they are saying/selling is relevant.”
Perhaps one of the biggest lessons we can draw from this post is listen to your audience. Instead of telling them what they like or need, find out what problems they need help solving. Consumers also value brands that take their opinion into consideration when developing products or services. A Forbes study revealed that 42% of respondents said that they are interested in helping companies develop future products and services. Instead of trying to personalize every aspect of the customer journey, empower your audience by asking for input.
Creating effective content is becoming increasingly important (and difficult). Consumers actively avoid and distrust interruptive advertising, meaning marketers need to do a better job of planning and creating compelling content. To learn more about consumer attitudes towards content download the ebook here.