Content is all about communication, but different people like to be communicated with differently. They respond to, and engage with, a range of content types and depending on what they are doing and where they are, will receive it on a variety of devices.
Understanding who you are creating content for is the first step in determining the type of content you need to create and how it needs to differ for different platforms.
It is imperative that we stop thinking one size fits all, that the same content type will be enjoyed by the same people and on the same sort of device.
But how do you go about doing this?
Understanding your audience
Global Web Index (GWI) is a vast database which allows us to look at the online world and the behaviours of different people.
It helps brands understand what their target audience want from them content wise – whether they want to be entertained or educated, for example – and where they go to discover information. Do they use search engines, vlogs, blogs, the digital media?
GWI data also offers valuable insight into the length of time particular people spend online each day, which also helps inform the types of content they want to absorb. For example, if they are only online one to two hours a day, they probably don’t have time to read long form content such as How to Guides, eBooks and White Papers. These people are looking for bite-sized, skimmable content they can digest easily.
All of this GWI information helps brands to understand which content will resonate with their target audience and, even more importantly, where these people are online. This in turn gives data to ensure we create the right content, for right people, at the right time – and know the sort of the sites they frequent to receive information.
Takeaway: Before you decide what content to create, map your audience to ensure you are focusing on the right content types and formats. This persona creation template will help you.
Keeping it fresh
In my 20-odd years as a newspaper journalist I learnt many things, but one which still holds true in today’s digital world is that variety is most definitely the spice of life.
It is impossible to please everyone, but if we can create a variety of different content to appeal to as many as people as possible we stand a much better chance of being successful.
This is why newspapers and magazines offer so much variation within their pages, from hard-hitting news articles with attention grabbing headlines, to longer, more in depth features which delve even deeper into the story; opinion pieces to spark debate and short news snippets, which can be absorbed quickly; picture stories and spreads for those who like more visual content and don’t have the time or inclination to read too many words.
The same rules apply online.
People expect to be able to read/find different content types from visual content such as infographics, listicles and video, to long form articles and in depth reports and short articles answering specific questions.
But it is also important to remember that they use different devices to absorb different content types.
Takeaway: Once we have understood who your audience are, we need to discover where they hang out, and what matters to them in terms of how they want to be spoken to. This can sit alongside tone of voice definitions.
Yougov can tell us what other media personas consume – other websites and newspapers – which can inform how we might talk to them and where we might put your content.
Another trick is to use upstream/downstream data, from platforms like Google Analytics and Comscore, which can show us which websites personas are visiting before and after they visit a site.
Desktop v Mobile
How many people do you know who sit down and read content on a desktop? Not many, I bet. Laptops, tablets and smartphones have taken over, as more and more of us want/need to receive content on the go.
A report from Ofcom revealed that the UK is now officially a smartphone society.
Since 2015 smartphones have overtaken laptops as the UK’s number one choice of device for internet use, and because we all have at least one mobile device with us at any one time – day or night – we now spend more time online than ever before. Twice as long, in fact, as we did on laptops.
So what does this mean for content?
To create content that will work on mobile devices, we need to know what the content is being used for. Is it to inform, educate or entertain? Is it to direct? Promote a product/service? Entice someone to buy?
First things first. The content needs to load quickly – in a world of instant gratification people will not wait more than a few seconds for something to load before they click away.
In fact, 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less and 40% of people abandon a site that takes more than than three seconds to load.
Although the bulk of the content needs to be the same on both desktop and mobile, it is important to understand that people use desktop computers and mobile devices to view different sorts of content.
For example, 92% of time on mobile devices is spent viewing photos, compared to just 8% on desktop. The bulk of us use our phones to look at maps, play games, and check updates on our social networks. However, people dedicate more time to reading news, health information and web portals on computers.
So why is this?
There are a number of reasons why mobile usage has risen in popularity, but the main one, in my opinion, is thanks to the creation of apps.
Apps allow us to access the content we are interested in quickly, without having to sit down at a desktop computer and search for it on the web.
The availability and convenience of apps that help simplify our lives – giving us directions, telling us where the nearest café is, informing us about traffic conditions and even what the weather will be like in four hours’ time, etc – are all reason why we our mobile devices.
We also use apps to kill time: Games and social networking apps in particular, keep us entertained wherever we are, be it on the train or tube, during the evening commute home, or waiting in a bar for that friend who is always late.
Quite simply, the content we choose to access on our mobile devices has a lot to do with how much time we have.
If we’re writing a lengthy blog or putting reports together, for example, most of us will choose to do so on a desktop because of the in-depth research and amount of time we’re devoting to the project.
But those who are accessing content on a mobile device are usually multi-tasking; often while watching the television, eating or even when in the bathroom!
Mobiles are our go-to devices when we need to learn something, do something, watch something or buy something quickly. Known as micro-moments, the majority of us will automatically turn to our mobiles to get the answer, rather than spend vital time switching on a desktop computer.
Takeaway: Understand the device splits via Google Analytics to ensure we know exactly what ration of mobile vs desktop to aim for in the content plan. Also ensure a site is setup to engage the user, with good UX and page load times (use Google Page Speed Insights for this).
Video, video, video
The growth of mobile has also seen an explosion in video content.
A recent YouTube report has revealed that mobile video consumption has rise by 100% every year and one third of all online activity is spent watching video. According to global IT leader, Cisco, by 2017 video will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic.
Part of the reason why video has become so popular is because it brings a story to life.
News sites such as the BBC and Channel 4 use video particularly well, in giving users a quick snapshot of a story – which they can watch on their mobile – before reading a more in-depth article on the subject on their PC.
Video is also having a huge impact on social media, with short quizzes, sped up recipes and craft-making videos making a regular appearance in our newsfeeds, as well as emotive videos to challenge us, such as this one made by drinks manufacturer Purdey’s and starring Idris Elba.
The success stories of videos that have gone viral are legend, perhaps the most famous is a 2014 campaign for Volkswagen, featuring a trio of videos which gained 155 million views. Proving that if if you engage viewers, they will share the video with others and ultimately spend longer on your website and more time interacting with your brand.
Takeaway: Often, written content can be made more engaging with video. This applies to ‘hub’ content designed to engage, such as blog content, and also ‘hygiene’ content, such as category pages and static commercial pages.
The stats above prove that the consumption of video helps to engage! Always ask the question – could this content work via video? Or, can we enhance this content with video?
So what does this all mean for the future of content? The answer is simple: Short, simple, snappy content that gives us exactly what we’re looking for whenever we’re looking for it, is perfect for mobile devices.
If we look at what content is working on social platforms at the moment, Facebook is quickly being consumed by short video content that replaces written ‘news’. We will have all seen snappy clips, with overlaid text to combat auto-mute, which have become an integral part of our social experiences. This is truly indicative of how users want to absorb content and information. Disrupting the news feed is the key!
People use their mobiles for entertainment purposes but also to absorb content quickly, and social campaigns which grab the attention/imagination are the most likely to go viral.
There is still a place for longer in depth articles, however, especially for those wishing to delve deeper, people with curious minds who want more information to improve their knowledge and expertise; and it is this content that is best absorbed on a desktop machine or tablet.
It all comes back to the earlier point about variety. Every content marketing campaign needs to include a variety of content types to hook and interest as many people as possible to ensure maximum success.
Julia Ogden is Content Director at Zazzle Media
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I didn’t vote for him last November. There was no way this registered Democrat from the blue state of Massachusetts would check that box. But I have to give him props for his tweets.