As recently as a few years ago, we had a better grasp on what “content” meant online. It referred to individual posts – blogs, vlogs, infographics – typically stored on your site and discovered or shared through different channels, including search engine rankings, social media, and email.
But today’s internet works differently. There are more social channels, more types of media to pick from, more content creators than ever before. And as a result, users’ preferences have changed over the years. The ways in which we consume content have changed fundamentally, for example; we multi-task more than ever, and are more likely to “skim” articles than read them in their entirety.
More broadly speaking, even the ways we think about content have changed fundamentally in recent years. It’s no longer discrete, but omnipresent, built into the very fabric of the way that we use the internet now. Readers and searchers have grown more savvy and media literate, and your approach to content creation needs to be as sophisticated as they are – crafted in a way that consumers find appealing and made accessible on the channels that your audience is already using.
With all of this in mind, it’s important to keep tabs on just how users are thinking about and consuming content online. Thankfully, HubSpot Research recently ran the results of a survey of worldwide internet users, cataloging “their preferences and behaviors when it comes to their content consumption habits.”
The most interesting results came from a question about “what content types” users wanted “to see more of in the future.” The responses?
- Social media posts – 45%
- News articles – 44%
- Videos – 43%
- Online classes/Educational games – 33%
- Interactive tools – 31%
- Research content – 31%
- Blogs – 29%
- Business or work related longform content – 21%
- Pop culture or news related longform content – 17%
- Podcasts – 17%
In general, these responses line up with trends we’ve been following in marketing for some time now. We’ve long known that video content has been growing in popularity, for example: On Facebook alone, users watch “an average of 100 million hours of video on mobile every day,” according to Fortune, while “daily views” have leaped from 1 billion to 8 billion in just about a year.
But what’s more interesting is just how eclectic and far-flung these responses are. Nothing points to one overwhelming content style dominating the discourse for the next five years. Instead, the watchword seems to be: diversify.
An integrated, multi-faceted approach to content is what will be necessary for marketers to succeed for the forseeable future. You won’t be able to put all of your eggs into one basket; instead, your marketing campaign will need to be effective at using multiple types of media, and understanding the ways in which they intersect.
For instance, consider the number one response to the HubSpot survey: Most consumers want more “social media posts.” But in 2017, what is a social media post? Is it a Facebook status update or a text-based tweet? A story on Snapchat? An image on Instagram? A live-streaming video on Facebook or Periscope? A professionally made video on YouTube? A link to a news source? A link to your blog page? A user-generated review on Facebook? An article posted directly to LinkedIn?
The answer? It could be any of these things – which means that your brand needs to be able to do all of these things. More importantly, you need to understand why you’re doing these things – and that means having a solid grasp on your goals, your branding, and your unique audience.
Ultimately, the best way to craft the content that your audience wants to read is to understand yourself and understand your audience. As you start to strategize and hone your content marketing strategies for the next quarter, ask yourself these three questions:
What are my goals in creating content?
Not all content works toward the same ends. Videos and GIFs are great at fostering engagement when shared on social media, for instance, but longform blog content is often better for converting leads. Is your emphasis on increasing your brand’s reputation and visibility online, or actually using virtual channels to complete less abstract goals – driving in hits, generating sign-ups, completing conversions? Infographics perform well on social media, but more text-heavy listicles often perform better with search engines. The medium is the message, after all – so what are you trying to say?
Who am I trying to reach with my content?
What are you trying to say – and who are you trying to say it to? You can’t just use social media to talk. Instead, you must use it – along with more conventional metrics, like surveys, focus groups, and market research – to listen for your potential audiences. Who are you trying to target? One you know this, you can focus on honing your message for them. Are you trying to reach younger audiences, for example? They prefer personalization and image-first social media channels like Snapchat and Instagram. Older audiences are more likely to respond to email marketing. Is your audience another business? Create whitepages and datasets and foster contacts on LinkedIn. Once you know who you’re trying to reach, you can decide on the best ways to reach them.
What am I able and willing to do to create content?
You can’t create unless you know what it takes to create. Think of your practical limitations and be honest with yourself. A successful blog requires very frequent updating to stand out – and will require a Content Management System (CMS) on your website, which you may need to build in. High quality video content requires high quality video equipment. Your time, your time, and your budget will all play a role in deciding what kinds of content you can put to work for your brand.
These three benchmarks will give you a good sense of what you’re trying to accomplish with your content, allowing you to place your focus on the strategies that will best reach your unique audience and have the most direct effects for your brand. Of course, if you’re still looking for a helping hand, give Geek a call! Our team of writers, designers, and coders know all the ins and outs of today’s marketing landscape, and we’re always excited to help a brand get started down the right path.