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Our behaviour is changing content marketing: here’s how

Traditional media outlets such as television, radio and websites no longer retain a monopoly on how people consume content. New channels such as blogs, online forums, social networks and video continue to rise in popularity among today`s consumers. Combined with continued advances in technology, retailers and brands now have the opportunity to connect with consumers across all of these channels to increase engagement and brand affinity. To do this effectively brands and retailers need to gain a better understanding of how we consume both new and traditional media in order to blend these efforts.

The changing nature of content marketing is a direct result of the radical change in user behaviour. The emergence of touch points such as smart phones and tablets mean that consumers are almost “always on” and access the same content from multiple devices.

Forrester estimates 53% of internet users are “always” online for non-work purposes after 8pm and 18% of internet users are “always” online before 9am for non-work purposes. For brands this means that there is great opportunity for content to be consumed. Consumers are no longer to traditional work hours to consume hours. Brands can take advantage of this and best position the timing of their content.

The content mix

Seventy percent of US online consumers listen to the opinions published in blogs, reviews and discussion forums. Thirty-two percent of US online consumers trust a stranger`s opinion on public forums or blogs more than they trust branded advertisements. This shows a clear shift in trends as in previous years advertisements played a bigger role in influencing consumers.

This wide range in the nature of content shows that it is not enough to merely focus on one type of content, for instance article posting or blogs. Brands need to keep consumers engaged and avoid becoming too predictable in the content they share. Variety will help to build and maintain interest. New types of content is also a journey of discovery for consumers.

Inspiring consumers to take action

Inspiring consumers to take action is an important consideration in the generation in content whether the decision is taken in the short term or long term. The content shared must ultimately be in line with the objectives and goals of the business whether this is to increase sales or brand awareness. The highly effective types of content such as sweepstakes or promotions can be used in moderation to great effect by brands. Depending on the circumstances a brand can decide which type of content is most suitable given for the desired goals and objectives.

How content is consumed

Although there is no conclusive evidence of any tipping point or the moment of time when the user`s interest starts to wane, empirical evidence suggests that the attention span of most users lasts for about 3 minutes. This limited time increases the need for relevance and context in the content. Consumers who needs are not met are likely to switch off and turn to other things. The content that is shared needs to add value otherwise consumers might not see much benefit in subscribing to or consuming future content.

The influence of the device

Forrester reckons that most people use smartphone to access small nuggets of content, and tablets for long-term media consumption. The impact of this is that brands need to consider how their content is structured on their platforms, for instance on their website. Is the content easy to view on a tablet? Is it possible to build a game that can help to share some of the content, to gamify the content, make it easy to consume the content in a way which is fun and maybe even competitive.


The varied usage of smartphones presents a lot of possibilities. In terms of read ratios Smartphone text enjoys a very high ratio. Given this scenario brands could for example consider packaging some of their content into sms or text messages. A brand could for instance send text messages on a regular basis with key insights that consumers might be interested in.

Customer experience

According to an online survey from the 2011 Global Customer Peer Research Panel, 75 % of companies seek to differentiate themselves through their customer experience — this experience must be consistent and delivered through multiple channels to be effective.

Effective content across multiple devices

It is critical that brands have recognisable design across touch points. It is quite inadequate to have content that can only be consumed in one format or platform, for instance in a desktop browser. The same content has to be accessible to other devices such as tablets and smartphone without compromising on the quality of content.

Seventy percent of US Internet users read reviews posted on blogs and forums about a product. The implications of this on brand visibility particularly interesting, especially since brands are listened to from other platforms besides their own.

Indeed, among these consumers, only 32% rely more on the advice of a lambda as internet advertising conveyed by a brand.

Content marketing has changed in a profound way. Brands should be innovative in taking advantage of these changes. They should not be mere followers but proactive in adapted to these changes. The consumers have become more tech savvy and discerning in their decision-making process and have various sources at their disposal for their content needs. Brands will need to position themselves as the point of reference that first comes to mind.

Zibusiso Mkhwanazi will be speaking at Content 2013, taking place on the 25-26 of February.

Author | Zibusiso Mkhwanazi

Zibusiso Mkhwanazi
Zibusiso Mkhwanazi is a multi-award winning South African digital entrepreneur, a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and the Founder/CEO of AVATAR. As part of the digital marketing industry for the past 13 years, Zibusiso has sat as the chairman of three ad agency boards and facilitated at... More

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