In a recent consumer research report, “The New Multi-screen World: Understanding Cross-platform Consumer Behavior,” Google (in partnership with Sterling Brands and Ipsos) set out to uncover and understand how consumers are interacting with media in their everyday lives. Their findings are quite enlightening for content marketers, who are continuously looking for new ways to “break through the clutter” and grab the attention of their target customers — people who are constantly distracted by TV, social media, online content, and more, often all at once.
Here are some highlights from the study:
Keep your eye on the “device”
Do you know how your consumers are interacting with your content? According to this report, 90 percent of the time it’s via a “screen-based” device (smartphones, computers, tablets, or television). (Don’t fret you print-lovers! 10 percent of media interactions are through the traditional methods many of us still love, such as newspapers or magazines.)
What’s interesting is how much time people are spending on each of these devices (on average):
- 17 minutes on smartphones
- 30 minutes on tablets
- 39 minutes on computers
- 43 minutes on TV
This means that, when designing your content strategy, you may want to take into account how much time you actually have to grab and hold a readers’ attention (especially for smartphone users, who may be more apt to scan rather than read through an entire article). To do this, try some of these tips:
- Use more engaging (and brief) email subject lines or article titles.
- Have a quick summary or lightweight blurb at the start of a research report.
- Post engaging, mobile-friendly photos that people can easily “scroll through.”
Different devices are used for different objectives
If you learn what the motivations are behind your consumers’ content consumption, it can greatly impact your content strategy. Not only are consumers spending varying amounts of time on different devices, but they are using them in different ways, as well. Understanding what they are looking for when using these various devices will help you write, package, and distribute your content across different channels.
- Computers are used mainly to find information (and are typically used at home).
- Smartphones are used for more lightweight content consumption — and to keep people connected.
- Tablet use is motivated more by entertainment purposes than anything else (browsing the net, playing games) and is viewed as a more “leisurely” activity.
This great quote from a research participant sums up how many consumers feel about their various devices:
“My phone is… my go-to device. When I need to be more in depth, that’s when I start using my tablet… and then moving to the laptop, well, for me that’s business. That’s work.”
Multi-screening: Blessing or curse?
In the Google report, multi-screening takes on two forms: sequential usage (moving from one device to another sequentially) or simultaneous usage (using multiple devices at the same time — which is probably what many of you are doing right now). This means people are not only using different devices for different activities, but sometimes using several devices at once. This can be a golden nugget for content marketers, if your strategy involves being prepared to keep your consumers engaged at all times, no matter what they need, what device is being used, or what else is “on.”
Let’s first cover sequential usage, as 90 percent of people use multiple screens sequentially in order to accomplish a specific task. The top activities performed when moving between devices are:
- Browsing the internet
- Social networking
- Shopping online
- Searching for information
- Managing finances
- Planning a trip
- Watching an online video
The most common “starting point” for most of these activities is with… surprise, surprise… a smartphone. From the smartphone, most consumers continue the activity on a PC, with fewer people continuing the activity from there onto a tablet.
For more complex activities, such as planning a trip or managing finances, a computer is the more common place that people start from.
Raise your hand if you’re using multiple screens right now!
Distractions, anyone? According to the content marketing research report, people use an average of three different screen combinations every day.
When planning your content distribution, think about when your consumers might be most “open” to the various types of content you’re delivering.
For example, when is “down time”? This report found that 77 percent of the time we’re using a TV, we’re using another device, as well. What are the key times when your consumers are most likely to engage with your content, and on which device are they most likely to do so? Determining this information for your target audience could result in a significant lift in your content’s reach.
The most common simultaneous multi-screen activity is browsing the internet.
Whether consumers are watching TV, using a computer or tablet, or just flicking through their smartphones, the study finds that most people are doing a few activities fairly consistently:
- Searching the internet
- Using social media sites
However, this doesn’t always mean their attentions are limited (although this is often the case). Some of this activity can be complementary — meaning that people may be watching a TV show while exploring the show’s app on their tablets. Thus, having your content appear at the right time, contextually, can make all the difference to consumers who may be triggered to search for, plan, or buy something during their regular browsing activities.
The Google report calls these spurts of information-gathering “micro moments.” Consumers are constantly online, and switching among different devices depending on what they need, where they are, and what’s most convenient. This gives content marketers even more opportunities to engage with consumers all day long. Making your content “front and center” during this spontaneous information-gathering is key to driving people to your information — but the experience must be consistent. With many people starting a search in one place and finishing the activity on another device, it means that your message, design, and overall content experience should be as seamless and consistent as possible.
Finally, with all this sequential usage and multitasking, the report further emphasizes the importance of making your content very easy to find, share, store, email, and save for later use. If your consumers find an article that they don’t have time to read just then (say, while browsing their smartphones waiting for a train), ensure that there’s an easy way for them to save it or share it for future use (i.e., when they are home at their laptops during their “down time”). This also means your content should be tailored based on the different screens your consumers may be using (very visual for Pinterest, short and compelling for social media, and more robust on a blog).
For a full exploration of the information discovered during this research project, read the full report here.
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