To no one’s surprise, consumers spend an inordinate time viewing, reading, and scrolling content.
In the U.S., they spend over 12 hours a day consuming digital content, including three hours on traditional video streaming content. The average working-age internet user spends 2 1/2 hours on social media each day.
These content consumption patterns have stayed mostly the same. What is new is their content discovery. It presents implications for your content and strategy today and beyond.
Consider these five trends as you finalize your fourth quarter and 2024 content plans:
According to HubSpot research, 66% of surveyed consumers watched a video about a brand or product the previous year. People still tend to believe what they see with their eyes. Consuming content visually and auditorily allows them to make smarter decisions about the brands, products, and services they select – limiting risk and increasing satisfaction levels.
Audiences aren’t looking for the best, most crisp, polished videos. Thanks to social media, they actually look for more authentic, “real” videos to gain trust and confidence in the brand.
Videos that aren’t brand- or product-specific also have value. Consumers hunt for videos that not only interest and entertain them but teach them something new.
I’m already rewatching my favorite segments of the Tour de France this summer, but I (like millions of others) also want to gather information about how to gain more power as I cycle uphill and learn how to use my body as I round curves on a bike. That educational interest could give a bike-related brand an amazing opportunity to publish a helpful video.
Marketers in all niches can identify educational topics that their audience wants to view, where they can also showcase the brand front and center.
Search engines and social media – as well as parasocial platforms like Twitch, TikTok, and YouTube – have increasingly dissolved the distance between search and social functions.
Content discovery has become more alike in both. TikTok remains a major search engine. Google has become a serious content curator, using its Discover feature to create personalized feeds that engage users.
This growing overlap of search and social feeds means consumers get their content in more organic, interconnected ways than ever before. They still search for some content. They also still embrace content curated by socially vetted or automated feeds. They’re just getting used to doing it all in the same place.
How should content marketers respond? Consider these starting points:
Align your content plans for search and social.
Expand your SEO strategies beyond Google and Bing. YouTube, Facebook, Threads, TikTok, Amazon, and many other large search engines have a stake in new patterns of content discovery.
Add to your content plans a human-led curation through social communities, newsletters, or other resources. LinkedIn did this in an experiment with human-curated feeds.
Advances in content delivery platforms make “if you build it, they will come” possible when the content aligns with the audience’s intent.
In earlier years, you needed to perform on- and off-page SEO, careful content activation, proactive outreach, and even a media spend to get an audience to notice a stellar piece of content. Now, content discovery platforms can find those shining needles in haystacks.
Content delivery platforms, largely thanks to AI, no longer serve up the longest, newest, fastest, or most-linked-to asset. Rather, search, social, shopping, and streaming platforms align more powerfully to offer new content based on the user’s intent.
You still can’t replace the value of timing, SEO, and content promotion. However, publishing content that meets a user’s intent is the ultimate measure of quality that will help it rise to the top.
To evolve in a user-intent world, you should:
Have a relentless focus on your audience.
Research your audience’s demographics, psychographics, and behavior.
Analyze your active data, segmenting content experiences appropriately and optimizing over time.
Content generation itself is being directed by search queries – the embodiment of intent – as shown in Google’s AI-driven Search Generative Experience. It fundamentally changes how consumers interact with search engines and look for content.
To adapt to this change in consumption, content marketers should:
Embrace the value of smaller audience niches since no all-encompassing consumer segment exists.
Double down on journey mapping and intent analysis, looking first and foremost at your content’s consumption data, not just industry trends or market generalizations.
Structure your content strategies and calendars to begin with audience data – not just to react to it later.
Assess user intent in your search and social analytics. Look at per-post engagement rates, dwell time, bounce rates, or traffic acquisition per keyword.
Here’s an example. Let’s say your martech tool suggests you change the content in your white paper to fit a lower reading level. But you know from research that your audience is hungry for details and not just a digestible summary. To meet their intent, you ignore what the tool says and create dense, detailed content that seems incomprehensible to another audience.
This leads to the final trend where all the lines intersect.
If your content is good for the consumer, it will usually end up being good for a search or social engine. These content discovery platforms prioritize content that people like and consume in their rankings. Google still says making content “helpful for people” is part of the not-so-secret recipe.
If people want to spend 90 minutes per day on TikTok – and 78% of them are looking for funny and entertaining content, consider incorporating that type into your TikTok strategy and proceed with confidence that both social and algorithmic proof will reward you.
Creating content people will like is a safe way to create content that search and social platforms will like. Consumers will take in content as they have – watching, reading, listening, and playing to suit their individual interests. Now, though, it’s easier for content delivery platforms to make matches between the audience and the content.
Advances in content discovery platforms might give the impression it’s harder to rank, harder to be found, and harder to get your content enjoyed by your target audience.
But that’s not the case if you tackle an audience-first content strategy. Better content search and curation increases the demand for fresh, eligible content. Even generative AI can’t make something of nothing. Make content your audiences actually desire and focus on progress over perfection.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
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