The Emotional Motivations that Drive Content Consumption

Today we’re donning our psychology coats (I’m thinking tweed, preferably with those elbow patch things) to explore the thought process and emotions that motivate the content we consume.

Why do we click on certain articles, but not others? What’s going on in our brains when we sift through and select content? What are the underlying motivations for the things we read or view? Why can’t I stop watching that video where the guy is slipping on ice for like 10 seconds?

All good questions to consider. Especially for those of us in the business of producing content that is (hopefully) helpful, interesting, informative, or beneficial in some way.

Whether you’re a marketer, a recruiter, a salesperson, or an executive, it’s important to think about what ultimately drives people to interact with content. That’s a good starting point for any content marketing strategy.

AOL’s Eight ‘Moments’

 
AOL, in a fascinating bit of recent research, identified eight different motivations that drive consumers to engage with content. The eight buckets or ‘moments’ they identify are, in their words to:

  • Inspire

    – Looking for fresh ideas

  • Be in the Know

    – Looking to stay updated

  • Find

    – Seeking answers and advice, or researching a specific topic

  • Comfort

    – Seeking support or insight

  • Connect

    – Wanting to feel part of a community

  • Feel Good

    – Looking for something to pick them up

  • Entertain

    – Looking for an escape

  • Update Socially

    – Seeking relaxing info to stay updated or to take a mental break

They go on to specify leading formats and topics in a handy infographic, which identifies four key takeaways to shoot for when trying to create useful, effective content campaigns:

  • Create content that adds value

  • Anticipate each outcome

  • Vary your content topics and formats

  • Embrace a blend of data and creativity

No arguments here, AOL. The question, then, is: What does all this mean for you and your messaging?

What drives people to interact with your content? Or perhaps more importantly, what itch do you want to scratch, and what motivations are you hoping to address or anticipate when you’re crafting content?

You might want to revisit AOL’s list before creating your next content piece:

  • Inspire

  • Be in the Know

  • Find

  • Comfort

  • Connect

  • Feel Good

  • Entertain

  • Update Socially

It’s Not About You!

 
So much of marketing — successful marketing, at least — is knowing your audience. What do they like? What’s important to them? What do they find entertaining or useful?

A lot of businesses get this part twisted; they spend all their time talking about themselves, and they run campaigns featuring things they find interesting. But if your audience doesn’t think a topic or content piece is compelling, relevant, or somehow advantageous, why would they care? Much less entrust you with their business?

The first step toward understanding the emotional factors that influence content consumption is recognizing that it’s not about you and what you think is neat. That’s a reminder we all need from time to time.

Finding Your Blend

 
As for AOL’s exhortations to vary content topics and formats, and to embrace a blend of data/creativity, we also say a resounding yes. We humans love variety. Whether you’re talking meals, beverages, or business, it’s beautiful to have a blend of harmonious components.

Figuring out your own marketing recipe can be a challenge, but it’s important to consider. And to tweak along the way. Take a look at this marketing mix survey from marketingcharts.com.

Of course it’s nice to know about other people’s ideal marketing blend, but there is no one-size-fits-all package here. The things that motivate your audience might be completely different from ours. The task before you is to determine as much as possible about their preferences.

Are they email people? Do they like Facebook? What kinds of content formats do they enjoy the most? What annoys them?

If you don’t know … ask!

Genuine Connections

 
Just like any other relationship, there should be dialogue and open communication with your customers. That’s a great start toward understanding their motivations, yes. But it’s also a way to begin the process of forging genuine, meaningful connections with the real human beings who make up your audience. That is, or should be, the ultimate goal.
 

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