The Psychology of Content Consumption: Understanding User Behavior to Improve Engagement

A primary goal for almost every content marketer is to increase engagement. More engagement can lead to positive business outcomes, like increased conversions, better brand awareness, and improved products and services.

The key to better engagement is understanding what prompts customers to engage. How and what content people consume has a lot to do with it. Let’s dig into the psychology of content consumption and how it affects user behavior and engagement.

The Reality of Content Consumption and Its Effect on User Behavior

The rate at which people were consuming content doubled in 2020, according to DoubleVerify’s Four Fundamental Shifts in Media & Advertising During 2020 report. The 2022 version of the same report suggests that content consumption continues to soar as of late, with connected TVs, streaming devices, and social media platforms being the most popular channels to consume it on.

But why does there continue to be a steady increase? Shouldn’t it level off at some point? I mean…there are only so many hours in the day.

Well, it all depends on the person, their unique needs and interests, and the circumstances they’re in.

For instance, some people have a problem they’re trying to solve and are seeking information on potential solutions. Some people are looking to be entertained, so they seek out videos, images, and written content that does this. Others consume content because they’re on a learning path.

Fear of missing out (FOMO) is another example. A lot of people go view a piece of content because they don’t want to be the only ones who haven’t seen it. Others are motivated to consume content because of their social circles. If a friend sends you a video and says you have to watch this, you probably will.

FOMO - fear of missing out - reasons for content consumption increase

Also, keep in mind that what a person consumes can have a direct effect on how they engage with brands.

For example, if someone sees a social media post from a brand that’s vibrant and different, it will likely prompt them to read the post until the end and hopefully partake in the call-to-action (CTA). On the other hand, if the post is vague and mirrors what other brands are already doing, the chances of the person viewing the post, let alone interacting with it, are slim.

You must understand what content your customers are consuming and why, to be able to create content that resonates with them and inspires an emotional response that prompts engagement consistently. How do you do this? Research.

Best Practices for Researching Content Consumption

There is no understanding content consumption and its connection to user behavior without research. Unfortunately, the information you need isn’t going to just fall in your lap at the right times all of the time. You’ve got to actively conduct consumption-based research.

Best practices for researching content consumption are rooted in:

  • Real-time data
  • Open communication with customers
  • The use of technology for data accuracy
  • Reliance on diverse market research panels
  • Quantitative research combined with qualitative insights

Segment Your Audience

It’s essential to be mindful of the fact that each person in your target audience is different. Their needs and wants are unique to them. And their content consumption habits are likely unique as well.

Since there’s no efficient way to create content specific to each person, the next best thing is doing so for the most prominent groups in your target audience. Segmentation creates these groups of people. You segment your audience based on various factors, such as demographic information, location, and behavior.

Audience segmentation sets you up for more effective content consumption research. You’ll discover the what, when, how, and why of content consumption for most of your audience without having to dig into individual customer profiles.

Rely on Your Data

Audience segmentation is just the first step in conducting effective research on your customers’ content consumption. You should have data collection and analytics tools set up on every channel you publish content on to track what your audience segments are doing.

DivvyHQ Analytics - use data to analyze content consumption habits

Collecting real-time data is ideal. But, at the very least, you should be gathering data on your customers’ content consumption patterns over the days, weeks, and months.

The best and worst thing about data is how much of it you can collect. Having large datasets to examine gives you access to more insights into your customers’ behaviors. However, analyzing data is a complex task. So, the larger the datasets, the more time, effort, and skill required to pull meaningful insights from them.

Nonetheless, data is one of the best things to rely on when researching content consumption because it helps you create a complete view. You can see what content types your customer base is consuming the most, on what platforms, and at what times.

Gather Customer Feedback

The other element involved in helping you create a complete view of what content consumption looks like for your target audience is customer feedback. You may be able to see the what and how with data from analytics tools. But it’s hard to determine the why.

That’s where direct feedback from your customers comes in. They can tell you exactly why they’re consuming the content they do at the times they do it. Surveys and polls are simple yet impactful tools for gathering customer feedback.

Focus groups and one-on-one conversations with customers are two other effective ways to gather feedback about customer content consumption. Incentivize their participation in your efforts to gather feedback. Ensure you’re asking the right questions to collect the data most important to answering your research questions.

How To Get Your Target Audience to Consume Your Content

Aside from researching how people consume content, you also have to put what you learn to good use, primarily in the way you create content moving forward.

Unfortunately, many people experience banner blindness, where they tune out online ads and content because they’re so overexposed. So, learning how to create visually compelling content for your unique audience is critical for increased engagement.

Overstimulated branding techniques can help gain the attention of not just those experiencing banner blindness, but your entire target audience and those with the potential to join it.

Creatopy defines overstimulated branding as “a graphic design style that employs bright colors or many different colors, distorted fonts, and unusual icons or logos to catch the viewer’s attention.”

These techniques can inspire viewers to consume your content because they grab a person’s attention and keep it. For instance, if you use an animated GIF or another element of motion on a static page, that’s the first thing the person will notice, thus grabbing their attention and keeping them engaged.

Giphy - that is so smart

Or, think about color theory. Different colors evoke different emotions and responses from people. By using colors based on what you want your audience to feel, you can create an emotional connection with them that helps them consume and engage with your content.

Overstimulated branding is all about presenting your brand and content in a way customers don’t normally see brands and content. Your content creation strategy should be rooted in this to ensure you’re always creating content that your target audience wants to see and engage with.

The research you’ve conducted on your customers and their content consumption should have some information on what kinds of colors, fonts, icons, logos, and other visual content aspects they gravitate toward. Use it to inform your approach to overstimulated branding and ensure you’re creating what your customers will engage with the most.

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