The World UNPLUGGED study results came out recently. This international research focused on students and their reaction to being disconnected from the online world for a day. The researchers also gathered information about how students used social media and their devices. There has been little talk about the results among marketers–but the world UNPLUGGED results have some very important implications for content marketing.
Young People Expect News and Content to Come to Them
As well as studying their reactions to being unplugged, the researchers asked students about their use of social media. The respondents’ answers about how they get news is particularly interesting because it’s indicative of their approach to content, in general.
According to the researchers, these young people only rarely go seeking news. Instead:
“they inhale, almost unconsciously, the news that is served up on the sidebar of their email account, that is on friends’ Facebook walls, that comes through on Twitter…In most cases they only learn more about a story when the details or updates are also served up via text or tweet or post.”
In other words, young people expect the news to come to them via their family, friends, and extended social network. They get their news, and likely other information, in small Facebook or Twitter-sized posts. Their network acts as a filter, and the content that gets through is only what is deemed important or entertaining to their friends.
For Young People, the Headline is Enough
The study also provides some interesting details about how students interact with these snippets of news and information:
“Students now get their news in chunks of 140 characters or from Facebook posts. Think Dickens’ serializing of his novels; that’s the way news comes to students. And if a chapter or two are lost along the way, well, the students don’t bother to go back – nor do they often click into the shortened URLs embedded in the 140-character messages.
“…most students across the world have neither the time nor the interest to follow up on even quite important news stories – unless they are personally engaged. For daily news, students have become headline readers via their social networks. They only learn more about a story when the details or updates are also served up via text or tweet or post…students see the de facto text-message-length headlines as sufficiently informative for all but the most personally compelling events.”
Implications of Unplugged Study for Marketers
While older people may click and read content more than younger people, they are likely sufficing with headlines more often than they used to, for the same reasons as the kids: an overabundance of information. Even if thirty-somethings and up continue to click and read at higher rates, in the very near future marketing must adapt to the upcoming generations.
That means that marketers must think about:
- Getting their content into those inner circles–It’s not enough to have people Like your page. Marketers will need to find ways to get many different individuals to actively share a link on their own, personal pages.
- Creating headlines that suffice in and of themselves–In most cases, readers aren’t going to click the link. That means the headline has to do critical work by itself: conveying the message, selling the brand, spreading the word.
- Writing headlines and blurbs that get the click–At the same time, the goal (as with ad copy) is to get the click. Writing posts will become much more like writing ad copy. They must give users a compelling reason to open the content.
I see some even bigger implications for marketers and the social media tools we use. I’ll blog about those in another post. For now, I’ll be paying more attention to my headlines and blurbs–and I bet you will be, too.
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