In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell’s book about how people make decisions, there is a section on speed-dating. In it, researchers found the standard six-minute courting session worked well, with most people making a decision before their time was up. However, there was one anomaly.
Before the speed-dates took place, participants were asked to fill in a questionnaire describing their ideal partner. Once the dates were over, they were asked a similar set of questions and unsurprisingly researchers found a discrepancy. People generally altered their view to reflect someone they had just met and liked. Obviously, it made the subjects question their preconceptions. Did they like someone who wasn’t right for them or were their initial expectations wrong?
OK, so what does this have to do with content marketing?
Well, research into what people want is something there’s no shortage of in the world of content marketing. It guides a lot of decisions. So does the consumer’s idea of what they’d like to see still ring true when put into practice? For example, as with the speed-daters, you might change your mind about disliking infographics when you see one that works really well.
Take a look at this B2B research by DemandGen. Asked what type of content they liked, 88 per cent of respondents said they wanted short-form. Yet if you examine statistics from services such as BuzzSumo, you will find that longer-form content (1,000-2,000 words) is more likely to be shared.
People tend to chunk large pieces of information together and make a snap judgement on it. Like the speed-daters and their unexpected choices, the 88 per cent of people mentioned above are not necessarily going to avoid longer-form articles. Perhaps it is best to view research like this as insight on what people think they want, while analytics represents what they are actually looking at.
What’s tricky is making the connection between the two. The client thinks they want one thing but actually likes another. In that case, the only course of action is to remain true to your beliefs and produce the right work, that reads well and tells the story.