4 Content Formats Your Audience Loves…and the One Everybody Hates!

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Today, Hubspot released their eighth annual State of Inbound 2016 report. It’s a glimpse into the minds of customers, a chance to learn about what they love – and what they HATE – about how we as marketers engage with them.

(It’s probably not a good idea to annoy the people you’re trying to make your customers!)

If you’re an in-house marketer or need to hire an agency to help with your marketing efforts, it’s essential that you understand the lessons behind this research.

By embracing technology, we become more human. It’s a seemingly contradictory statement, but it’s true – especially when it comes to marketing technology.

Advancements in automation tools, analytics, and data visualization have made us more empathetic marketers and content creators. We have a better understanding of our customers and what makes them tick. Inbound marketing is now so much more than turning a website visitor into a qualified lead. It’s how we, as marketers and the organizations we represent, can genuinely help the people we serve by providing a better experience.

However, providing that ideal empathetic – and human – customer experience requires a bit of art and science. Most marketers likely have the art down. The following data provides some of the science they need to tap into to truly understand what customers want.

Lesson 1: There’s a Disconnect Between Marketing Priorities and What Customers Want

Blogs, interactive articles, and longform pieces bubbled up to the top of the marketing priority list among the people surveyed by Hubspot. This makes sense, it’s what digital marketers have always focused on. And largely, it’s been effective. But could we be doing even better by looking at what customers really want and tailoring these content types to their preferences?

Here is what marketers are planning to focus on this year:


In reality, people skim content. We all do it. You take a quick look at something, get the gist of it, and then pass it along to make yourself look a little smarter (your secret is safe with me). And now we have data to prove that this is what’s happening with our customers too:


  • Content that gets skimmed: interactive articles, blogs, pop culture news, and podcasts (how the heck do you skim a podcast?).
  • 4 content formats people love: video, social posts, news, and research.

If your want your customers to really get your message, deliver it in one of the four content formats they’re most likely to consume from beginning to end. When you’re creating content that is typically skimmed such as a blog or longform piece, make sure it is, in fact, skimable by adding signposts, bullets, images, and charts.

Lesson 2: Your 2017 Marketing Plan Should Include Video, Social, and News

Over the next 12 months, marketers are planning to add more video and social to their lineup of marketing distribution channels. Generally, they’re aligned well with what customers want, although it may be fine to drop podcasts down a few addional rungs on the priority ladder.

According to the marketers surveyed, here’s where they’ll be focusing their distribution efforts over the next year:


Long gone are the days when social could be just an addendum on your marketing plan, passed off to the most junior team member (a lot of whom, by the way, have done a fabulous job with it). But today social, video, and news need to be part of the holistic plan. And yes, I know I’m mixing a list of channels and content types in that last sentence, but the point is that they all need to be in the mix.

Here’s what people actually want more of:


  • The list of what people want to see more of in the future is similar to what they consume thoroughly: social posts, news, and videos.
  • Podcasts are fun to produce, but they’re not on the must-have list for the future. We should also make sure long-form content – for both B2B and B2C efforts – is easily digestable (ah, the waning of our attention spans!).

Focus your efforts on building a solid social media plan that dovetails with your content roadmap. Curate news articles, or better yet, create your own newsworthy stories around your areas of expertise and package them so they can be consumed through the distribution channels (social, video) that your customers prefer.

Lesson 3: Content Consumption Varies by Device Type, So Plan Accordingly

Not surprisingly, people look at different types of content depending on where they are. That makes sense – I know I’m more likely to flip through Facebook or Twitter in line at Starbucks instead of diving into some big research report.

  • You’ll reach people on their smartphones with social media and news.
  • Most people save the harder reading, like news and research reports, for the times when they’re actually sitting in front of their laptop.


Of course, all content you produce should be responsive. Also keep in mind that your videos are likely to be viewed on a mobile phone more frequently than on a desktop, so don’t jam them full of tiny charts and graphs that no one will be able to read.

Lesson 4: You’re Killing Your Brand with Online Ads – People Hate Them!

Maybe this should have been lesson #1: don’t make your customers mad. Unfortunately, a lot of us are doing just that with our paid marketing approaches. This is especially true if you’re still using things like interstitials, pop-ups, and takeovers. Fortunately, Google has joined in to try to turn the tide away from these practices by penalizing mobile sites with these ads.

  • 89% of people say that pop-up ads are frustrating (let’s just call it “hate”).
  • 85% say that obnoxious and intrusive ads give them a poor impression of the website or brand that’s being advertised.


Your customers have spoken. These things don’t work anymore – just don’t do it!

Hubspot’s State of Inbound 2016 is chock-full of additional insightful data on content, search, advertising, and sales. We’ll be diving in deeper over the coming days and weeks to share our thoughts. In the meantime, let me know what you think (even if it’s just to share the hate for interstitials, which is a huge pet peeve of mine).

See the rest of the State of Inbound report below.

State of Inbound 2016

This article originally appeared in Scribewise.

This article was written by Bill Conn from Business2Community and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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