If you’re involved in the business of digital content, then you know you contend with distracted consumers, multi-screened attention and multi-threaded conversations. You probably have thousands of post-its on your desk reminding you to use odd numbers in your headlines, refer to pop culture, tell stories, use video, don’t use video, etc. to make your content stand out.

All of this advice can be perplexing as much of it is contradictory. Truth be told, no one really knows why some content reverberates and other content that you thought was so amazingly awesome sits with no clicks. You can test, test and still not be sure why certain content resonates with consumers and other does not.

Know Why People Search

So what can you control? Well, you can control your positive attitude that eventually your content will reach your intended audience. Rather than multi-threaded conversations posing a problem, I actually think that changing patterns in consumer content consumption can be helpful to marketers.

The trick is to understand the mindset of your consumer while they are interacting with your content -- or better yet, brushing up against it.

When people are online they are in pursuit of information. They may be bored out of their minds, but in some way they are looking for a distraction -- a new nugget -- that they can use or tuck in their back pocket for later. That’s why Facebook feeds are so popular -- they change often enough to make it fun and worthwhile to check your feed daily.

Look at this chart that shows the five most popular information-seeking activities and their associated mindsets:

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Create Content for the Action

Let’s look at the five most popular information-seeking activities online and see if we can make some sense of how to create content for those five mindsets. We’ll use Ginny Redish’s example of content as a bite, snack and meal; meaning, a small piece, a larger piece and then the complement of information a consumer might want. (You can learn more about Redish’s formulation in her book, "Letting Go of the Words, Second Edition: Writing Web Content That Works.")

Activity Mindset Type of Content
Browsing Interested Snack -- if they find something about your content interesting, they will engage fully.

Browsing Example: I might be looking at a hashtag or within a group I belong to on LinkedIn for new and valuable information related to a specific topic. I’m not exactly sure what I’m looking for, but I have a sense I’m in the right place.