Information Obesity: Does your audience really need your content?

by Niall Kennedy on April 9th, 2012 Inbound Marketing

From blogging about the latest technology trends to repinning visually appealing infographics, digital marketers have come to extol the virtues of content for the brand-strengthening opportunities it creates. “Content is king” has become such a truism in the marketing world that it’s fast turning into a stale clichĂ©.

But the sheer amount of data spouted out into the digital space seems to be too much for consumers to digest, causing a consumer backlash against the information overload, according to market research specialists.

Welcome to the age of information obesity

The use of food metaphors to refer to content is not a new thing. As Brightfire wrote last year, businesses should seek ways to add flavour to their “content marketing menus” and try to provide a balanced content diet, always making sure their audiences are getting the right amount of content when and where they need it.

Now research company TNS UK has launched a campaign urging businesses to rethink the way they look at the information they share with their audiences. Based on its research into UK data consumption habits, TNS argues that we have now officially entered the age of information obesity as a result of being blasted with too much data to be physically able to process.

In his piece Data: how do you eat yours? TNS director Stephen Yap explains the concept in further detail:

“We are living in an age of information obesity – or ‘infobesity’, to borrow from MRS Conference keynote Magnus Lindkvist. Consumers are bombarded with an unprecedented level of information thanks to the growth of digital media; an amount far beyond that which our brains can store and process.”
“Information obesity (or data overload) affects all of us, but the way in which consumers deal with this threat varies markedly.”

The consumer ‘eating plans’

Yap explains that it is extremely important for businesses to understand how their target audiences process information and identifies five different ways in which consumers have been found to be responding to information obesity.

So here are the most salient features of the five consumer information ‘eating plans’, as curated from Stephen Yap’s article:

Fast foodies

“A fast foodie craves tasty, bite-size morsels of information that are packaged for them to share. These people are generally social butterflies, whose peers look to them for clarity as to what’s going on.”
“Fast foodies are among the earliest adopters of technology, particularly smartphones and tablets. The primary use of technology is to enhance their sociability and as a result they are heavy social media users. Fast foodies are much less likely to consume print media such as newspapers or read books in print format.”

Supplementers

“Supplementers actively seek out all the information they can get their hands on. They are particularly attracted by information that is new and fresh. They share with the fast foodies the desire for information as social capital. Where they differ is that they want to be the person who discovers the information. They want to be the person that others go to for information.”
“Supplementers desire facts, but in capsule-sized chunks and delivered from credible sources. They love to disseminate this and share ideas with others. This makes them great communicators and influencers.”

information obesity groups

Carnivores

“Carnivores are typically experts and authorities. They refuse to consume anything except the meatiest chunks of information. Like supplementers, the key to this group is the process of discovery. Carnivores use this to fuel their inward passion rather than as social capital.
“Carnivores don’t cast their net wide when seeking information. They focus on a small number of sources that they consider worthy and about which they care deeply. They scorn lighter forms of information and have a honed ‘nonsense filter’.”

Balanced dieters

“As the name of this segment suggests, balanced dieters are constantly looking for balance and harmony in the information that they consume. They deal with information obesity by relying on a set of trusted sources and choices, and try to maintain a healthy balance between the fun and serious, the old and the new.
“This segment tends to shy away from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. They don’t really see the benefit but are happy to use Google and bbc.co.uk.”

Fussy eaters

“Fussy eaters are the Luddites of the information age. They long for a simpler time when life wasn’t so complicated. They feel that social media is degrading the very fabric of society. They seek just enough information to survive and are very sensitive to change.”
“As a result of this closed existence, fussy eaters are not sure where their interests and passions lie. They need to be dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world.”

These five ‘eating plans’ (read more about them here) should be instrumental in helping businesses adapt their communications and cut through the content clutter. Because as sweet as content is, marketers should be thinking twice before serving up the umpteen block of chocolate to someone who is on a low-carb diet.

Just like food, information consumption can be highly addictive, and that applies to digital marketers as well as traditional consumers. However, there are signs that people are starting to exercise their willpower and stand up against the temptation.

So before you even begin writing your next blog, ask yourself: “What is my target audience’s eating plan and will my content add real value to my readers?”

So are you a fast foodie, a supplementer, a carnivore, a balanced dieter or a fussy eater… or perhaps a little bit of each? Let us know in the comments.

Images courtesy of TNS, UK