With an endless supply of online content available to consumers, identifying what content will best engage consumers is a challenge the smallest companies all the way up to the household name brands struggle to overcome. In two recent reports released by Adobe in Q4 2015, they analyzed the data in hopes of taking some of the mystery out of this for businesses. Their analysis led to the creation of five “rules of engagement” for brands hoping to attract consumer attention.

1. Multiple devices are here to stay

It should come as no surprise that the survey of consumers in Western countries revealed that 83% of the online population uses multiple devices to view content. This means that a gorgeous web design for desktop users is no longer sufficient if it isn’t equally as functional and intuitive for phone and tablet users. Additional insights about multiscreen design include:

  • 65% consider design most important
  • 59% want something beautifully designed rather than simple
  • 54% consider good layout and photography important
  • 47% of users find multiscreen distracting.

2. Keep it short

In a world where multitasking—often across multiple devices—is the norm, shorter content is the new black. But how few people would actually take the time to read the lengthier pieces of authority content you create? Nearly 70% of respondents stop reading content they deem too long, while 63% prefer to read shorter articles yet may read longer content that appeals to them.

3. Personality matters

While there may have been a time when companies could get away with a “just the facts, ma’am” approach to content creation, today’s online consumers demand some sort of personality in the content they read. And when it comes to creating personality, injecting humor where appropriate can be the key to winning page views:

  • The majority, 70% of users, reported that humor can make a brand appear more relatable
  • In France, 40% of users believe factual accuracy is more important than humor
  • Globally, about 33% of users believe humor is more important than factual accuracy.

And what kind of content gets the most shares? According to the Adobe report, it’s all about content that makes online consumers laugh.

4. Trust is critical

The ability to trust an online brand to follow online etiquette is a big one. As many as half of those surveyed worried about whether the comments on content were moderated in such a way that would remove any negative feedback, leaving only the positive, glowing reviews. Just as many respondents questioned whether those providing positive product reviews were paid to do so.

This makes content referrals ever more critical, as 65% of respondents said they’d more readily share content that friends and family have already read and shared themselves.

5. Use shared information sparingly

Generally speaking, consumers are okay with sharing some of their personal information online so long as it will enhance their content-viewing experience. Although 75% of respondents were fine with sharing at least one piece of personal information for these purposes, 40% still want brands to do a better job of making them feel safe about the security of what they’ve shared.

It’s also important to wait for an invitation before engaging the consumer. For instance, someone who’s been actively searching for information on a new TV would welcome article recommendations on the topic. On the other hand, a consumer who mentions on Twitter how they love holiday baking would not appreciate the intrusion of a local frozen yogurt shop inviting them to stop by and buy something. Having an invitation to share content based on personal information sharing matters.

Ultimately, the ability of small business to master these five “rules” when creating content and engaging online consumers with it can go a long way toward gaining the trust—and business—of the online consumer within their target market.


Levine, Barry. Adobe Reveals The Five “Rules of Engagement” For Online Content. MarketingLand. December 15, 2015.