Your Website: Inform or Entertain?

William Morris said that you should have nothing in your home that you do not believe to be beautiful or know to be useful. This is good advice for your website, too. You might change that up just a little, though: have nothing that isn’t either entertaining or informative. Which is more important: inform or entertain?

It depends on your audience. 

The generational divide

This is an area where there really is a generational divide.

Using demographics to strategize is often obsolete. We used to use shorthand like “women 25-34” to describe specific behaviors, like “people who buy diapers.” Digital marketing now allows us to target people who buy diapers, so we don’t have to rely so much on the imprecise shorthand of demographics. 

But a new study from WPEngine shows a real difference between Gen Z and the rest of us. Gen Z, the Digital Natives, is the cohort of people born between 1996 and 2015. The youngest of this group are preschoolers and the oldest are in their early 20s. If you describe teens as “Millennials” — and I saw that just this morning — then you need to catch up. 

Gen Z is more likely to respond to entertainment than other age groups. 26% of them would rather be entertained than informed online. Connections are important, and they are always on unless some adult is rationing their screen time. 

Only 8% of Baby Boomers would rather be entertained online than informed. That’s a real difference. 

However, for American consumers in general, 81% prefer information over entertainment when interacting with companies. 

81% of US consumers want information, not entertainment, from companies they interact with online. Information should still be tops for your company content. Click To Tweet

Perspective

If we step back and look at the data in the context of the real world, we have to notice a couple of caveats. First, 26% of GenZers prefer entertainment over information in brand content online — that means that 74% want information. That’s less than Boomers, for sure, but it’s still a significant majority.

Second, the GenZers surveyed were 14 to 21 years of age. If the Boomers had been surveyed when they were 14 to 21 years old, would they have chosen entertainment over information? I’m guessing that very few of the teens in the survey were checking their stocks or comparing specs on home pressure washers.

The big question, then, is whether we’re seeing a change in internet use… or a difference between kids and adults. 

If Gen Z will still want to play more than learn when they’re in their 30s, we may need to increase the proportion of entertainment to information in the future. If the big difference is whether you’re targeting kids or adults, then information will be likely to remain the focus for web content.

Inform or entertain

Boomers were more likely than Gen Z to be transactional in their approach to the internet. “If everything goes well,” one Baby Boomer told me about e-commerce, “it won’t be a relationship.” She meant that she goes to buy products, and if the transaction goes well, that’s all she wants from the website — or the company. She doesn’t want to come back and leave reviews and hashtag the company in her Instagram feed photos and become a Top Fan on facebook. She just wants that package delivered accurately so she doesn’t have to communicate with the company further. 

Gen Z is more likely to value an authentic connection with a company, according to the WPEngine data. It’s worth noting that Consumer Thermometer saw a different pattern in a similar survey. Harvard Business Review has long held that emotional connections with customers are of high importance, and that those who feel they have a relationship with a company are a very valuable subset of your clients and customers.

In other words, it’s not a new phenomenon.

Providing the information people want and need can make them feel that you are generous, knowledgeable, warm, and competent. Providing it in an entertaining way might reach Gen Z better.

Either way, it’s your content that does the trick. need help? We’ll be happy to assist. Contact us to discuss your needs.

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