What do Tiger Woods, Tom Cruise, Jim Carrey, and Serena Williams have in common? The answer lies in how they learn.
Teach them to act or play their respective sports by showing them how to do it and they would quickly become more lost than an agoraphobic at a protest march.
The only real way certain people improve is by doing. Give Carrey an audio script and you'll have more luck getting the European jobless rates down than him to learn his lines.
The key to understanding why this is the case is to dive into the world of learning styles and a key aspect of any content strategy for businesses that rely on playing a part in any creative or learning process in people's lives.
That covers a vast array of different types of business; from HR and insurance through to equipment retailers and back again; everybody can add value and help their customer improve their knowledge about what they do.
The Learning Styles
Now that we've established that people learn in different ways. But what are these specific learning styles, and how do they differ? Let's explore. (Note: if you're more of a visual learner, my company has created an interactive scrolling infographic to help illustrate the different learning styles for you.)
Visual, or spatial learners, prefer to use their eyes to absorb pictures and images and make use of colors, maps, and diagrams to organize data.
As the name suggests aural learners prefer to work with sounds and use a combination of rhythm and sound to understand.
Those who learn by verbalizing the subject matter fall into this category and learn best by, for example, reading out notes to process and retain information.
For those that fall into this category it is about how the body feels when they perform an action or how the senses react to any information. Physical learners are very much hands-on people.
Logical learners retain info by using logic and by applying patterns to help organize the data.
These people always prefer to learn in groups, bouncing off other in the team and sharing and growing ideas by sharing them with others.
Usually more introverted by type, solitary learners like "alone time" to think through new information and process in a deeper way.
The original concept for this effective kind of learning first started back in the 1920s and has progressed ever since as a central structure for much of the teaching that goes on around the world today.
It is a model that works fantastically well when it comes to working on content strategy too as a pillar in a process to ensure that every visitor type is catered for.
Aligning Content Types to Learning Styles
Before finalizing any content plan, you should always run your ideas through a content types process to align ideas against the relevant content types for your business.
You can do this easily by creating a list of each and matching them:
To really perfect this process, however, you must consider how the visitors to your site take value from the content you create.
That means considering learning styles as part of the strategic mix and below we look at how the various types can fall into those silos.
Visual content is relatively easy to conceptualize. The key to helping this group is to look at ways you can turn what may have been written content into something led by imagery.
Content types that may apply here include:
- Interactive infographics
- How-to galleries showing step-by-steps
- Ebooks – especially if well designed
- PowerPoint presentations
- Data visualization
- Social imagery led posts
Aural learners are slightly trickier to cater for, especially if your content doesn't translate well to audio format. That said, there are still plenty of content types you can leverage to create compelling content for them:
- Podcasts (e.g., how to, opinion, guides)
Verbal is clearly quite difficult online and content would generally have to be created in line with those examples above in Aural. That said there is an opportunity to interact with these learners via content.
- Google+ Hangouts
- Q&As (live and scripted)
- Forum creation
- Prominent use of commenting within content via plugins such as Livefyre
- Live chat can also work
- Opinion pieces
- Social channel content
While it isn't physically possible to get "hands-on" with a website visitor, content created in the right way can certainly resonate with this kind of learner. Content such as:
- Step-by-step illustrations showing how to complete tasks
- Detailed articles that describe "feel" as much as "how to"
Logical people are a relatively exciting bunch to create content for. Because they like detail, data and logic you can be pretty expressive with the content you build for them:
- Data visualization – the more in depth, the better
- Structured blog posts with conclusions
- List features
- For and against debates
- Interactive infographics
- Opinion pieces
Social learners share many attributes with verbal learners as clearly the two approaches have things in common. People! Content that works here includes:
- Social channel content (e.g., competitions, polls)
Perhaps the hardest group to tap into are those that prefer this style of learning. Their solitary nature however makes them a fairly prevalent group online and often voracious consumers of content, which means that content such as the below works well:
- Long form written content (e.g., ebooks, whitepapers)
- Feature length podcasts
- In-depth blog posts
Pulling it Together
Knowing this and organizing your content types in such a way can really help you format an editorial calendar that will resonate with all of the people you wish to attract.
It's also great when it comes to outreach strategy. If you understand the audience you wish to "wow" (i.e., the site owners you're attempting to attract or their audiences) then conversion will go through the roof.
For those lucky enough to have access to data from the likes of Hitwise and/or CisionPoint you can quickly build up a powerful story with this kind of data that proves to editors you have done some serious homework.
To make it easier to pull the data into an editorial calendar my preference is to pull the calendar together initially as you would without it and then overlay this info, color-coding the various content types based on learning style. That way you can check the spread to ensure there are no huge gaps between content served up for visual learners, for instance.
Play with the mix until you are happy and you'll ensure you don't leave any particular visitor waiting on content that floats their boat.