Digital Marketing   |   Clock Icon 6 min read

Using Learning Styles For An Effective Content Strategy

by Harris Schachter   |   Jan 02, 2013

People learn in different ways. Likewise, your content strategy should include various forms of information in order to resonate with the different learning styles of your audience. Content is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but rather an opportunity to connect with your prospects through the communication methods they are already used to.

Better Content Through Better Communication

David A. Kolb is a social psychologist who developed a model of learning called the Experiential Learning Model. Although there are a multitude of learning style theories, I gravitate towards Kolb's because it is simple and based on experience. Whereas other theories take personality and sensory perception into account, Kolb incorporates experience (and interaction with a business by learning about products or services is an experience in itself). Content strategy is the experience of learning, discovering, and eventually, doing (converting). Below I'll address the four main learning styles, followed by ways to reach each of them through content formats.

Dr. Kolb's Learning Styles:

  • Diverging (feeling and watching): These individuals can look at information from different angles. They would rather watch than do, and use information and imagination to solve problems. Often sensitive, these learners view concrete situations through abstract viewpoints, using creativity as part of their solution. Dr. Kolb used the word "diverging" because these people excel during situations which require brainstorming and thinking outside the box; diverging from the original facts presented. These individuals are emotional, work well in groups, and are imaginative.
  • Assimilating (watching and thinking): Assimilating learners are precise, logical, and data-gathering. Rather than a practical opportunity, these individuals require clear explanations, ideas, and concepts. People in this category can organize information from a wide range of topics into a clear and logical form. For "assimilating" learners, conceptualization is more important than interaction with other people. Every new piece of information is assimilated into their pre-existing knowledge base, creating one integrated schema. You can often find these individuals in the information and career sciences.
  • Converging (doing and thinking): Converging learners use their knowledge to solve practical problems and find tangible solutions, rather than merely conceptual solutions. Less concerned with interpersonal interaction, these people prefer technical tasks. People with converging learning styles like to simulate, experiment with new ideas and methods, and work with practical applications for knowledge. These individuals often take up technician and specialist roles.
  • Accommodating (doing and feeling): This learning style is the "hands-on" learning approach, relying on intuition rather than logic. Typically, this is the trial-and-error approach, or learning by doing. People in this category like new challenges, making plans, and following through on them. Accommodating learners are those who act on their instinct, rather than through logical analysis, and tend to rely on others for their information rather than carrying out investigations themselves. Naturally, this group's social mentality leads them to work better in teams.

Content Types to Attract and Engage

Now that we have an understanding of Dr. Kolb's learning styles, we can conceptualize how to format our content in order to address each one. Here are some ways to reach individuals in each classification, and don't be afraid to scroll back up to their descriptions.

  • Diverging (feeling and watching): A great format for those who would rather watch than do is video. By presenting your content through this medium, you can describe your product or service through a person or a personified character. Podcasts are also a great way to reach this group because they allow for an almost passive information intake process. This group is also big on emotion, so videos which contain a relatable situation or personality will resonate. And of course the emotional group also loves cats. Because these are "outside the box" thinkers, novel and new information is ideal. If you can present your product or service in a never-before-seen manner, the Diverging learners will feel drawn to your content.
  • Assimilating (watching and thinking): This logical and data-driven group loves infographics. Put facts and figures into a format which makes it both useful and interesting. Rather than using persuasive language, present your product or service in an unbiased manner, and the advantages your business has over its competition will be clear as day. Another great format for the Assimilating group is case studies. Also data driven and unbiased, case studies can serve as a real-world example of what your prospects might expect from your product or service. Case studies can be in the form of a white paper, an eBook, or a simple article (with tables and graphs). For this group, data visualization is key.
  • Converging (doing and thinking): This group likes to do things themselves in order to find practical solutions. They don't spend much time with documentation or conceptualization. A great way to connect to these individuals is with a demo or a free trial of your product or service. Although this isn't necessarily a type of content, these learners want to be able to try things themselves to see how your solutions can work for them, in a way in which they would actually use it. Allow for free estimates, demos, and samples of your products in order for the Converging learners to compare and contrast your offering for themselves.
  • Accommodating (doing and feeling): The Accommodating learners are the "hands on" group. This group would also connect with a demo or sample of your product or service. Since this group tends to act on gut instinct and relies on others for their information gathering, a perfect way to reach these people is through reviews. A testimonial page on your website, reviews on your local search result pages, and reviews in third party services like Yelp and Angie's List will strike a home run with this group. Reviews are becoming more and more important for local search, and can double as an ideal avenue to reach the Accommodating learning group. Ensure your reviews are present and positive, and encourage your current customers to leave you a review for your business.

To Each Their Own

Everyone is different, and so are the ways in which they learn. Once we take this simple notion into account, it becomes clear that a single content format will not do. Present your information through a variety of media in order to cast the widest net possible. Don't worry if you are repeating yourself, just be unique in the presentation of the information. Find distribution and social media channels which are best suited for each type of content, since these learners are already present in those networks. You may find that your business addresses some learning styles more than others, and by studying your analytics and customer feedback, your content strategy can adjust accordingly to achieve a successful media mix.

Harris Schachter