Based on factors like mobile activity, the last time a user called or texted, the time of day and how intensely a user is using the device, researchers with Telefonica Research say they’ve created an algorithm that can detect when users are bored. Then, with that algorithm, the researchers built an app that could determine when a user was bored and subsequently send an alert to the phone, asking if the bored user wanted to read a BuzzFeed article.
Bored users, it turned out, were more likely to click on the BuzzFeed story and spend more time with it than those who randomly received an alert. And the algorithm turned out to detect boredom reliably—83 percent of the time.
For anyone who owns a smartphone, the fact that boredom begets smartphone usage isn’t all that surprising. In fact, smartphone users of all ages reach for their devices during boring moments, with younger users leading the pack. Pew Research Center found that 93 percent of smartphone users 18-29 use their phone to avoid boredom. Similarly, 82 percent of users ages 30-59 and 55 percent of users 50 and above used their phones to stave off boring times.
So why do users instinctively reach for their smartphones when they feel the first twinge of ennui? It could be evolutionary, anthropology professor Christopher Lynn suggests. Humans have an evolved compulsion to “play” to break up the monotony of everyday life, and smartphones quickly transform times when users are bored to a world of “unstructured play.”
The urge to avoid boredom—combined with increased smartphone adoption—could be driving smartphone usage. The average American spends two hours and 42 minutes each day on his or her mobile device. That implies a growing opportunity for brands to come up with digital marketing strategies specifically aimed at engaging bored smartphone users.
Creating Boredom-Busting Content
Applied to mobile content strategy, boredom-detecting technology has intriguing—and potentially highly effective implications. If an app knows when you’re bored and also has geographic or other personalized data, it could deliver relevant content tailored to your particular context in that moment in time.
At least one company already exists to do something similar. Triggerhood lets apps collect data about how a phone is being used to detect the best time to send a notification. After a few days, the app is able to build a personal profile for a user that can theoretically determine the best time to send, say, a news notification from a news app.
But simply knowing when users might be more apt to read content isn’t enough to build a successful mobile content strategy. Unless the content is truly interesting and relevant, it has no value to the bored user – because no one wants to read boring content when already bored.
Keeping an eye on the entertainment value of digital marketing content can help companies create more engaging content, as the Content Standard previously noted. By harnessing the power of emotional storytelling, brands can create business stories that can still trigger feelings such as love, empathy, hope or inspiration, and therefore boost engagement.
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About the Author
BiographyMore Content by Krystal Overmyer