Like a game show that constantly has an audience reaching for a buzzer, the right content convinces readers to be responsive and interactive with the message. With powerful phraseology and elegant typography, intriguing messages contained in prose make the text feel as collaborative as a think tank.
If you want to learn to write text that will have readers frantic to respond, then employ these psychologically-driven messages. Here are the second five of the 40 secrets to create powerful prose, which are applied by content czars, divas, diplomats, and vendors, alike. Over the next six weeks, I’ll be giving away the remaining 30 secrets to improve your content creation game.
If an acquaintance gives you a gift—even something you hate and resent—you are twice as likely to reciprocate, or support that person. Thus, if Trump sends his Trump Steaks to vegan friends, even though they would hate the gift, they would be twice as likely to vote Trump for President, 2012.
Give your audience something, whether it’s a secret, widget, or valuable link, and they’re twice as likely to ‘like’ and buy from you. Even though an audience would prefer to be given a valuable tip or application, giving them anything creates that vacuum of reciprocation that makes people feel guilty, and prompts a positive response. Think: how much more likely are you to get the kids a small toy immediately after they’ve drawn you a picture. To learn more about the value of widgets, check out Overlooked Linkbait: The Value of Widgets by Jordan Kasteler.
Create a symbiotic support cycle:
- Give the audience a valuable link, insight, or widget
- After giving something away, subtly request reciprocation in the form of a well-placed ‘like’ button, a comment box to be filled-in, or a sales pitch
- Keep in mind how awful it feels when someone expects a present from you on Christmas: similarly, you do not want to create a situation where readers feel expected to respond, or they may resent the freebie you presented
Taking the previous section into consideration, would you presume an audience would be more or less likely to reciprocate positively if you imply they absolutely will reciprocate? Studies have found that suggesting a link between their reciprocation and a freebie will not affect a readership’s behavior, whereas an implicit assumption about their reciprocation actually increases the likelihood of positive response by more than 40%. If you’re convinced this is a good idea, check out Patrick Winfield’s resource in his post, Ultimate How-To: Buttons, Tools, and Badges
Sound complicated? All you need to do is suggest that a freebie is given in advance as a small ‘thank you’ for the audience’s feedback. Adding guilt to the situation in the form of an ‘if you/then I’ scenario results in no increase in feedback or ‘like’ count.
Create a symbiotic support presupposition:
- Before posting the free advice, widget, or tip, write a thank you to the readers, telling them the gift is a signifier of appreciation for commenting—the gift given as an implicit, advanced sign of trust that they will comment makes the readers feel good about themselves
Engaging readers is not enough when the average reader has 93 articles pending at any given time on Google Reader. Although the last post suggested thoughtlessness, or leaving a reader without a decision, was a best bet for responsivity, there is another approach.
Asking an open-ended question that has a positive spin on the topic will substantiate the reader’s belief of his rightness, making him more committed to his answer. If you want a reader to vote, then asking a questions such as, “Why do you believe voting is important?” will lead the reader to substantiate the importance of it in his mind. People asked this question before voting day were 25.2% more likely to follow through and vote.
Create a symbiotic support cycle:
- Place a presupposition, like the importance of voting, into a question
- By merely asking himself the question, the reader complies with the presupposition and ignores it, focusing instead on the reasons why he agrees, rather than if he agrees
Though having someone sign up for RSS feed is pretty neat, it might result in just another ignored feed, and an even less responsive audience (as they are no longer required to seek you out, it’s easy for them to take posts for granted). How can you keep your readership involved?
Having a reader sign up for RSS feed by typing a request and clicking ‘send,’ makes a reader feel contractually obligated to read it. Because there is an assumption that someone, a real person, must read their request and input their information, readers feel obliged to follow-through with the contract by reading the feed; in fact, interaction is 32% higher!
Create a written contract:
- Even if your feed subscription is automatic, including a text box for special notes, or requesting a reason why a reader is subscribing, leads to much higher participation rates
- Similarly, readers believe that their comments are being read and considered. If they do not receive responses, they often feel the contract has been broken on the writer’s end, leading to resentment and disengagement from the writer’s feed
This favorite tactic is very useful with stubborn readers, and is often used on talk shows to allow celebrities to backtrack without looking foolish. No one wants to be perceived as a flip-flopper, making decisions on whimsy and changing viewpoints like knickers. How can you relive that sense of guilt a reader may feel if she realizes a previously-held belief is inaccurate?
Creating a conditional exception allows a reader to believe that a previously-held conviction was accurate, whereas now she would be wise to update her belief to suit the new circumstances. This is easier than it would seem.
For example, a reader thought (at first blush) that Mr. Frump would be an excellent president, but then news broke that he had exaggerated claims on the record; suggesting to the reader Mr. Frump was no longer an excellent candidate would give the reader an out. She could choose to believe that this one incident was the determining factor, which rendered Mr. Frump inadequate. Once people have opened this door to changed beliefs, they can easily be encouraged to re-think their entire position on a topic.
Create a conditional situation, which makes exceptions acceptable:
- Understand the reasons your audience has a previously-held belief
- Find a new condition for the situation that is a game changer—it could be something negative about a past belief, or something positive about a belief you want to move the audience towards
- Using the ‘game changer’ as an excuse to change beliefs, suggest that the new circumstance results in a new best option
Psychologically-driven messages increase sales and responsivity. Employ these five content creation tips with subtly, and with due respect for your audience: manipulating readers to respond in a certain way can backfire, if you attempt to manipulate them into doing something they don’t want to do. What does that mean? Like hypnosis, only a willing participant will be responsive to writerly suggestions.
The first post in this series was Create Content More Alluring Than Mata Hari. Next week the third of eight posts will be published, Create Content More Antagonizing Than Trump.