Psychological Hacks to Engage Readers

“Digital marketing is the all-mighty gateway between electronic technology and marketing psychology. Knowing how to master and manage the information going out and into this gateway can be the difference between making or breaking your business.”

Cory Firth, iStorm New Media director of marketing communications


How engaging is your digital content? If you don’t understand the tenants of psychology and how it relates to marketing, there’s a good chance that it’s not.

The more marketers and business owners comprehend the inner workings of the human mind, the more persuasive and engaging they can be. After all, marketing, at its core, is psychological persuasion.

This is exceptionally important when it comes to content marketing.

Content has flooded the digital scene, making it extremely difficult to reach target audiences. Since content is the backbone of SEO, helps to inform and persuade consumers and drives conversions and sales, it must be highly engaging for it to be worth the time it takes to produce.

Understanding people’s psychological triggers allows you to tap in to various needs and desires to inspire action.

Below are five psychological hacks to apply to your content marketing strategy.

1. Images are Important

You are probably already aware of the power that images hold in content and on social media. Images drive far more engagements, shares, and so on than text alone.

But do you know why images are more alluring?

Because humans are hard-wired to be visual learners.

The brain processes visual information up to 60,000 times faster than text. This is because more than 90 percent of the information that the mind ingests is visual data.

This is exactly why video content and visuals like infographics are so popular. These forms of content also help people to retain more information; data paired with visuals allows people to retain 55 percent more information than if it was merely heard or read.

Assess your content strategy and begin to weave in more visual content like video, but also amp up the number of images used in your blogs so as to create a more memorable and engaging experience.

2. Words Matter

When crafting an article or blog, choose your words wisely.

People have become increasingly skeptical of marketing tactics, but the brain is likely to be more trusting when it comes in contact with certain words.

While images are certainly a powerful catalyst to a better content strategy, words and phrases are not to be underestimated.

Some words that consistently inspire greater levels of trust and engagement are:

  • Official: This creates thoughts and feelings associated with dependable (and, therefore, trustworthy) people or institutions.
  • Guaranteed: As noted in a Kissmetrics infographic, 60 percent of consumers feel at ease and are more likely to buy a product that has the word ‘guaranteed’ associated with it.”
  • Authentic: This word conveys trust and credibility.
  • Loyal: Loyalty is a virtue of many, meaning that it is desirable in people, products, services and content.

3. The Element of Surprise

Unpredictability is something that humans are quite found of.

In a study conducted by researchers at Emory University, subjects were given two forms of enjoyable stimuli – water and fruit juice. One group of subjects would be given the pleasantries in predictable patterns while the other group received its stimuli in unpredictable patterns.

After studying the participant’s brain scans, the researchers concluded that, “. . . The brain’s pleasure centers are more ‘turned on’ when we experience unpredictable pleasant things, compared to expected pleasant events. . . ”

This concept can be applied to content marketing by supplying your audience with materials that they typically wouldn’t anticipate your blog to publish such as internal research papers, idiosyncratic yet practical techniques related to your field, or strategies that have not been widely covered.

Be sure, however, that you do not veer off into click bait territory using this tactic. That is something that is sure to turn off readers and cost your site credibility.

4. Less is More

Once you have successfully driven people to your blog, the goal is to keep them there, reading and sharing more of your crafted content.

There is just one problem: You’re giving people too many choices.

The fact is that when presented with a myriad of options, people are less inclined to make any decision at all. This is called the paradox of choice. Professor of Psychology at Swarthmore College, Barry Schwartz, discusses this phenomenon in his massively popular TED talk.

This means that when you present website visitors with seven social sharing icons instead of the three channels you mainly focus on, you are discouraging people from sharing your content.

Similarly, when you offer readers the option to read 10 more blogs instead of just four, you are driving them away from your site.

Limit the number of options presented to your audience and you are likely to see a higher number of actions taken.

5. Emotional Substance

People often like to think that they make rational, calculated decisions. What these folks may not be aware of is that neuroscience has shown that all decisions are based in emotion.

Research conducted by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio revealed that people who had damage to their brain’s emotional centers seemed completely normal (outside of an inability to feel emotions), but it was revealed that none of them were capable of making simple decisions. These folks could even describe what they should logically be doing, yet were unable to make an actual decision to bring about an outcome.

Other studies have shown that emotions conveyed through marketing resonates with consumers more than product features.

What this means is that your content should be taking an emotional angle with nearly every chance it gets. Tugging on a person’s heart strings or hitting their funny bone is one of the greatest and most effective ways to make your content much more engaging.

Understand the human mind, and you will understand how to create more effective content; it’s that simple. Leverage these tactics in your content blueprint and you are likely to achieve higher levels of engagement, conversations and any other KPIs you are after.


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