When you write something, make a video, an animation, hell even a slide deck, your ultimate goal is to get people to look at your work, learn something, maybe even enjoy what you made. Or maybe not. Maybe you want to just hit publish and forget this ever happened. But for the purposes of this article let’s pretend you care.
It can feel so hard to get readers to pay attention to and engage with what you’re saying. You put hard work into creating content that is awesome and, frankly, better than a lot of the crap out there that’s getting devoured by audiences. So, in addition to making your content more shareable, what is the real secret to rising above the fold and getting noticed?
The fact is that getting people to listen to you is a pretty complex game. But one of the key factors that we in the tech industry often neglect is the power of emotion.
Emotional content sounds kind of funny. It sort of conjures up images of bad Anne Hathaway movies or cheesy greeting cards and, for me, it doesn’t immediately sound like the kind of smart, quippy, valuable stuff I want to be engaging with on the Internet. But, despite the fact that we like to think of ourselves as rational people that make rational decisions, we’re all pretty deeply steeped in feelings. And this can have some pretty powerful implications from a marketing standpoint.
Is Emotion Necessary for Successful Marketing?
In short, yes. A study by two University of Pennsylvania professors found that the most shared content on the NY Times site also had strong emotional undertones – with anxiety, awe and anger topping the list. Of course, we have to acknowledge that the average audience of NY Times readers are in their mid-40s, have a pretty solid income level and are highly educated. Audiences who are younger, older, make more or less money or come from different educational backgrounds will be more likely to share content that elicits different emotions – it’s up to you to research the kind of stuff that appeals to your audience. But the takeaway here is that when a post has a cognitive impact and actually makes a reader feel something, they are more likely to not just read it but to share it, too.
The famous neuroscientist, Antonio Damasio, once conducted a study on patients with brain damage that prohibited them from feeling emotions. He found that they operated totally normally on a day-to-day basis, except for one thing: they couldn’t make decisions. Decisions are often heavily biased by emotion alone – after all it doesn’t really matter if you choose the grey or the red sweater or if you decide on the chicken or the fish for lunch. There isn’t much rational thought involved in choices like these that don’t really impact the course of your life in any way. This theory is called dual processing and it basically boils down to the difference between our brain making rational decisions or emotional ones. It’s like choosing between Nike and New Balance sneakers – either way you are going to get high-quality shoes that protect your feet and enhance your running experience. But if one brand makes you feel something more than another then your decision is easier.
So How Do You Infuse a Post with Emotion?
Sarah Snow talks about how there are many different ways to appeal to people’s emotions. You can appeal to their FOMO, their desire to contribute to the world, their desire to be envied by their peers. You can create guilt, trust, value, belonging, fear, competition. Whatever emotion your writing elicits is a million times more effective than logic in advertising. Even a statement like that will have more of an impact if I pair it with a picture of a young person helping an older person across the street next to as opposed to backing it up with tons of statistical data. We’re human and we’re predictable.
Neil Patel talks about 7 different ways that you can create conversations and release more oxytocin, the hormone that causes people to feel empathy and trust and enables a human connection. They include using the words “you” and “I”, asking questions that engage your readers, letting your personality shine through your posts and creating a story rather than spitting out facts. These help to foster a conversation and, essentially, make readers feel like they are part of a dialogue and like someone cares about them.
Using Emotion for Conversions
Appealing to emotion helps you create a connection with your consumers. Your goal is to add value to their lives and as long as you keep that at the heart of your content, you stand a better chance of winning them over. Establishing an emotional connection helps them to understand your brand, accept it and engage with you. Conversion XL gives this example:
If you have a beating heart, this ad is likely to elicit a mix of emotions, including sadness, anxiety and anger about the cruelty and suffering that it suggests. Bad things are happening to puppies, and that sucks. By conveying that, the ASPCA has created an emotional connection with you in one brief, visual ad.
In order to turn these emotions into real connections, you need to have a deep understanding of their audience. What state of mind are they in? What emotions do they have and why do they have them? If you sell insurance, chances are your audience will be in a much different state of mind when they head to your site than if you sell flowers. Once you figure out what emotions you want to create or tap into, you can start thinking about how to best advertise to your customers.
Your ads, website and complete brand can be designed to impact the emotions of your customers if you keep three main factors in mind: Font style, color and images. Font styles can create a vast array of different emotions, surprisingly. Not so surprisingly, color also has a huge impact on how customers feel when they are viewing an ad or interacting with a brand. Take a look at this infographic to find out more about consumer color perception. As for images, just think about the ASPCA puppy picture.
This super great post goes on to discuss the power of words in eliciting emotion from your customers. There aren’t any tried and true formulas that can be applied across industries so every brand has to put some time into figuring out what the trigger words are for your particular audience. But once you do, make sure to repeat them frequently throughout your copy and to use them to craft a story that your audience can relate to. Stats and data are great to back up your claims, but nothing resonates like an emotional story.
Psychological studies have shown that, as buyers, we are very emotionally invested in our purchases. So it’s our job as content marketers to figure out how to use our ads and branding material to elicit positive feelings in our customers and create connections with them that last over time.