You’ve got a blog up and running on your site, you’re making it topical, you’re making it useful, but your traffic still isn’t picking up and your conversion figures are static. What’s going wrong? The first question that you need to ask is: are you making your readers care?
Marketing is at its most powerful when it appeals to the emotions. If you want visitors to engage with your site, you’re going to have to give them an emotional reason to make that connection. Blogging is a great way to do this, but if you want it to be successful, you’ll need to learn which emotions get results and how to appeal to them.
Why focus on emotion?
A blog that appeals to readers’ emotions has two key functions:
- Building trust – visitors become more likely to buy.
- Building value – visitors become more likely to share.
If these functions are to be fulfilled, it’s important to recognise that not all emotions work the same way. Psychologists divide emotions into two groups: high arousal and low arousal. The first group consists of emotions that make us want to do things – everything from laughing to running away. The second group consists of emotions that make us want to do less, either because they make us comfortable with the status quo or they make us apathetic. To be successful, a blog has to appeal to emotions in the first category.
Four key emotions
Most psychologists also agree that there are four key emotions, with all other emotions being mixtures of these or variations on a theme:
- Fear and surprise.
- Anger and disgust.
Each of these emotions has its own special place in content marketing, and understanding how it influences people can help you find the right balance for your blog.
Making people happy has been found to be the single most effective way of getting them to share content. This is why people share so many pictures of cute animals online. Making people happy is even more effective if you can make them laugh at the same time. However, happy people don’t have a long attention span. They absorb ideas most effectively in bite-sized chunks. This means that the most effective way to reach them is through mini blog posts or by breaking up longer posts using lists. Illustrations are also very important in reaching people this way.
The downside of making people happy is that they are then less likely to think that there’s anything missing from their life, so they’re less likely to buy. The trick to managing this is to make people feel that they are happy but could be happier still. Start by letting them see your enthusiasm for the subject of your post.
Because it usually falls into the low arousal group of emotions, sadness isn’t a great motivator. It is, however, very good at generating empathy – we feel drawn to people who are sad and want to comfort them. Some charities take advantage of this reaction to raise money by writing, for instance, about the suffering of children or animals. It’s difficult to get sad people to share posts, but this emotion also has the plus point of building trust. When we want to comfort somebody, we feel that that person is more vulnerable than us, so we’re less likely to be cynical about what they have to say.
It’s important not to be perceived as exploiting sadness because that can backfire very badly. One way of keeping it real is sharing sad events from your own life on your blog. Be careful to protect your own feelings when you do so, and don’t overwhelm your readers. Frequent posts like this can put people off, but occasional ones can really build trust.
Fear and surprise
It’s a no-brainer that surprise is a good way of getting attention, and stories that surprise people have good sharing potential. But what about fear? You might be surprised to hear that this can be a very effective marketing tool, for two reasons. Firstly, people who feel afraid look for solutions, and that solution could be the product or service that you’re selling. Secondly, frightened people want to be close to other people and share their concerns with them, which increases the chances of them sharing your posts.
The trick to reaching people through fear is never to suggest outright that your products can help – just share your concerns in a way that makes them feel that you’re passing on a helpful warning. For instance, if you sell driving safety products, you might discuss a new survey looking at the way people get caught up in car crashes, and let readers make the connection themselves.
Anger and disgust
Anger and disgust are the most complicated emotions to connect with as a blogger. They have a strong positive effect on sharing, and they’re great for generating reader engagement as they make people want to talk passionately about what they’ve read. They can easily backfire, however, and can put readers off your blog. They can also lead to people posting highly inappropriate comments, so you’ll need to moderate your comments section carefully after posting such material.
The best way to take advantage of anger in blogging is to talk about the pros and cons of an issue tangential to what you do without taking a position yourself. This way, you can get attention whilst still letting individual visitors – whatever their opinions – feel that you’re on their side.
Adding an emotional aspect to your blogging makes people feel that they’re dealing with human beings and not a faceless organisation, instantly increasing their loyalty. It’s the personal element that makes the difference between a blog and a simple newsfeed, and it can make the difference between treading water and starting to see the traffic flow that you want.