How much does neuroscience influence your content creation strategies? Maybe more than you think. When we attempt to evoke emotional responses through our content, we’re employing tactics to capitalize on what neuroscientists already know, that decisions are made at an emotional level.
In the early 1990’s Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio studied patients with brain lesions who were unable to feel emotions. What he found was that those same patients were also unable to make decisions. Relying on logic alone, his patients could describe situations in logical terms, but were unable to make the final decision. According to Damasio, “Emotions and the feelings are not a luxury, they are a means of communicating our states of mind to others. But they are also a way of guiding our own judgments and decisions.”
The role of emotional content
Influence, convince, and convert are some of the goals of content marketing and are dependent on eliciting emotions with our audiences. If we really want to convince our audiences to make the decision to engage with our content and ultimately to recommend or buy our product or service, we need to reach them at an emotional level.
But, which emotion should we be reaching? According to a study published in the University of Chicago Press, “Consumers want to be happy and marketer’s are increasingly trying to appeal to consumers’ pursuit of happiness. However, the result of six studies reveal that what happiness means varies, and consumers’ choices reflect those differences. …individuals tend to choose more exciting options when focused on the future, and more calming options when focused on the present moment.”
There are ranges of emotions that content can conjour, not all of them positive for the content creator. While angering a person can cause them to feel increased levels of passion, that passion may be directed against your brand and have the opposite effect you’d originally hoped for. Although we want to generate passion in our audiences toward our brand, we certainly don’t want to anger them into a passionate burst of energy designed to create a flame war and associate the brand with negative comments and distrust.
In an attempt to move people to action, marketers often attempt to create a sense of fear or anxiety amongst their audiences. Fear and anxiety help brands to create an atmosphere of change for their audiences, promising audiences that if they continue as they are, they’re doomed to fail or some other negative outcome. Creating anxiety for audiences has been a storyteller’s tool since time began, as early as Aesop’s Fables and other stories that warn of the pitfalls and dangers of not acting in a certain way.
According to the neuroscientists, if we want people to make decisions to adopt our product or services in the future, they need to feel excitement toward our brand. Somewhere in the content ecosystem, we need to bring them from fear and anxiety to a feeling of excitement over the prospect of solving their problems and relieving their anxieties. If we’re to follow the findings of neuroscientists, content marketers need to entice audiences with content that makes them feel excited and happy.
I’m happy when you solve my problems
You can make your audiences happy when you accurately discover their challenges, pain points, and unmet goals and then craft a story that portrays the problem with you and your product or service as the solution. Your audience will grow to trust you and ultimately choose your solutions, not just because it’s the logical choice, but because they feel you’ve helped them and it’s the right thing to do.
When you put yourself in the story as the solution to the problem, be cautious about how much you talk about yourself. Remember, you want to make your audiences happy, not annoyed. Offering content that solves problems, offers information, or provides entertainment shouldn’t sound like an ad for your product or service.
Here’s where having well-developed audience personas can help guide your content creation. Beyond knowing what position they hold or which industry they work in, find out who they are and what they care about.
Once you know your audience, create content experiences for them that will lead them to the next step in engagement. Since we don’t control the customer journey, every piece of content should be a gateway to engaging further with your brand. Make finding and using your content a pleasurable experience and continue to benefit from the positive emotions you’ve created with the initial piece of content.
Keywords and content to create positive experiences
If you want to know what your audiences care about, listen to the questions they ask. Your audiences are already engaging on social media sites and through organic search to ask their questions, get information, and find entertainment. Meet them where they’re already going with the answers and entertainment they seek. Use keyword research to discover the language of their questions and use it to target your content to fit their needs.
Use keyword insights to:
- Know which keywords and content are already ranking.
- Discover popular keywords your audiences are using in organic search.
- These are the keywords you’re not using, but should.
- Track your overall findability.
- Track which content assets are being found for target keywords.
- Improve existing content.
- Compare your rank with your competitors.
Once you know what they’re looking for and where they’re looking for it, you have about 8 seconds to grab your audiences’ attention. If you get the right people to click on your content, the battle is nearly won. Now, make an emotional connection with your audience and they’ll follow their emotions and feelings to continue their engagement with you and stay with your content through to the next steps.
I’m happy when you keep your promises
Ah, click bait. All that spammy content on the web with cleverly worded titles designed to create excitement and the promise of happy fulfillment, only to bring audiences into websites that immediately disappoint. The purpose of collecting keywords and using them in your title and throughout your content is not to attract the search engine bots. The purpose of strategic keyword usage is to attract the right audiences to content that actually addresses the topics associated with those keywords. Using keywords to guide content creation provides audiences with useful solutions and information to solve real problems, or at least offer thoughtful discussions. SEO and keyword usage aren’t dead, they’ve just been misused and abused to the point that people are starting to say they have no place in a meaningful content marketing program.
Regardless of their sullied reputation, organic keywords are still one of the best ways to discover your audiences interests and to match those interests to content. Using relevant keywords in your content ensures audiences looking for answers can easily find your solution. Be respectful of your audiences by using keywords as a way to guide your content, not as a trick to improve website traffic or click throughs. In the end, if your audiences click and bounce, you may have won the battle, but you’ve lost the war. More importantly, you’ve lost an audience member who will likely never be fooled by you again.
If neuroscience as taught us anything, it’s that emotions are part of the decision making process. Whether you want your audience to laugh, feel relief, or even feel anxiety for a moment before you offer relief, creating content that appeals to your audiences’ emotions is more likely to generate the conversions you’re looking for.
If you’re looking to increase overall engagement with your content, keep in mind that happiness is contagious. When we feel happy, we want to share with others, so they can feel happy, too. Create relevant content in response to the topics your audience is already interested in. When you make your audience happy with your content, they’ll be more likely to share that content and spread the good feeling of your brand with their friends and peers.