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There are many psychological factors we are not aware of, but which strongly affect our everyday behavior, including our buying decisions. For content marketers, understanding the psychology at work helps them craft more persuasive content. In this article, we have gathered five important psychological concepts that will improve your content marketing.
1. Social Proof
Social proof, also known as “informational social influence”, means that we are more inclined to conform to a behavior that other people are doing or recommending.
The most widely used forms of social proof include customer testimonials, reviews, case studies, trust seals, and social media accounts with huge followings.
When people think “If so many people bought this product, it must be great, so maybe I should try it.” or “If this blog post has so many shares, it must offer great insight, so I should read it”, they are being influenced by social proof.
Similarly, when your website displays advocacy from trusted authority figures, like being approved by the Better Business Bureau or mentioned in Fortune, you are showing to visitors that a third-party is vouching for you and the quality of what you offer. Thus your credibility in the eyes of potential customers goes up.
Whether it’s your homepage, product page or blog posts, you should place social proof whenever appropriate. Also, try to gather as much of it as possible by asking recent customers to write reviews and testimonials, while they are still excited about their purchase.
This concept was popularized in large part due to Robert B. Cialdini’s best-seller book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”. Simply put, when your audience feels they have obtained value from you, they want to give you something in return. In general, people don’t like feeling indebted to other people, so when they come across valuable content, they are compelled to return the favor even though nothing obliges them to do so. The content may be available for free, but they will offer compensation in the form of engagement: they will share the content, comment on it, or do what the call to action says to do.
One example of this principle in full action is the platform Patreon, which allows content consumers to reward content creators for their work.
When you give useful and actionable information in an easy-to-consume package (well-designed and scannable), while avoiding hard selling, the audience will return for more content and keep interacting with you, which ultimately results in customer conversion and retention.
3. The Paradox of Choice
In Barry Schwartz’s famous book of the same name, more choice for consumers is not always a good thing. When you present multiple choices to your audience, you are actually making it harder for them to buy anything. Hesitation and anxiety build up because they want to make the best decision but can’t make up their minds.
This is why limiting choices for customers will actually generate more conversions. Keep things simple, especially when it comes to calls to action. At the end of a content piece, give the reader one clear directive to follow (subscribe to the newsletter, share this post, etc.). Give several ones and she will be too confused and overwhelmed to do anything.
People place a higher value on things that are shown to be scarce, and less value on what is easily available. When a product is available only in a limited quantity or for a limited period of time, its perceived value increases. This is why you will read things like “only X left in stock” while shopping online.
You can use scarcity in many ways, like telling your audience that a certain content (free webinar, an e-book) is only available to a limited number of people or for a short amount of time.
5. Information-Gap Theory
In the early 1990s, American educator and economist George Loewenstein developed the information-gap theory, which says that the gap between the information we are given and the information we need arouses our curiosity. According to Loewenstein, curiosity comes when we feel a gap “between what we know and what we want to know”. This gap has emotional consequences: it feels like a mental itch, a mosquito bite on the brain. We seek out new knowledge because we that’s how we scratch the itch.
The power of information-gap manifests itself in the strong headlines that you see everywhere. Headlines that stimulate curiosity increase page views, email open rates, freebie downloads, and any type of content you want the audience to engage with. Just be mindful to not indulge in “clickbait” headlines like those displayed by sites such as Upworthy.
The psychological concepts covered in this article are far from exhaustive, but they address some of the most common aspects of consumer behavior. Knowing these concepts allows you to better understand how your customers think and what makes them tick. Applying them helps your content marketing be much more effective.
Regardless of which ones you want to use, it’s important to hire content writers who know their way around these psychological concepts and can implement them in the content they produce. And lastly, be sure to measure the performance of these changes in your content marketing.
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