We have all heard of how for a time there everybody tried to game the Google algorithms to get higher up in the search engine ranking. How there were tricks and ways to push yourself up using the foibles of the system against itself.
What most people don’t seem to realize, however, that to an extent you can game users as well. There is a whole host of techniques and strategies that make people enjoy what you are writing more without actually needing to provide better content (through better content as that always helps).
That’s because people are influenced by things they aren’t even consciously aware of when making decisions. And for this reason, simple tweaks can turn your content from never hitting critical mass to becoming an unstoppable snowball careening through the social media landscape.
Neuromarketing is the neuroscience of marketing. In other words, it’s all about influencing people’s subconscious mind so as to get them to act in some way beneficial to you through such things as what language you use, what colors you put on your website and where you position what elements. This can have dramatic effects on what people think of your page. To give you an example of how non-related effects influence people here are a few great examples from food:
- strawberry-flavored mousse tastes 10% sweeter served from a white container rather than a black one
- changing the volume and pitch of the crunch of a chip as you bite it makes it taste fresher
- making a yogurt container heavier makes people believe they are fuller after they’ve eaten the yogurt
- Shoppers are twice as likely to choose a juice that has an abstract line that looks like a smile on the box than one that has one that looks like a frown
And we’re talking about taste here. That’s something we all pretty intrinsically think we can trust. Imagine what you can do in more abstract arenas?
1. Social proofing
We like what other people like. It’s a simple, unavoidable fact. For that reason content that has a lot of shares and likes will get read more and shared more. This is called social proofing and it’s the reason why some companies take a huge chunk of the market, even while very similar companies have to compete for the scraps. Note that social proofing is not completely illogical. It is an easy rule of thumb that if other people like something it’s probably going to be at least of decent quality (otherwise, why would they like it?).
What this means for you is that you’ve got to push hard in the beginning to generate a good growth rate in likes and shares, possibly at the expense of sales, as doing so can be immensely useful later on. To give you an example, one flower company revealed that they had 600,000 likes and in the process upped their sales by a stunning 44%.
Another important lesson to take away from this is if you don’t have any social media following, don’t advertise it! Have only a few likes? Then use those buttons that don’t show how many likes you’ve got. Don’t have people comment on your articles? Don’t have an icon at the top with a big fat zero advertising this is so!
2. Get your audience to participate
If you’ve got a large enough following, don’t let them sit passively by but use them. Invite them to post interesting stories to your wall as well as share pictures – preferably with your brand included in the picture. This will create a further proof to people coming by that you’re a fun brand that people enjoy being a part of – and thereby awakening that feeling in them as well.
A great way to generate participation is through contests where people can get creative with an idea and then post the result to your page. In fact, if the prize is big enough to provoke their imaginations, the amount of attention you draw in and the buzz you create can more than offset any cost you incur.
3. People skim content
They don’t really read anymore. For that reason, it is vital that there is lots of white space between your text and that you use bullet points, bold and italics where you can. This will make your text more accessible and less intimidating, which makes it far more likely people will actually read it.
In fact, if possible make certain that the gist of what you’re saying is captured in your headings, quotes and sidebars so that skimmers feel they’ve gotten most of what is to be found there.
4. Use positive stories
Statistics are interesting, but we’re as storytelling species and if you want to really connect with your audience, you’ve got to engage this part of their psyche. So tell anecdotes, recount stories of your business and keep them informed about the personal triumphs and tribulations at your company.
Also remember to keep it positive. Awe, laughter and amusement were more likely to send a post viral than anything else (scroll down to point number four).
5. People don’t just buy products, they buy lifestyles
Most of us have nearly everything we want. For that reason, most of our purchases are about making a statement. So make certain your product is positioned to answer a lifestyle need of your customers, whether it be self-sufficiency, protection, or independence. Then insure your page is united behind that characteristic as much as possible.
6. Timing is everything
Be aware when your customers are online and when they’re interested in your content. This article a great place to start to get a rough idea, but don’t just leave it at that. Facebook’s insights and similar tools available on other social media platforms will give you a better insight into your particular audience.
Then schedule your content to come online exactly when your fans are, so that your material isn’t buried way deep down when they do finally take the time to check out their walls.
7. The power of visuals
Text alone never really cut it online, but that is even less the case today than at any other time.
Check out these stats:
- Colored visuals make people 80% more likely to read a piece of content
- Content with relevant images gets 94% more views than similar content without
- 51.9% of marketers named video as the type of content with the best ROI.
- Between April 2015 and November 2015, the average daily consumption of videos on Facebook grew from 4 to 8 billion per day.
So instead of first worrying about words, it might be a good idea to first worry about images and video content and then fit the words to them. That is, in fact, often far easier to do as words are generally far more malleable than the other two.
8. Use Hashtags
And make certain they’re the right ones. This can make a massive difference as more and more social media platforms recognize and make use of this tic-tac-toe design. In that way, you will be in a much better position to jump into a conversation and reach a potentially huge audience if what you have to say is both interesting and timely.
There are many tools available that will help you figure out what hashtags are trending so that you’ve got a better idea of what to comment about or what your content should feature.
9. Ask questions, answer comments and make your audience feel included
We’re social creatures and are most happy when we feel we’re part of a community. For this reason, make certain that you engage with your audience when they try to engage with you. Even better, ask them questions. This can be as involved as polls and questionnaires (which offer great opportunities for you to gather information about who is out there), but it can also be as simple as asking people for their opinions in articles, as well as using questions throughout your content.
While you’re at it, make certain to address readers directly, as this will make them feel like they are in your sphere of interest and that you’re paying attention to them (even though it’s only a shift from third to the second person).
10. Don’t be afraid to try new things
Experiment; try out a few things to see if they stick. Use different colors and layouts to draw attention to different things and if things don’t seem to work let them go. Try the stuff here and read other sites.
But make certain you are scientific about it. If you’re going to try something new, track the numbers, watch the stats. Try to change only one thing in isolation so that you’ve got a better idea if it works or if it doesn’t (something that’s much harder to do if you change a whole host of things simultaneously).
Because however many articles you might read, the truth is your site is going to be slightly different. That means that different strategies will suit you better. So you’ve got to personalize what you’re doing and find out what works for you. If you can do that, who knows where your page will end up?