When we were children, we were curious about everything: why is the sky blue?
What happens when you mix yellow and red together? Why does the ocean make waves? We thought about the world with an eye towards imagination, color, and creativity.
In the course of growing up, though, a lot of creativity gets stamped out of us by rules or reality. But that doesn’t stop us from staying curious about the world.
As a marketer and writer, the best way to promote content is to exploit this curiosity. The number one goal of any type of marketing project, be it email, social, or content related, is to get our audience to convert, or the click.
To encourage this behavior, you must create what psychologist George Loewenstein dubs, “the curiosity gap.” We see it all around us on the Internet. It’s when you learn—through a subject line, blog post title, or call-to-action—that you’re missing some kind of valuable knowledge. Not knowing the answer is so painful that we can’t always control the urge to click through and learn more.
I Didn’t Write A Click-Bait Headline And You’ll Never Guess What Happened Next!
Enter: the click-bait headline. There’s a reason why media outlets like Upworthy often use this trick: it works! But you don’t have to resort to something crazy, like “Kim Kardashian Saw This And You’ll Never Guess What Happens Next,” to encourage clicks. In fact, this kind of dishonest behavior is exactly what gets marketers in trouble! You don’t want to toy with your readers or show your desperation for clicks.
However, you can add this kind of gap into your copywriting and marketing to build an aura of mystery that generates excitement.
At the core of your content promotion is your headline. Writing catchy ones that don’t veer into clickbait territory can be tricky, but it can be done:
- Be concise. According to Hubspot, headlines of 8-12 words were clicked 21% more of the time. This benefits your readers, but also your SEO. Google, for instance, cuts off your headlines at around 65 characters.
- Show the value proposition right away. Why should someone read this? What will they learn? What is the topic and why is it important?
- Take a stance with your language. Be strong and incorporate emotional words that make the reader feel something before they even read the piece.
- Don’t veer into hyperbole. Adding the curiosity gap or taking a stance with your language doesn’t mean overstating your value proposition. Keep the headline as close to the topic as possible—just don’t give everything away all at once.
Using Email To Add Curiosity
For email marketers, the subject line serves as the headline. How can you entice your subscribers to open that email? What’s in it for them? You can incorporate curiosity into:
- The subject line. Just like a headline, introduce what the email is about, be concise, and be clear exactly what they’re about to open.
- Pre-header text. This text appears just below the subject line in most email clients, and can pair with it to add more color and details to tease the email.
- The body of the email. What are your subscribers curious about? A new product line or special event?
At Litmus, we put the curiosity gap into practice with our “Save the Date” email for The Email Design Conference. Each year, we hold the conference in three locations—but this year, we purposely kept our third location a secret. We designed an email to reveal the third city only through our subscribers and followers: they needed to tweet using our hashtag. We built so much excitement that we received enough tweets to reveal the hidden city—San Francisco—in only 70 minutes!
Exposing this curiosity gap built up a ton of excitement for our conference and started the conversation for our followers on who would be there and what the topics would be.
Make Your Followers Wonder
With social, you often don’t have the space to really explain what your article is about. The goal is to get the click, to have your reader stop scrolling and to stand out amidst the noise.
This is incredibly difficult. We can blame attention spans all we want to, but the reality is: we are awash in content, not all of it good. We all can offer “great prices and great product,” but to spark a sense of curiosity, we have to go deeper.
To promote a piece of content, make your followers wonder: what is this about? What will I find out? What’s in it for me? Just like your headline, your social promotion must be:
- Concise. Limitations of the platform may be changing, but it has to be under 140 characters. Keep in mind your URL, which takes up 23 characters.
- Conversational. Your content should be helpful, insightful, and engaging to your followers; your tweet should reflect that. Ask a question that starts a conversation around your topic, not just asks your followers to “click here for more.”
- Readable. Using hashtag after hashtag doesn’t work anymore on Twitter or Facebook. Instead, focus on making your content really readable. It should be easy to grab someone’s attention while they’re scrolling through their feed. Hashtags are great to find content with Instagram, but it’s best to hide those below the fold and keep the caption short and sweet.
- Visual. Pair your cool caption with a visual that adds more depth to what you’re trying to say. Each brand is different, but adding a compelling visual can make your content pop and encourage your followers to click.
Make your value proposition speak for itself. The curiosity gap isn’t about duping your audience into clicking on something, but about building up enough excitement that it will encourage them to learn more. Adding the curiosity gap into your headlines, emails, and social copy can add a sense of anticipation that may be missing.
If you’re interested in further beefing up your writing, I’d suggest picking up a copy of Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes. It’s a great go-to guide for marketers and novice writers alike.