Your content needs more than compelling copy and visuals to be effective — it should speak to your audience on a deeper level. That’s where using psychology can help. In this article, we’ll explain influential psychology theories you can use to enhance your content's reach and impact.
The scarcity principle suggests that people value things more when perceived as scarce. When people worry that they'll be unable to have or do something because of limited quantity and time, they'll want it more and have a 'fear of missing out' (FOMO). Use limited-time offers, exclusive deals, or low-stock notifications to create a sense of scarcity
Psychologist and author Robert Cialdini coined the term ‘social proof’ to describe the psychological and social phenomenon that leads people to copy the actions of others in a particular situation. When people are unsure how to react or respond to a situation, they instinctively look to others for direction.
While it’s not done consciously, it can lead people to prefer a product or service simply because they see others like it. Using social proof in your content marketing can inspire confidence in your business, product, or service. (See how to include social proof in your social media
to build authority and trust.)
Developed by behavioral economist George Loewenstein of Carnegie Mellon Research, the ‘information gap theory’ claims that people’s curiosity will make them take action/read further to learn what they want to know.
For example, intriguing headlines, content teasers, and exclusive insights can build tension and anticipation. Remember to balance curiosity with value.
While you want to create gaps that spark interest, ensure that your content ultimately provides valuable information or solutions, reinforcing a positive experience for your audience.
According to the ‘loss aversion theory,’ people prefer to avoid losses than acquire gains because the psychological impact of losses is more potent than that of gains. Find out what your target audience is afraid of losing, such as time or money, and tap into that by convincing them to take action.
Your content should show how your products or services can help them prevent that specific loss. When your content demonstrates the benefits of your products or services, your audience’s apprehensions and fears will be alleviated, making them more receptive to your products/services.
The principle of reciprocity suggests that people are more likely to respond positively when they receive something of value. Offering your audience valuable and relevant information — such as educational resources, free tools or templates, or exclusive offers — can increase their willingness to engage with your content and take desired actions.
Cognitive dissonance is a psychological theory introduced by Leon Festinger that proposes individuals experience discomfort when they hold conflicting beliefs or attitudes. Cognitive dissonance is a powerful strategy to influence your audience's perceptions and encourage resolution.
Techniques include addressing pain points, sharing success stories, and incorporating testimonials. Educational content, case studies
, and thought-provoking questions can further intensify this effect. The goal is to guide your audience toward adopting consistent beliefs or actions and presenting your offering as a solution that resolves the internal conflict.
Create Content That Sticks with Your Audience
Weaving psychology into your content planning and creation can help foster more meaningful connections with prospects throughout the customer journey.
However, the effectiveness of these theories may vary based on your industry, target audience, and product/service. A thoughtful combination and ongoing experimentation with these psychological principles can lead to more impactful content marketing.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in October 2019 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.