While you might not want to inspire marriage proposals with your brilliant blogs and content such as Mrs. Silence Dogood did with her homespun essays in the 1720s (Mrs. Dogood, also known as the 16-year-old Benjamin Franklin), who wants to pour their soul, sweat, and time into writing that invokes little or no response?
The Internet abounds in ramblings and rants that live in a tomb of lonely musings and assertions that either goes unread or that elicit an apathetic, “meh.” This does not need to be so if you consider what reaction you are trying to prompt from your audience. Whether your content is written to educate, entertain, or provoke, the following ideas will help you shape and invite feedback that increases traffic, expands your audience, and builds your brand.
1. Create a Sense of Belonging
From Apple to Starbucks, many companies have built brand loyalty by understanding the human emotional need to belong to a group. You want your content to not only inspire enlightened comments, but also the kind of intangible feedback that comes in the form of return visits to your site or products. One sure way to create a sense of belonging to a group is to share customer stories. Therefore a call to action might be a request for other stories in the comment section.
2. Spread Some Joy
According to the Pew Research Center, in 2013, 45% of YouTube users uploaded a cat or animal video. In providing useful content, it is important to remember that entertainment is still king and that laughter causes use to linger. It is also a cause to appreciate the giver and to seek more of the same. Even if feedback is only a “LOL” and hopefully a share, that is still gold any day.
3. Generate Empathy
On the opposite end, the world is not all rainbows and kittens, and serious matters offer the opportunity to generate serious and thoughtful discourse. When entering these waters, offering both sides of an argument or situation provides a window of empathy that allows commentators to hold deeper dialogues beyond flaming and name calling.
4. Provoke Justifiable Anger
Still. there is nothing verboten about taking a side and making a case for your opinion. In fact, this editorial tactic goes far in engaging your audience to take notice and to well, engage. A simple call to action is. therefore an implicit and explicit request that the reader should consider their own opinion on the subject and a powerful ask to share it.
5. Discuss Fear
Generating fear is a long known sales tactic. However, you can use this superpower for good. Playing on unconscious fears leads to many of the world’s woes, but making it conscious by using it as fodder for discussion is a means of healing and will fire up your audience base. Think about what your audience fears and don’t be afraid to lay those fears out there under the stark light of your brilliant prose.
6. Elicit Trust
As many content marketers know, advertising no longer offers a sure return. Even the best-targeted advertising is white noise for the ad overloaded consumer. Indeed, the mantra of being useful has become all the more imperative given the jungle of escalating Internet ad junk. In a way, therefore, being useful has become a means of eliciting trust. Trust, in turn, will create a space for honest interactions that not only appear genuine but are.
7. Debate Disgust
Along with fear, disgust can also create sales by attracting attention. Think not looking away from a train wreck. It takes a deft hand to position the human emotion of disgust into an appealing presentation, but as with other unpleasant topics in our world, it can and should invite debate. Ugliness may not be easy to work with, but ignoring the disagreeable, or putting lipstick on the pig, limits the complexity of any topic. Take a stand, make a name for yourself, and create a call to action that invites debate of the objectionable and unlikable.
8. The Element of Surprise
“That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
Surprise might be defined as a violation of expectations, so chances are if you think about what your reader might be expecting from your topic, if you write about the inverse, you might hit upon some new perspectives. Innovation and novel ideas will go far in sparking follow-up comments about how your fresh concepts might be expanded or implemented.
9. Build Anticipation
It is a practical matter, but sometimes getting feedback to your article also requires that people either read to the end or at least scroll down to feedback section. While most readers scan and actually read about 28% of the words, building anticipation can help them stay focused to the end and to actually comment. Some ways to create anticipation is to leave the most important nugget to last, providing carrots toward the goal throughout. Another is to pose engaging questions that build on each other and increase interest as they go. Lastly, provide the answers in a satisfying summary that tie up loose ends like a good mystery novel. Cozy fire and cocoa optional.
10. Pleasure Craft
If your main content goal is education or providing information, do not forget the golden rule and treat your readers to reading that is also pleasurable to read (as in, not like an instruction manual for a waffle iron). While you do not need to be a humorist or a Hemingway, writing that engages and encourages interaction does require time and care. To craft a piece that lives a long communal digital life, quality writing will be rewarded.