5 Psychology Principles To Help Improve Your Content Marketing

Content marketing is a cornerstone of the modern digital strategy. It’s how you get attention online, building up valuable search rankings and earning influential social media buzz. It’s really tough to do well, though: many companies spend huge amounts of time producing mediocre content that stands no chance of returning any significant value.

If you’re going to invest in it, then, you need to make a commitment to doing it exceptionally well. There are certain elements that always play into it — the quality of the writing, the popularity of the topics, and the breadth of the promotion, for instance — but something that often goes overlooked is the need to understand how people think.

The better you know the human mind, the easier you’ll find it to create eye-catching content. To help you get acquainted with this area of marketing, let’s look at 5 psychological principles you can use to steer your content in the right direction:

The power of social proof

We very rarely make decisions based solely on what we want and prefer. Instead, we consider what the people around us (our peers in particular) think about the available options, and allow it to guide the conclusions we reach. It’s why clothing trends are so influential, and why reviews are so immensely valuable in online retail.

When you’re trying to promote your content, keep in mind how significant some positive comments from an influential figure can be. Taking the time to send your best pieces to such people across social media platforms can pay off in a big way — if just one of them likes your work enough to openly recommend it, it can give your brand an aura of legitimacy that hugely raises the likelihood of people seeking out your content.

The Ben Franklin effect

This effect is simple but profoundly effective. Because we mentally associate liking someone with doing nice things for them, any event of doing something nice for someone will lead us to assume that we must like them. Imagine this: you ask a stranger for a small favor, they agree because it makes them feel good, you thank them, then you ask them for a larger favor (with the favors depending on your goals).

Will they help you again? Probably. They helped you once, and they’d rather think they did it because they liked you than because you tricked them or exploited them somehow. So when you’re trying to spread your content, why not ask people directly to help share it? And inside every piece, provide an opportunity for someone to do you a favor by signing up to a newsletter — once you’ve led them to feel emotionally invested in your brand, you can start to show reciprocity in clearer ways through whatever means you prefer.

The fear of missing out

Otherwise known as FOMO, this principle notes (quite astutely) that we’re more likely to want what we might not get. The prospect of missing out on a deal can motivate a shopper to buy promptly instead of waiting and making a reasoned decision. This is why ecommerce sites fill their product pages with countdowns and limited discounts: when you think an offer is about to elude you, your perception of its value gets distorted.

In marketing, this can be used for limited-edition products or simple suggestions of likely stock clearances. You can even use it for the content itself: for instance, you could offer a free ebook through your site, but only for the first thousand people to sign up to your newsletter. People who might pass up the opportunity if the ebook were free to everyone would flock to download it upon hearing about the artificial scarcity.

The halo error

Which brands do you trust? There’s likely a selection of companies that you’ve come to view as highly competent, leading you to consume their content and view their opinions as valuable. But is that trust justified? Very often, it actually isn’t. Yes, you can trust Starbucks to provide high-quality caffeinated beverages, but if you would see a Starbucks blog post about literary analysis and assume it to be insightful, that would be an example of the halo effect in action.

The halo effect drives us to extrapolate from isolated things we like about brands and people alike. So how do you use it? This is where skyscraper content becomes really effective. If you can put a lot of time and effort into creating just one piece of exceptional content that will massively impress people, you can earn a huge amount of goodwill for everything else you produce.

The paradox of choice

What do you prefer to see on a menu: five lunch choices, or fifty? In principle, you might say fifty, because we all like having options… but in practice, we don’t like choosing between them, particularly when they’re broadly comparable. It gets too confusing — the prospect of choosing the wrong thing and missing out on something better is highly irritating (it’s also known as analysis paralysis).

So when you’re marketing your content, you shouldn’t try to saturate the online market with countless options, whether in your products, your services, or even your content pieces themselves. You should stick to small sets of clear and distinct options. You’ll surely have noticed that SaaS companies tend to offer sets of three or four tiers, with each one being significantly different from the others.

Standing out using your content marketing is absolutely essential — if you don’t get attention, it isn’t worth bothering at all. Using these psychological principles can help you produce better pieces and market them more effectively.