Clickbait is dead.
Provocative (and many times misleading) headlines once ruled our news feeds. Now, with trust being a major issue of the day, audiences are looking for real, authentic content.
Instinctively, we are more drawn to information and subjects that inspire, excite, inform, and entertain — where we experience a feeling-driven response.
So the key now to capturing attention is tapping into your readers’ emotions in a real way.
NewsWhip recently studied the correlation between “emotion-bait” and Facebook shares. It’s “how publishers and brands are now creating genuine connections with their followers on social,” it says on its site. “This could help twofold — one, through helping content get remembered, and two, by inspiring audiences to share.”
Not sure how to create emotive content? Here are seven simple ways to appeal to your readers’ feelings — without manipulation or a complete content overhaul.
1. Write more conversationally.
We’re all guilty of over-complication.
When content is convoluted or full of insider speak, it can make readers straight-up cringe. Worst case scenario: They jump ship before finishing the first sentence.
Don’t let old rules keep you from writing like you speak. Short sentences. Simple, easy-to-understand words. You may break some grammatical rules here and there, but you’ll lower the barrier to entry and appear more human.
2. Give it all away in the headline.
Sensationalism in headlines used to drive intrigue. Now, audiences have trust issues. They’ve been played way too much.
Honesty is the best policy when it comes to headlines (and other things, usually). People don’t want to feel tricked into spending time with boring or misleading content.
Take time to craft an attention-grabbing headline that’s truly honest about what readers will get from you. This will help you build strong feelings of trust in your audience.
3. Address your readers directly.
By using words like “you” and “I,” you can make your readers feel like you’re writing to them personally.
They can hear your voice and even gain a sense of familiarity as they move through your words.
When your audience feels a personal connection has been established, they will feel more involved. This encourages them to react, respond, and engage in two-way discussion.
4. Use expressive GIFs.
GIFs have an interesting way of expressing exactly how we’re feeling, without using many — if any — words.
Not everyone is a fan of GIFs. But, using them in strategic moments with the right audience can help readers immediately relate to the information at hand.
It’s how BuzzFeed artfully connects with its readers.
Thoughtful application can help you accomplish a few goals, like: making your content memorable, lightening up a more serious post, or driving readers to share with friends who might relate to the emotions expressed in your content.
Giphy even makes it easy for you to choose GIFs by type of emotion.
5. Add emojis to drive reactions.
People ❤️ emojis. Over 6 billion emoticons or stickers are sent around the world every day on mobile messaging apps.
They allow people to communicate in a more unique manner than text. They also transcend language barriers.
You see emojis regularly in apps and posts on social. You now see them incorporated in newsletter subject lines, and even headlines, too. It’s a suggestion to readers for how the attached story could make them feel.
Not every piece you write is appropriate for an emoji add — and there’s no magic formula — but it’s worth some experimentation when you want to set a certain tone with your target audience.
6. Use words as strategic cues.
Your word choices can trigger strong emotional responses.
By determining the action you want your readers to take and then the emotional state that will help drive that action, you can narrow down words or phrases to use that will help complete the process.
Example: You want readers to feel curious enough to click. In your headline, try using the words “secret” or “hidden,” or the phrase “have you heard … ?”
7. Create a common enemy.
It’s true for real life, and it’s true in writing. You can bond deeply and emotionally with someone when you share a common struggle.
This is a powerful strategy that taps into our most innate and tribal instincts as humans.
Pick an enemy you know your audience shares and divulge your personal battles with it to create strong feelings of solidarity.
Subscribe to Beyond Bylines to get media trends, journalist interviews, blogger profiles, and more sent right to your inbox.
Anna Jasinski is senior manager of audience relations at PR Newswire and a former magazine journalist. Follow her on Twitter at @annamjasinski.