If you want more attention for your content, learn to excite curiosity.
Curiosity is one of the critical levers successful content marketers use to sell products, services and ideas in this increasingly noisy world.
Let’s take a look at the research.
What creates curiosity?
According to research by Carnegie Mellon’s George Loewenstein, curiosity occurs when there is a gap between what we know and what we want to know.
Curiosity is a kind of cognitive thirst that wants to be quenched.
But that’s only half of the story. Equally important is this follow-up study from CalTech which shows that curiosity increases (to a point) as knowledge increases and then drops off.
The important thing to note is that a lack of information will, in general, create a lack of curiosity. At the same time, once a sufficient amount of information is received, curiosity decreases.
Before we move on, let’s review these two critical principles of curiosity:
1) To make a person curious we have to create a gap between what they know and what they want to know.
2) To maintain curiosity we must “leak” out knowledge a bit at a time without giving away too much.
Here are 3 brilliant uses of curiosity in content marketing,
1) A Brian Clark Article Introduction
In an article about the potential of hyperlocal websites, Brian Clark makes excellent use of curiosity to drive readers deeper into the article. The following is part of the introduction to the article,
“My interest in building these [hyperlocal] sites stems from the fact that I made a lot of money from them between 2002 and 2005, back before I started Copyblogger.
We’ll get to that in a bit.
First, let me frame the way I think about profitable hyperlocal websites, which is generally in sharp contrast to the way many approach them.”
~ Brian Clark, Entreproducer
How’s that for creating information gaps?
Firstly, notice how Brian mentions the desired effect, making a lot of money, and then states “We’ll get to that in a bit.” This is a tease. He’s priming the pump by releasing just a bit of information and then pulling back.
Second, Clark mentions that he is going to discuss his take on hyperlocal websites which is,
“in sharp contrast to the way many approach them.”
Clark’s choice of words here is deliberate. He wants you to know that his take is new. He wants you to know that you have an information gap.
I don’t know about you, but I’m curious.
2) A John Caples Sales Headline
As legendary direct response copywriter Joseph Sugarman says, the purpose of the headline is to get the reader to read the first line. The headline’s ability to do that can be tied, in part, to the level of curiosity it generates.
A great headline creates irresistible curiosity, and this classic headline from John Caples is a fabulous example of that.
Consider the mental itch this sales letter headline creates on your brain. The headline creates an information gap. It forces you to ask the question: What happened when he started to play?
It gives you just the right amount of information and leaves you begging for more.
3) A South By Southwest Presentation Title
The title of a presentation is often the first, and only, information a person will use to make a decision about attending or watching.
A well-worded presentation title will draw an audience that is curious about the subject matter.
Consider the follow presentation titles at the upcoming SXSW Interactive conference.
Assuming you didn’t know the person or company giving the presentation, which would you choose?
I think most would choose the second.
Based on our understanding of how curiosity works, the first presentation title falls short for a predictable reason — a lack of knowledge. The title simply doesn’t provide enough information to pique curiosity.
The second presentation title gives us enough information to create a number of questions. How did he almost die? How did it help him?
More important now than ever
In a snippet-filled world of blog post headlines, email subject lines and status updates your ability to sell others on your products and ideas will be correlated with your ability to generate curiosity.
And this will only continue to become more true.
Take some time to incorporate the element of curiosity into your content.
We’re waiting with bated breath.