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The Psychology Behind Content Engagement

Updated: Feb 2, 2023

With the way in which content is approached today – usually with a click, swipe or tap, performed within a split second and often on-the-go, often consumers' motivations for engaging with specific topics or types of content are dependent on spontaneous or emotional behaviors.


Hence, marketers need to understand more than what consumers are engaging with but why they’re engaging with it.


Understanding the motivations: Why people engage with content online


Emotions are the driving force behind consumers’ engagement. How a content is crafted can impact how they interact with it. So, what are those motivators that subtly compel consumers to engage with a content?


1. It entertains, educates,or inspires them

Content that benefits from these motivators are generally seen as useful or beneficial. The topics that receive engagement vary; whether it gets a like because it’s funny, it provides essential information deemed 'repost-able' or encourages new ideas and comments.


Consumers connect with these types of content on a human-to-human level. This makes them see the brand behind the content as ‘a group of people’, rather than a ‘company’.


2. It highlights who they are as a person and what they care about

People will engage with content they believe reflects themselves. Engaging with it shows their followers, and the brand, that the content resonates with them. That action gives insight into who they are, and who they want to be.


For example, a mid-level professional reading an article about 'How to be a Great C-Suite Leader' may engage with the piece by sharing it with their online community. Yes, they are sharing because the content is valuable to themselves and others. However, more importantly, there's an underlying message being told too. They have communicated with their community and the brand that:

  • They take their profession seriously

  • They have a goal to reach a position in the C-Suite

  • They do not want to let down the team they want to lead in the future

This is why people engage with content who represents who they are or want to be.


3. It gives them a sense of belonging to a community

Humans are social creatures. Even the most introverted individual craves community, even if it's occasional. People engage with content to nurture relationships with like-minded people.


On Twitter for example, consumers can see tweets explicitly curated for them. Those curated tweets reflect the different communities in which the individual overlaps and is active.


When they like a tweet about how the snowball debt method is preferred, others on Twitter, who focus on personal finance, will get to see their like-minded content. This ultimately fosters a relationship with people that otherwise may not have occurred.


4. It supports causes they care about

In such a connected world, consumers support many social causes. Following the hashtags and reading posts and comments about the cause gives consumers the ability to learn more and develop a more vested interest in the cause. The engagement may start online, but it can quickly branch into the real world.


People who support their preferred cause will engage in many ways. Posting content, liking and commenting on others' posts about the cause, and sharing with their social circle to drive and rally behind the social cause.


Use the motivations to create content that connects you to your audience better


Understanding these motivations for engagement lets you drive the narrative of content as a marketer. The bottom-line for creating content that gets engagement from consumers is:


Create content that evokes emotion, sparks conversation and allow consumers to connect with you on a personal level (& not just your brand)

Chatbooks is one brand that nailed the use of these engagement triggers in their 4 minutes viral video. The goal for Chatbbooks was to educate people about its new app that turns photos into albums without having to do so much.


This video content got a lot of engagement because Chatbooks understood its target audience profile and went straight for them. They featured a busy and cool mom who with so much sarcasm shared a relatable experience for other moms. They closed the video with a catchy and inspiring tagline “done is better than perfect”.


The result of this well-crafted Chatbooks video content is a 1 million app subscriptions in only 18 months, over 1 million views on YouTube and over 200,000 likes on FaceBook.


Another content worth mentioning is the Zoom’s Virtual Background Challenge at the peak of Covid19 when people were stuck at home.


The goal was to create awareness around Zoom’s virtual background feature. But rather than just creating a explainer blog post or a video to show the feature, Zoom made the smart move to make consumers a part of the content with the challenge. Over 50,000 people signed up for the challenge and it got a massive social engagement from shares, likes and comments.


To achieve this level of connection with your target audience, you need to get practical while creating content;


  • Make your audience a part of the content; speak directly to your target audience, talk about things that make them thick and thin. Mention them in the content or involve them in a way, it could be through polls, a challenge or some interactive content.

  • Personalize your content; people do not connect to a content they do not see themselves in. So, dig into your analytics to understand your target audience profiles and create personalized content that mirrors those profiles and their daily lifestyle.

  • Appeal to consumers’ sense of humor; all emotions do not trigger the same level of response from consumers but one like humor that entertains and spreads a positive energy at a goal is definitely one you should weave into your content strategy.

  • Create simple, yet valuable content; if the content is easy to digest and shares new information useful to consumers, they will engage with it. So, always aim to educate your target audience in your content and not just sell to them alone.


Ultimately, content that puts you in the natural daily conversation of your target audience will bring you more engagement than a salesy one. So, get into the conversation with content that appeals to the motivations behind consumers' content engagement.

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