Cognitive Psychology May Offer Clues to Creating Engaging Content

I see a lot of bloggers asking ”how can I get more readers?”. Personally, I have asked myself that question and also “how can I keep them coming back once they have discovered my blog?”.

There is a lot of noise out there in the online world of blogging. Besides spending time writing content for your blog, you also need to hit the social media streets to promote it. There are a lot of avenues to choose from to do that which brings a lot of challenges though. In most cases the challenge can be accurately summed up by the phrase “too much to do and too little time”.

So where should you be spending your time you ask? You have probably heard the phrase “content is king”. I still believe that quality, engaging content is the #1 thing you should be spending your time on. Get your blog in order before you even start promoting it.

You should concentrate on creating sharable content. You need to be writing quality posts that will keep people coming back and keep attracting new people in the first place. If you can do that effectively, the content will practically sell itself.

I recently read a paper by Nikki Pfarr titled Dangerous Assumptions. The paper is about using intentional design to influence human behavior. In it, Nikki borrows from fields of cognitive psychology and behavioral economics help us understand what really motivates people.

The paper is an interesting, high-level discussion about incentives and what motivates people. However, I think it offers some insight into writing quality content that can motivate people to visit your blog every day.

Nikki presents the seven key factors that motivate people and asks us to answer yes or no to 7 statements she created based on these motivators. She says that if you check “No” next to any of the statements you should ask yourself: What would it take to be able to check “Yes” for this?

I think three of those statements are particularly useful when trying to write engaging content. When these statements are combined, some important questions emerge.

  • Is the blog post engaging? Is there a story or idea that draws the reader in and motivates them to read further?
  • What value is the reader getting in exchange for their time (spent reading it)?
  • Is there something the reader can immediately take away from the post? Perhaps it is a new way of looking at things; perhaps it inspires personal reflection that results in a key insight; or perhaps it is a tip or trusted opinion?

I would suggest keeping these questions in mind when writing your blog posts. If you can’t answer these questions upon review, I would suggest making a few tweaks to it.

Doing this is not an exhaustive method for creating engaging content, or in no way a guarantee that readers will flock to your blog, but I believe it is a move in the right direction.


Will My Fridge Be My New Diet Partner?

I recently learned about the Internet of Things.

In the simplest form, the Internet of Things means putting RFID chips, or other tracking devices, into things so that they can communicate with computers and devices on their own.

According to the original definition on Wikipedia, this would be beneficial because “If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost.”

Imagine if this technology was used in groceries.

I could see how it could be really useful for a working Mom trying to keep a food budget for her family and trying to be efficient with her time. Imagine if a woman went grocery shopping armed with a list and a dollar amount she wanted to spend. The shopping cart could be equipped with a reader and when hen she got to the store she could upload her shopping list to the grocery cart computer. The cart could create a route for her to follow around the store that would take her from left to right, and past each item on her list. Then, as she put items into her cart, the item would check itself off of the list. She could navigate to another screen that would show her the cost of each item as well as a total for what is in her cart. In this way she could move through the grocery store efficiently, not have to look into the cart and visually everything was in there and know exactly how much she was going to pay when she reached the register.

I could see this technology being useful for me when it comes to food too. As I took items out of my fridge to eat them, it could register the calorie count of the food. In my imagination, the fridge would also have the ability to weigh an item if I put it back in (say, if I filled a glass with milk and put the carton back) and calculate the calories for the portion I ate. I could then view my calorie count for the day with a push of a button instead of having to track it with a notebook, calculator and scale. This would save me a lot of time and the calorie count would be more accurate than if I did it myself.

One of the controversies surrounding this application of technology is the lack of privacy. I have always said, where there is information, there are people who want at that information. I think in the same way big companies pay Facebook for data on its users, brands would want to know what you are putting in your fridge and your eating habits. Eventually, a person could start seeing individualized product and sale recommendations when they enter a store based on their eating habits at home.

I am not sure if this freaks me out or not. On one hand, I do find it a bit invasive.  However, I spend a lot of time connected to networks so I don’t have any illusions that people and companies don’t already know more about me than I think…or at least have access to more information than I think. I have always lived my life as an open book anyway so I don’t feel frightened by this kind of exposure.

The bottom line for me is that I think it is an inevitable progression of an increasingly connected world and, I would argue, should be embraced to stay ahead of the societal curve.

How do you feel about the use of this technology?