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The power behind your content

This article explores why and how content is used to influence actions, emotions and purchases.
© University of Leeds

Now that you’ve considered the content you see, it’s time to think about why it’s there. The intent behind your content (what it is for) should play a huge part in your decisions about what content to post online.

These three considerations should be the starting point when you’re creating content online:

  1. Some content is to create brand or product awareness.
  2. Some content is to increase SEO ranking.
  3. Some content is to create outcomes from a particular audience. This could be a call to action, it could influence you to buy something, or even share information.

In this step, you’re going to look at the last of these: influencing an audience’s feelings or actions.

Before you start creating any kind of content, ask yourself: what do you want the reader (or viewer) to do, know, say or feel afterwards? It’s fine if you just want them to get to the end of your blog post, but there’s so much more possible beyond that simple goal.

Given the amount of content online, it’s possible for the web to be quite a passive medium for content consumption. You can easily watch YouTube, read articles and scroll through social media without ever touching the screen or trackpad to like, share or respond in some way. Turning the web from a passive, lean-back, input-only medium into an active, lean-forward, ‘getting involved’ medium is the goal of many organisations and platforms.

Why? Because these platforms create connections and relationships between the consumer and the content creator, as well as potentially leading to revenue, increased exposure and more.

Content creators use many ways to achieve their goals, which can have extremely powerful results. For example:

Calls to action

One of the most common goals of content is for the viewer to respond to a simple call to action, for example download a document, sign up to a newsletter or share the content on their own social media account.

Search for just about any term online and within a click or two, you’ll be able to find an example of this kind of call to action.


Another desired user response is to encourage them to feel something particular. This could be positive, negative or something else entirely such as: surprised; inspired; amused; connected; shocked; outraged; concerned, or just ‘seen’ and acknowledged.

Emotions are often behind the most successful and viral content online. In a recent article discussing what makes content go viral online, expert content strategist Megan Conley had this to say:

“Does the story make you feel enraged, inspired, understood? With everything you create you have to ask: If this scrolled by on my newsfeed, would I care? If the answer is no, it’s not worth it. Your online content habits are your own best judge.”
– Megan Conley, Content Marketing Strategist at HubSpot

Transaction or purchase

Converting audience members to a transaction is another kind of specific and easily measured goal. This is a bit like a call to action, but it’s more usually about buying something there and then.
Getting people to part with money can be difficult, especially when they can’t see, touch or experience the benefits of an actual product before making the purchase. That’s where product copy or content can be extremely influential, as a way of exploring the benefits and features of a thing in a compelling way. This whets the reader’s appetite and nudges them closer to hitting the ‘buy now’ button.
For example, a list of dry technical specifications is great for some people who want to get straight to the facts. However, it might alienate another potential purchaser who needs a little more convincing before they buy. If content doesn’t inspire confidence in or curiosity about the product, then it’s less likely to lead to a sale.
Good product copy conveys the benefits of a product as well as the facts about it. It can be persuasive about how it might improve the customer’s life, as well as what a product is made of. It might talk about that too, but it can explain why it’s important that it’s made of a certain material and why that should matter to the consumer.

Share your experiences:

Have you come across any other examples of effective product copy? Or have you changed your mind, or your behaviour, as a result of reading, watching or seeing some content?
Share your experiences of how content can be used to influence audiences. Where you can, give some detail, as well as examples if you have them. Get the conversation going by reading and responding to your fellow learners. Has anyone shared something similar to you?
© University of Leeds
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