I’m going to show you something really powerful today…
When done well it acts like a magnet, drawing attention to your sales messages, emails and social media posts.
When it’s overused or abused, it can turn people against you.
So please make sure you use this technique sparingly and responsibly.
Never promise something you cannot deliver, and be careful not to push this so hard that you disappoint people who click onto your message.
This is all about finding ways to cut through the ever-increasing noise of the Internet to get to your customers.
Okay, so after that disclaimer, let me reveal…
How to use the ‘information gap’ to instantly attract readers to your content
When we’re on social media, checking our inbox, reading blogs or scanning news sites, we’re bombarded by messages, subject lines, pop up ads and headlines, status updates, direct messages and all kinds of alerts pinging onto our smartphones or tablets.
So how do you grab attention for your latest post, email or sales message?
The secret is to offer something that they cannot ignore… that compels them to click, even if they’re busy.
George Loewenstein is a professor at Carnegie Melon University. He formulated something known as ‘the information gap theory of curiosity’.
This is where you create a massive gap between what the reader currently knows, and what they want to know.
To achieve this, you frame your headline so that there’s clearly a piece of information missing.
If you’ve ever used Facebook, or scrolled down on a news website you will have undoubtedly come across an example before.
They often appear as little ads for sponsored articles that have outrageously enticing images and headlines.
Here’s an example from The Mirror:
As you can see, these headlines deliberately suggest there’s something important or unusual the reader could find out (and that they couldn’t possibly know right now).
• Funeral Homes Wish You Didn’t Know This
• Are NASA About to Announce There Are Aliens on Pluto?
• You Won’t Believe These 17 Aircrafts Actually Exist
• 10 Horrifying Things Only Lifeguards Know About Public Pools
Here are some more:
• The 10 Most Dangerous Creatures in Australia
• Your Jaw Will hit the Floor Seeing These Sexy Newsreaders
• Leftover iPhone stocks worth £619 Selling for Under £40
• The Cause of this Giant Crater in Russia – This Should Panic Us All
• 6 Facts Your Fingernails Tell About You
• London double room for £ A MONTH – but there’s a catch
A news site called Upworthy famously uses this information gap technique.
They average around 75,000 Facebook likes for each of their articles which is even more than Buzzfeed, who pioneered this technique.
Now, as I said at the beginning, I’m not suggesting that you create clickbait, or plaster the Internet in these kinds of headlines.
In my view, clickbait has had its moment to shine and is too widely used by disreputable sources.
Overusing or misusing it can damage your credibility.
However, the information gap technique uses is a universal principle – it taps into real human psychology and when used carefully, can help you drive traffic to your website, make your social media posts more alluring and keep people on your website for longer, reading more posts.
Look for stories related to your niche that have these qualities:
• Weirdness – find something that is totally strange, out there, bonkers, mad, unbelievable.
• Unexpected – find something that goes against what someone might expect to read or see.
• Urgency – find something that the reader will need to know for the sake of their wealth, health or family.
• Newness – find something that’s just been discovered, or that’s up-to-the-minute topical.
• Imminence – find something that’s just about to happen, an announcement or development that you’ve found out about ahead of the crowd.
• Financial pay off – something that seems an incredible bargain, or a remarkable financial opportunity.
How to structure your information gap headline
Tell part of the story in your headline (and use the same text for your Tweets, Facebook posts or wherever else you share it) but don’t give away the whole thing. In other words, create a ‘gap’.
For instance, if you have a coffee website, you might find a news story about a tarantula being found in a shipment of coffee. You could write the headline:
“You won’t believe what this 22 year old woman found in her coffee…”
“The 10 most dangerous things you could ever find in your coffee…”
“This Manchester housewife was delighted with her Peruvian coffee beans until she found this crawling inside…”
Next, give away the true story behind the headline in a simple way.
But never simply pass on the news story or interesting fact.
Now all you need to do is link the story to your field of business or interest.
Next, spell out to the reader why they story matters to them in terms of their goals, fears, worries, interests.
Finally, add your call to action and invite comment or opinion.
Then push the reader to get more stories like this by signing up for your emails, following your social media or reading more on the website.
And that’s it!
If used sparingly – and applied to quality, useful high quality content – this can be an extremely powerful tool.