Playing Those Mind Games: Leveraging Behavioral Economics for Better Converting Content


We all know that there’s no magic wand nor secret spell that we can conjure up to lure readers to our content. It’s all about two key parameters – relevance and value. But, how can we convince readers that beyond the headline they just read, there lies content that they can’t afford to miss out on?

The answer to this question is the holy grail of our content creation strategy.

Some tricks of the trade are tried and true, while others can be hit or miss. Check out this post about using fear tactics vs. delightful headlines, as an example. Ultimately, we are trying to sway ‘passers-by’ to make the decision to read on.

When it comes to decisions and what drives them, behavioral economics can be a worthy tutor. According to the theories of this discipline, decisions are not always driven by the rational. Rather, human decision making is often driven by the irrational; by emotion. Though, the good news is – that all this irrationality is wholly predictable, and can be leveraged for better converting content.

“Standard economics assumes that we are rational . . . But . . . we are far less rational in our decision making . . . Our irrational behaviors are neither random nor senseless - they are systematic and predictable,” Dan Ariely, Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, from his book “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions,” 2010.

So what are some of the ‘hidden forces that shape our decisions’? And how can we leverage them for higher conversion rates? Let’s take a look.

Principle #1: Social Proofing

This principle states that people are more likely to be responsive when they know that many others have already engaged with a piece of content (in our case, or have bought a product in the case of sales); and if not ‘many others,’ then at least one super-influencer will do as well.

For example, if a post has a few thousand likes vs. none – which are you more likely to read?

If Stephen Hawking commented on the unprecedented value of a post’s insights – would you be interested in reading it?

If you have a lot of likes on a post – or indicate in your headline that a high-caliber industry player has accepted or contributed to your content (e.g. a Gartner analyst . . . or Stephen Hawking) – people are more likely to read it.

Likes are not just about how much people like you – even if they REALLY like you. It’s about motivating others to read on. It’s social proof.

Principle #2: Loss Aversion

Loss aversion assumes that people are more motivated to act to avoid losing something they have, than to win something they desire.

What does this mean for your content and increasing conversions? This next bit might be too reminiscent of those (cheesy) commercials we used to see in the 80’s – but they worked for a reason.

Namely, the call to “Don’t miss out!” and “Last chance!” can be very powerful. Using these, or some more elegant variation thereof, will likely lead readers to be remiss to ignore your headline.

Loss aversion is also likely what underlies the FoMo pandemic (Fear of Missing Out) and our modern addiction to social networks. It’s likely why we check our phones so often. In fact, according to a study by Ericsson, people look at their phones 46 times a day (though I’m sure for many it’s more than that).

These are just two examples of the multiple principles of behavioral economics. And when we take behavioral economics together with great content and CRO driven headlines and CTAs – a whole world opens up for dramatically increased engagement and conversion.

Want to dig deep into the minds of your readers? Get in touch, and let’s do great marketing together >>