When things are going easy, it can be nice, but you can also start to get a little stagnant without something pushing you along. If things are crazy hard, you sometimes back off and get hesitant to keep moving forward.
But moving forward is essential for growth.
Consider the anticipation of waiting for your garden to grow. You plant a seed, water it, make sure it gets light, pick off the bugs, and check everyday to see if a new leaf has emerged. It can feel a little tense, but it’s that tension that drives you to keep nurturing it, and maybe even planting again.
This is the kind of tension you want your audience to feel—something that propels them to keep going.
In digital marketing, you need a great content plan that does that same thing. You want to show people the possibilities your services offer (those fledgling little leaves) to encourage action, without making them so frustrated they just call it quits.
So, how do you walk the line between tension and hesitation? With a little digital psychology, we’ve got some answers.
Tension in Your Content Plan Inspires Action
When there is a problem present, humans will embark on their own little hero’s journey to try and solve it, no matter how trivial it may seem. Humans have this need to confront challenges and overcome them. We get creative. We get innovative. We may even get excited as we step out in search of a solution.
That’s where you come in. You want to present a solution in your content plan, but you’ve got to grab people’s attention first. You’ve got to inspire them to take action. You do that by tapping into their emotions.
It may help to think of tension as conflict. When your audience is looking for a solution to their problem, and they’re scouring the internet for answers, they’re feeling something. Understanding their search and all the feelings that come with it, is key to your content plan.
If your audience feels confused, they want clarity. If they feel slighted, they want to be valued. If they feel insecure, they want reassurance. Each of their challenging emotions leads to a search for solutions. You want to be a part of that solution.
To translate that into an effective, engaging content plan, you need to tell a story that piques their interest. You can do that by using keywords and phrases that emphasize the tension of what’s possible, what can change (for the better), and between their problem and a solution.
Stories are a great way to amplify tension because, as Seth Godin says, “stories work because we’re not sure.” They induce a healthy bit of tension that makes your audience go, “Hmmmm.” Your audience may not realize you’re telling a story, but they will feel like you understand them and see them as a real live person with genuine feelings and needs.
What Does Tension Look Like
The most relevant tension points to your audience will vary, but essentially, tension refers to the limbo space that exists between one thing and another. Some examples:
- Good vs. evil
- Status quo vs. potential
- Stale vs. lively
- Old vs. new
- Scared vs. brave
You get the idea. You can run with this in a million different ways, but what’s most important is that you do the research to understand what tension points matter to your business’ content plan.
Let’s take the status quo vs. potential example. We recently helped a local corporate wellness business called Workday Warrior elevate their digital presence with a new website. Their mission is “to turn every desk in the world into a place of energy, movement, and health.”
Workday Warriors needed to highlight an important point of tension: exercising after work vs. wellness in your cubicle, and everywhere else.
Now we’re interested.
Companies, or employees have plenty of access to exercise, but Workday Warrior offers the potential for health and wellness plans that extend into every aspect of daily life. They believe in taking the current state of corporate wellness to the next level to create a better state-of-being. That means nutrition education, workshops, yoga, and training—a holistic answer to feeling stagnant at your desk all day.
Understanding that tension between what is and what could be gave them a road map for how to move forward with their content plan and future digital marketing efforts.
How Much is Too Much
We’ve all seen them, those ads or marketing that feel kind of…not right. Or maybe it’s social media that feels a little too polished and trite. When that happens, we feel hesitation. We start to question our choices. We wonder if that brand we heard of is what they say they are. Instead of hitting that confirmation button, we’re hitting the pause button.
Not the reaction you want.
It can be hard to gauge how much tension is too much in your content plan. But there is a fine line to walk between cultivating committed customers and losing your audience. When you’re brainstorming your strategy, make sure to avoid these few things:
Shock for the sake of shock
Sure, there may be a few people that love the shock and awe tactic, but those few aren’t worth the many who may feel alienated and dirty. Shocking your audience is a super quick way to provoke hesitation in your audience.
Repeating the same old message
Part of what creates healthy, actionable tension is introducing something new—even if the product or service isn’t new. A good content plan amplifies innovation. A bad content plan will use the same language, same images, or same strategy over and over. It’s stale. You’re not stale. You’re awesome—so show it!
Speaking to everyone
Here’s the bottom line: you can’t be everything to everyone. If you try to develop your content plan to suit everyone, you will get very tired and very frustrated. You deserve to work with clients who align with your values and services.
That’s why you need to do the work of getting to know exactly who you audience is before you start building a digital marketing strategy. Knowing them will help you to clearly define which tension points are more important to them.
Tension vs. hesitation is a delicate push-pull that can’t be quantified. It takes skill to identify the pain points in your industry and form a content plan that works and stands out from the rest. Understanding and embracing what makes you special is a winning strategy no matter what you do.