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Are You Staring At This Title? You’re Interested… Want To Know Why?

Ask yourself, “Why am I reading this article? How did I get here? Is this interesting?” If it’s not, you’re going to bounce right… about… now! Still here? Good. This article will explain why capturing a person’s situational interest is critical to a good content strategy.

What is “interest” and what constitutes interesting content anyway? Interest is attention and/or curiosity about a particular subject matter, and is accompanied by sentiment.

Interest has a profound effect on human behavior and impacts HOW people process information and WHAT information they are willing to process. The greater value the content is to the end-user, the more impact it has on user behavior and individual sense of interest. The impact manifests in how long the user engages the content, their likelihood to share the content, and their sentiment towards the content. This sentiment is linked to fulfillment and gratification. Creating content that is informative and engaging creates instant gratification which can fulfill the users’ needs, making them want more, repeat an action and share with their network. When content is of little value to the end user, they will have little interest in the content and will likely not engage further.

So can “interest” be created?  Yes, you can create interest if it is something that your audience (i.e. target personas) will find attractive and engaging. Okay, so let’s step back and look at what it means to be interesting. First, whose interests are we talking about; company or consumer? Whether it’s B2B or B2C marketing, it’s always about the consumer, the appropriate lead, and the target persona. It’s not about the brands’ concept of interesting, it’s about the user’s perception of what is interesting.

There are five dimensions of interest to take into consideration in order to develop valuable, engaging and interesting content for your users. These dimensions represent the “situational interest” or the short-term stimulation necessary for a user to become interested in a particular subject or activity at a given period of time. Content can get the user to build upon situational interests in a particular subject and potentially drive a user to seek more information, even if they had little or no personal interest prior to engagement with the content or subject. This is accomplished via creative use of text, sights, sounds, music, unusual topics and other creativity to help trigger and stimulate situational interest.

The following are five dimensions of interest and are means to serve the user content for quality engagement:

  1. Novelty – The quality of being new, striking, original or unusual
  2. Challenge – To arouse or stimulate, question, invite conversation
  3. Attention demand – Selective concentration on a topic of interest because it is sought after
  4. Exploration intention – The user interest comes from seeking out and exploring, gathering tools and resources along the way
  5. Instant enjoyment – User receives immediate fulfillment and satisfaction

The trick is to position your content (surrounding your products and service offering) in a way that resonates with the target persona’s situational interest. To get people to investigate your product or service offering you have to encourage engagement with them through their interests by generating rich content that is tailored to the end-user (i.e. target persona). Make the content user-centered and this increases the likelihood of engagement. The end-user needs something of value from the content for it to be interesting.

Creating customized content fused with one or more dimensions of interest, and segmented to target personas can generate an individualized sense of interest for the end user. It also creates a sense of gratification for the user when they find information they were seeking. This formula is the foundation for developing content strategy focusing on target personas relative to situational interests.  
In turn, this cultivates quality, lasting engagement with the content and sharing of the content by the end user. Lasting engagement converts end-users to advocates and they evangelize for the brand because you have added value to their lives versus forcing something on them and demanding something from them with a “call-to-action.”

So you’ve made it. Your interest carried you to the end and hopefully, this article added value and the information was enriching and the engagement was of quality. If so, share it with others and see where their interests lie. Ask them, “… what’s interest anyway?”