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10 questions answered by online psychology expert Nathalie Nahai – Lost in Content appetizer!Stijn Schutyser
On September 25th, we’re organizing Lost in Content, an event not just about content marketing conversion, CRM, paperless office or a digital transformation, but about the true content revolution. With inspiring keynote speaker Nathalie Nahai, tangible expert speakers and customer cases divided over 3 different tracks (visionary, monetary, legal), Lost in Content will give you unique insights into content as a necessary foundation and driver for intelligent business! Interested? Check out the event page here.
Keynote speaker Nathalie Nahai is an international speaker and author of the best-selling book Webs of Influence: The Psychology of Online Persuasion. She is an expert in web psychology and helps businesses apply scientific rigour to their website design, content marketing and products.
To give you a taste of what’s to come at Lost in Content, we set up an interview with keynote speaker Nathalie Nahai. We asked her 10 intriguing questions regarding content, online persuasion, content marketing and more.
1. First of all, we’re thrilled to have you as the main speaker on our event Lost in Content on September 25th. On to the first question, then: how would you identify the main characteristics and differences in the way in which people consume content online versus offline, if any?
Thank you, it’s a pleasure!
One of the most significant differences between on- and offline media consumption is the physical structure that mediates our interactions in each environment. Most online platforms are intentionally designed to attract, maintain and encourage repetitive patterns of engagement, which typically rely on triggering the dopamine system with the promise of tiny, unpredictable rewards. This tends to reinforce actions that elicit validation responses (the low nuance, low complexity strokes of the ego we get from receiving likes, retweets, comments, and so on), which in turn motivate us to engage in unsatisfying but potentially addictive patterns of use.
Offline, many of the ways in which we ‘consume content’ involve interacting directly with one another, interactions in which we are more likely to encounter the messy, complex, and unpredictable nature of real human relationships. This not only demands that we enter into deeper engagement with one another (we’re less able to hide behind a cloak of anonymity or ignore the potential impact of a hurtful comment), it also means that we are more likely to be recognised in our less-than-perfect non-Instagram selves, which can result in a deeper sense of belonging and a more robust sense of self-esteem.
2. You’re a psychologist. What is so interesting about content, content marketing and online behaviour to you?
I’ve always been fascinated by the hidden influences that shape human behaviour, and when I started designing websites back in 2011 it seemed obvious to me that if our offline environments shape our actions, so too must our online environments. The internet offers a unique lens into human dynamics and how they can be manipulated for good or for ill. With its phenomenal rate of change the internet also provides an unparalleled opportunity for us to learn more about ourselves so that we can more consciously build the world we wish to inhabit. It’s increasingly this perspective – uncovering our potential and our shadow – that drives my interest in our online behaviours.
3. In what way can content help business create sound customer relationships and brand loyalty?
At its best, well-crafted content is that which is based on a respectful and emotional understanding of its audience. If we can reach out to customers and really have a sense of their context and needs, the content we create will reflect this, and will therefore resonate more deeply with those we are trying to engage.
4. The importance of content changed a lot over the past years. What do you consider the most important evolutions in the use of content today?
I think the most important evolution in the use of content today, is that the leading brands now understand that they can’t just harvest data to personalise content without first establishing a sense of rapport and trust with the audiences they’re trying to reach. For a brand to be effective with their marketing now and in the future, it needs to show (through its content and various points of contact) that it respects and understands the needs of its customers.
5. A lot of companies are focussing more on how to reach their audience and specialized tools facilitate targeting their audience. In your opinion, how can companies still make a difference?
By not taking things too far and triggering psychological reactance in their audiences.
6. How do you see the evolution of content in 2040? What are your most pessimistic and optimistic predictions?
I think content will continue down the route of personalisation, but I am optimistic that it will be based on a more humanistic approach of trust-building, informed consent and mutual benefit. Brands will have to earn the confidence of their customers in order to gather the data required to personalise content, and this in turn will lead to better content, happier customers and more resilient businesses.
If I were to make a pessimistic prediction, I would say that there is a real possibility that surveillance tools (in which I include facial recognition tech, AI audio assistance, in-built cameras, etc.) could be used increasingly both in private and public spaces with neither the knowledge nor explicit consent of citizens. Coupled with the wide adoption of smart items in homes, this could potentially give rise to personal data banks so rich in information, that if users were not adequately protected by the law (such as the recently instated GDPR), they would be at great risk of exploitation by unscrupulous companies wishing to get an edge on targeting potential users.
It’s dystopian scenarios such as these that make me grateful for the invaluable work of groups such as Big Brother Watch (UK) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (US).
7. You teach about the connection between the human psyche and the use of content to reach them. If all companies would apply your techniques in the most efficient way, what would be the impact?
All thriving human relationships rely on trust, mutual respect and emotional connection. So I would suggest that the most efficient way to apply the techniques I teach, is to use them to enhance mutually beneficial experiences between the customer and the brand, in which the goals of both parties are aligned. If companies took this approach, the impact would be such that customers would be receiving emotionally rewarding content from brands they trust, which would contribute to greater customer satisfaction, longer-term brand-customer relationships and reputational resilience for the business in question.
8. Would the content still impact us, or would our interpretation and behaviour change?
If the content strikes an emotional resonance with the audience and delivers something they actually want at the appropriate moment in time, then yes we can expect that customers would continue to respond to such content in a positive way.
9. What are, in your opinion, the 5 most important things that marketers or developers can do concerning content and their website to optimize conversions and get the highest possible ROI from their communication and branding?
It depends if you’re aiming for short-term ROI or more sustainable, long-term success. I recommend the latter, for which I would suggest the following:
- Do some qualitative research with your customers – ask them how you can provide a better service or product, then make the necessary changes.
- Once you can deliver on your promise, optimise your website by lowering the cognitive load (mental effort) required to respond to the CTA – this usually means simplifying the layout, only having one main CTA, and making sure the content is perceptually fluent.
- Simplify complex language, and break down complicated processes into single steps.
- With regards to content, make sure you mirror your customers’ contexts, needs and desired outcomes in the media you’re creating.
- Test your website / app on friends and family members who have no idea about the product or service you provide – this will give you an immediate sense of how good / bad your user experience actually is.
10. Last question! You are also an expert in the field of content marketing and online persuasion. What do you think are some of your most controversial points of view and why are they controversial?
I don’t know whether my points of view are particularly controversial, but one thing I feel increasingly strongly about is the need to take personal and industry-wide responsibility to ensure that the content and interfaces we create serve both the users and the business. Persuasion principles, applied to mutually beneficial interactions, can offer a brilliant way of reducing frustration and enhancing ease and delight within an experience. In my opinion, whether you’re practicing ethical persuasion from a sense of personal conviction or business self-interest, it’s this approach towards mutual benefit that will move us collectively towards building a future we all wish to inhabit.
Want to learn more from Nathalie and other content experts? Join us at Lost in Content!