Where's the Nudge: How Can Online Messaging be more Effective?

Brandscore | Jan 30, 2014 9:57:22 AM

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One of the great benefits to social media is also one of its inherent problems: it makes publishing so incredibly easy to the point that information has built up to an overwhelming level.

That unending stream becomes a source of both frustration and amusement: for small business owners trying to cut through the feed, the experience can be heavy on the former and oftentimes devoid of the latter.

It’s also a medium that brings in individuals with no marketing or communication experience whatsoever and provides them with a digital outlet to broadcast whatever message they wish. This isn’t a new trend, but it’s certainly maturing, and it’s certainly helped consumers receive more information than ever while creating new industries and businesses all over the world.

But the issue remains: even the strongest branded content requires some sort of nudge to move consumers from semi-engaged clickers to converted buyers. The real world is rich with examples of how nudges can move individuals to open their eyes to alternatives. One great instance is New York City’s experimental program to lower the amount of trash in the subway by removing trashcans from the stations.

You’d think that by removing the trashcans, then trash would just build up. Instead, riders have been nudged to hold on to their rubbish and deposit the trash elsewhere, leading to less trash buildup on the platform.

The question is not how can we replicate that online, but what are we missing when it comes to the nudges we can embed within our messaging, whether on social, search, or local listings. The closest I’ve seen to something approaching an online nudge has been the breathless headlines of BuzzFeed, Upworthy, and their imitators. Those unbelievable headlines work to trigger a mental nudge that generates oodles of clicks and shares, but they’re gimmicky at best and misleading at worst.

Elsewhere on the web, some people are pointing out that it’s not the message but the messenger that’s holding us back. The rise of an ephemeral Internet, one that doesn’t archive all of our pics and texts for later use, is being defined by the likes of SnapChat and others that aim to bring the ephemeral nature of conversation to the digital medium.

Maybe it’s still early. Maybe we need to encourage more untrained communicators to jump into the feed and help us figure out that certain something that nudges consumers to click and convert beyond the usual gimmicky and overblown headline. It’s not a novel idea, sure, but the answer continues to beguile and bewilder the biggest marketers as well as the smallest upstarts.

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