Everyone has opinions, however tepid. And sometimes content that contradicts those opinions can be as compelling as content that plays it safe and attempts to flatter them.
We see this idea at work in the world’s major news publications, most of which employ opinion columnists whose chief aim is to polarise reader opinion. A strongly angled opinion piece can involve an audience so much more strongly than a safer agreeable piece of content; to take a bold viewpoint is to instantly rouse interest in the reader.
There’s no reason why businesses shouldn’t adopt this tactic too. Polarising your audience is a sure-fire way to generate lots of comments and engagement, and you needn’t be disingenuous or over-dramatic with your topic or opinion to generate the desired response.
Here are six reasons polarising your audience with ‘controversial’ content will drive more traffic – and probably boost engagement too.
- It demonstrates confidence and inspires curiosity. You don’t take a strong stance and risk alienating people unless you’re pretty sure about your convictions, and there’s something inherently intriguing about someone who confidently takes a controversial stance. Challenging the accepted wisdom is very risky and shows courage.
- It puts a stronger steer on guiding your readers towards your desired end goal. You’re not polarising opinion for sake of it after all; your aim is to invoke strong feelings in your audience, tying them to your brand.
- ‘Play it safe’ content is boring – and everywhere. Controversy and novelty is exciting.
- In 2016 it takes a lot to make a piece of content go far. Simply entertaining your reader or viewer often isn’t enough anymore – you need to excite them.
- Controversy evokes a strong emotional response in the reader – for better or for worse! When strong feelings like joy, anger, pride or guilt are aroused in a reader, they are more likely to comment and join the conversation. Sometimes comment sections end up longer than the original article, as commenters thrash out their beliefs, all the while increasing engagement with your content.
- It can be good for your business to divide opinion. You want to reach people who share your opinion anyway – so don’t worry about alienating the people who disagree with you. Rather than trying to be everything to everyone, focus on the needs and typical beliefs of your target audience, and specialise your brand. You’re never going to please everyone anyway – so why not take a risk?
One word of warning: don’t overdo it. Gratuitously controversial pieces are irritating and potentially offensive. Steer clear of potentially touchy topics such as religion. If you’re not sure how to begin, you could start out with a simple social media post or poll, preferably on a light-hearted subject. For example: ‘Which of these toys from the 1990s was the best: [Pokemon] or [Tamagotchi]’. Make sure you link it back to your brand or business though.
Additionally, don’t fall into the trap of misleading or click baiting your readers. A controversial headline linking to a watered down article will not do your brand any favours, and won’t have the impact that a well-argued polarising opinion piece will. If you’re going to be controversial in your content, commit to it. You might lose a few readers, but you’ll probably create more engaged and valuable followers at the same time.
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