4 Psychological Hacks Every Creator Needs to Know

Steal 4 cognitive biases to boost your content (with examples)

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4 Psychological Hacks Every Creator Needs to Know
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I spent a few hours this weekend learning about cognitive biases (aka what gets people to pay attention and buy stuff).
There are endless ways to apply those biases to your business and content. But I’ve found 4 that are at the core of what every creator should know about human psychology.
This is what they are and how to steal them for yourself 👇

#1 - The Barnum Effect

The Barnum Effect happens when we read statements that feel personal but that could apply to anyone. For example:
  • “You are a very loyal person”
  • “You need others to like you”
  • “You are worried about money”
I know, I sound like a tarot reader 🔮😆

How can you steal it?

Make your content feel personal, especially your hooks. Grab a pain point your audience faces and put it right in front of them. Example from Twitter/X 👇
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Or use them on your landing and sales pages. Example from the Ship30for30 landing page 👇
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Source: @katebour
The Barnum Effect will make your readers self-identify as having that problem that needs a solution. It will sound like you understand them and that your content and products are the perfect solution.

#2 - Von Restorff’s Effect (a.k.a Distinctiveness)

Which apple got your attention? 👆
When presented with a list of similar items with one distinctive, people tend to remember that one more. This is known as the Von Restorff effect.

How can you steal it?

Distinctiveness as a creator can take many forms. My two favorites:
  • How you “brand” yourself
  • How your content is packaged and structured (aka format)
Let’s see it with an example from my own personal brand. Why do you think I use this bright yellow/orange as my profile background color and as the background for my pictures?
It’s not casual. When you log into Twitter/X or LinkedIn, most of your feed looks white or black (depending on your theme).
Now imagine you start scrolling down and suddenly see a bright orange dot. You are probably going to stop the scroll and pay attention. See how it pops out 👇
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That happened because seeing a bright color in your feed is distinctive. It’s a pattern interrupt.
Not many people use it, so your brain signals, “Hey, there’s something different here; you need to pay attention.”
Another example of distinctiveness is playing around with how your content is formatted. Dylan Bridger sent this email the other day 👇
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Formatting the email like that broke the pattern. It caught his audience by surprised, and…it increased sales 👇
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The best way to differentiate yourself is to generate some contrast. Look at what everyone does on the platform and try to break the pattern. Zig when others zag.

#3 - Reciprocity

When we are given something, we feel compelled to return the favor. You could say that’s “being a good person,” but it’s an actual cognitive bias 😅

How can you steal it?

When you give something of value, ask for something in return. If people truly feel they got value from your content, they will act on your ask.
An example of a low-effort ask after a valuable Twitter/X thread is to ask people to RT, reply or subscribe to your newsletter 👇
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Another great example of how to apply Reciprocity is how Josh Spector from the FTI newsletter does it 👇
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He gives something of high value (his Skill sessions, valued at $50 each) in exchange for a newsletter shout. He gets something of value, and the audience gets something of value. This is Reciprocity in full effect.

#4 - Social proof

We look at other people for cues on how to act. One person standing on the street looking up doesn’t do anything. 30 people standing on the street looking up, and you stop to look too.
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How can you steal it?

As Cialdini explains in “Psychology of Persuasion”:
“The greater the number of people who find any idea correct, the more the idea will be correct.”
It’s all rooted in the anthropological need to fit in with our peers. Creators leverage Social Proof by sharing subscriber numbers, followers, testimonials, reviews…to get others to perceive their content/product as the right choice.
Some examples of social proof in the wild on Landing Pages 👇
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And on social platforms too 👇
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Ask your readers and customers for proof and testimonials and share them publicly. Their behavior will likely impact others and get them to join your ecosystem.

Learn more about marketing psychology.

These are just a few examples of how psychology can be applied to content creation.
If you want to learn more about buyer psychology, I’ll leave you the resource I’ve been binging and that I used for my research:
Before we leave, did you find this post useful?
It took me more than 5 hours to write. I'd be so grateful if you’d share it on Twitter/X (which takes about 1 second). You can do so by clicking this link here.
(See what I did there?)

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