John sat in front of his computer unable to move. His eyes were fixed on the erotic image in front of him and his hand wobbled on his mouse as he thought he ought to click away from the page, yet he could not move. He moved gradually closer to the screen and was struggling to cope with his mixed emotions. “I shouldn’t be looking at this at work,” he thought, yet he could not stop himself gazing at the beautiful woman in front of him. He knew it was wrong, that he could be found out at any moment if someone walked by his desk, yet he was captivated by the picture.
OK – relax.
Now, if you are a man who works in an office and who has mistakenly hit upon a web page that contains something rather risqué you will have just experienced all those feelings all over again. Indeed, recent research shows us that when you read something that you can relate to personally your brain cannot tell the difference between reading it and actually experiencing it. To your brain, they are one and the same thing.
And when we experience something we are truly and deeply engaged with it.
How to engage your web visitor
Throughout the web you can find a host of blog posts and articles all talking about “visitor engagement”. Much of it is pure tosh because many of these articles believe that engagement is measured by whether or not someone “likes” a page or how many comments are written. That’s not engagement – that’s activity, which is entirely a different thing.
Engagement is a brain process. Engagement happens when your visitor experiences something.
This research on reading shows that engagement happens when the brain cannot tell the difference between reading something and actually “being there”.
You will have been to movies or read novels where you have been transported “somewhere else”. Then you put the book down or leave the cinema only to realise you are back in the real world.
Yet how many times has that happened to you on the web…? Frankly, the vast majority of the web is boring and non-engaging.
But you can change that..
All you have to do is to write so that you give your readers an experience, something they can relate to, something that their brains think is real. It means your website needs to be written in real, everyday language, using story formats.
In other words, if you really want to engage your audience – stop producing web pages using boring, plain, business language and start having conversations with people. You know it makes sense.
Now…let’s get back to John and his picture……
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+