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7 Emotions that Trigger Reader Action

Posted By Darren Rowse 8th of December 2010 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments
7 Emotions that Trigger Reader Action

Image by Anna Gay

Earlier in the week I wrote an email to ProBlogger PLUS subscribers that talked about deepening reader engagement by aiming at the hearts of your readers.

In it, I shared an example from FeelGooder of a personal story post that I wrote that got a great reaction from readers.

As I wrote that email it struck me that my example post was only one example of a type of post that engaged the emotions of readers.

People are emotional beings and, as a result, when they’re engaged, that often leads to actions (both positive and negative).

As bloggers, many of us are interested in getting our readers active in different ways (commenting, linking to our posts, sharing them on Twitter, buying our products, and so on), so writing in a way that connects with readers’ emotions is something we might want to think about.

Of course this is open to abuse and can do damage to both our readers and our own reputation if it’s used in manipulative ways, so tread with care! Let’s examine seven emotions and how they might be used in blogging.

1. Disappointment

When it comes to reader engagement there’s nothing much more powerful than connecting with a disappointment that a reader might be feeling. Sharing one of our own disappointments—or at least showing understanding and empathy around what others are facing—is very powerful for building credibility and trust.

2. Anger

This one can be tricky. Many bloggers have used anger to trigger responses from readers in ways that are quite manipulative (for example, by baiting people to respond angrily). While it can be used in a negative way, there are times also when it can be used positively. For example, when you’re trying to bring about some sort of social change for good, highlighting an injustice can evoke an anger in people that motivates them to take some type of positive action.

3. Joy

Many humor blogs have experienced great success by tapping into joy. Present readers with something that evokes a belly laugh, make it easy to share your content on their favorite social network, and you’re on the way to a viral traffic event.

4. Fear

Fear is another one that has been used by many in an emotionally manipulative manner, but it can be used for positive purposes also. I still remember the time when as a smoker I was confronted with a family friend in the last stages of dying of emphysema. I never smoked another cigarette again.

5. Surprise

“Wow—I didn’t expect that!” I love getting comments like that—it shows that I’ve done something to snap readers out of a zombie-like state. Surprise or shock your readers with new information, writing in a new voice, presenting a staggering statistic, or even repackaging familiar ideas in a way that’s new, and you’ll certainly get a reaction.

6. Pride

Pride is something that’s often presented in a negative way (he’s too proud for his own good) but it is also something that can deepen reader engagement.

For example, you could mention readers by name in your posts or link to things that they’ve written on their own blogs, or show a video of them that they’ve posted on YouTube. Everyone wants to be noticed, and everyone wants to have their achievements celebrated. These things make a person proud and by tapping into that, you can build the relationship that you have with them. So build into your blog opportunities for readers to showcase what they’ve done, what they think, and who they are.

7. Anticipation

There’s nothing like the anticipation of a big event to get people coming together to engage, whether it be the release of a new product from Apple, the premier of a long-awaited blockbuster movie, or the season finale of much-loved TV show. If you can tap into the anticipation and excitement that people have about something that’s important to them, you can create something powerful.

This is particularly effective if you create a space for people to talk about the thing that’s anticipated, or if you have special information about it that people want.

What would you add?

I’ve only scratched the surface here. There are a lot of emotions that I’ve not touched on. What would you add? Which emotions have you focused upon in your own blogging, and what has worked in getting reactions from readers?

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Great timing with the advice as always!… I have always thought of ways to avoid the stress of delays with animation launches. But I think that empathy helps a lot and that builds even more anticipation!…



  2. As bloggers, we learn to become marketers, selling our ideas, services and products. To truly connect with readers, we need to impact the main driving force behind many decisions we make, and that is emotion.

    Blogs also help to ignite feelings of passion and purpose as many readers are unsure of what to do or where to start whether in business, blogging or personal life. There are some blogs that offer support very well in this light.

    Keep up the good work Darren.

  3. Hi Darren,

    I couldn’t agree more. Emotion is a very powerful thing. Anger is a great emotion to use. Have you noticed that people write the best content when they are emotional. Plus when they’ve had first hand experience for their emotions.

    It’s also very important to write from experiences.

    • Yeah James, I noticed that. It’s obvious Darren was quite emotional when he wrote this piece and it connected.

      I think sorrow is another emotion that really connects, especially when it has to do with loss.

      • Loss/sorrow is so hard to write, and painful. I struggle to read sorrow in posts and I rarely comment on them as no words seem adequate when commenting, especially if I am just passing through.

        We recently lost a member of our community, and I wrote the tribute post about her contribution and it was horrible to type although people thought it was a lovely post to a wonderful person.

  4. Embarrassment ~ my latest post, “You Don’t Need Bangs If You Look Like Halle Berry” garnered a number of responses and personal e-mails of readers who commiserated with the hacking off of most of my bangs…

  5. Getting the blogger’s own emotional story will touch the heart of the readers immediately. Care should be taken though, not to create sympathy or not to get dirty by bringing out controversial or angry responses to popular bloggers’ posts.

    I personally like sharing my own emotional encounters and highlighting how I got better, or how I overcame the same in my post to help my readers. I think this is part of ‘naked blogging’ :).

    Thanks for the great post Darren.


  6. I would definitely add HOPE to this list. In today’s tough times and economy, my readers are always looking for HOPE and I’ll get more feedback when my video’s or articles are rapped around HOPE. Mix that with a bit of COMEDY and readers love it…

  7. We all function different, but our emotion is another story. We can put our passion behind our words and express ourselves through our blogging.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  8. Great blog post, I’ll make you happy and say “I wasn’t expecting that” haha.

    I think good blogging, the same as any good storytelling, should encompass all of the stated at some stage. In my opinion as long as the writing is clear, informative and above all else interesting, the audience will interact and receive the post positively.

  9. Maybe this goes with anger, or it’s the other side of empathy,

    I have found that disagreement really get some action going.
    When you write against the flow, people tend to reply and let you know why
    they are right and you are wrong.

  10. I am frequently DISAPPOINTED when I dive into a blog post and realize it’s nothing but pablum and drivel, which ANGERS me because this is all to often the case, however I am struck with feelings of JOY when I come across a blog/article that actually inspires or teaches me something new, but then I FEAR that perhaps my blog is “just like the others”, then I crank out an article like “Antagonizing the Dunces” http://www.contrarianism.net/?p=469 and SURPRISE myself realizing it is actually pretty damn good, then I realize that’s just PRIDE talkin’, which always comes before the fall….

  11. The idea behind consolidating emotions in all these aspects provoked me some new thoughts! Anyways, when you want to apply your emotions, I think, the first thing that triggers Readers action will start by reading the emotions in your Headline, say Title. I am sure, this is the first step to trigger the Readers action, to stop by your post, just as I did reading your Title ;). What do you say?

  12. I would add “wonder” or “fascination”. Such as you write a post and someone comments, “I always wondered how that was done.” I get that every so often since I am in a field that little is known about. I would say that most of my traffic right now is because people want to know about my occupation and life. They are fascinated and want to know more because it is so different. I don’t know if that is an emotion or more of state of mind. But close enough anyway.

  13. Well.. i had once experimented with fear and it worked. I got 100% more hits that day and a considerable number of subscribers too.. and I am reviving my blog after almost a year I intend to use this tip more often now.

  14. Well.. i had once experimented with fear and it worked. I got 100% more hits that day and a considerable number of subscribers too..

    Thanks Darren for sharing this valuable article. I am reviving my blog after almost a year I intend to use this strategy more often now.

  15. I enjoy your writing and benefit from your wisdom and insight. I am a big fan of the curious angle that some marketers take. They want you to be so curious about something that it will drive you crazy not to get the information. Examples: Read this post to discover the frightening secrets about this company and company owner. Don’t buy until you read this!

    I can’t resist. Maybe someone randomly thanking me in a email subject line, makes me wonder, for what? My great trip to Vegas… I want to know what happened! You could say that anticipation is a similar feeling. I think there is a slight difference.

    How would you recommend going about trying to become a guest writer for a blog?

  16. I’m aiming for the “Joy” factor as my wife and I start our newest endeavor of designing a blog geared specifically to helping people pick out gifts for kids!

  17. Fulfillment. It is great when you can take the readers into some beautiful space and walk them into a discovery they have dreamed all of their lives…

    Positive emotions connect as well… People love to dream and be loved…

  18. Thanks, Darren, for this very helpful post on emotion. Some other emotions that come to mind are SHAME, DELIGHT, AWE, FRUSTRATION, and perhaps DETERMINATION (an emotion?). In my blog of photos with humorous captions I aim mostly for DELIGHT.

  19. I enjineer. What are emotion?

    It is interesting to figure out when people are faking them to sell you something or get elected . . .


  20. I think Tutorials/How To’s and series posts fall under that last category. I think series like that are totally effective at drawing reader engagement!

  21. I just finished going through a couple of copywriting courses that have touched on all of these emotions that trigger a re-action. The overwhelming theme that I got from my copywriting courses was that you need to hit the reader or prospect in his “tender sweet spot of need”. So whatever your niche is, think of the pain they are going through that you can solve with your product or blog post.



  22. I recently wrote a post about my son when he was very ill. It was too long for a single post and I split it up into two and it read like a cliffhanger which I felt was rather manipulative and almost in poor taste (this was years ago and my son turned out fine.) The reaction of my readers was perfectly OK but I’m still not sure about it. This was a reminder to me that we have to have our judgometer constantly going to make sure we don’t step over the line while at the same time engaging our readers in the ways Darren describes.

  23. I would add Sorrow and empathy. For example, losing someone they love who in the past inspired them to be who they are right now. It strikes readers so much because some time in their life, they also had that someone.

  24. If asked a question about something that we think we know nothing about,we know both the overall concept the specifics of the answer.with direct knowing we don’t know how we know the information. we simply know it. higher sense is our ability to sense our own and each others emotions.we simply pick up the energy of the other persons feeling.

  25. That’s a good list of triggers…

    You left out the obvious – SCARCITY –

    But I would add ‘CONTROVERSY’ to the list. It is a useful trigger to stimulate a reaction

    And then if you can ‘INSPIRE’ people to act that’s great

    But GREED is the base human emotion that never fails which is why the world is going to hell in a hand cart right now…

  26. GREAT advice! While it is sometimes hard to accomplish the emotional appeal when writing about career development, I found that when I wrote articles about unemployment, it was met with great success when I talked about the emotional time.

  27. I would say jealousy and resentment are two powerful emotions that trigger responses.

  28. Emotion plays a blog role in my blogging experience. Whenever I feel down or very anger about my fiancee, I used to work hard for my blog, which I would never done before. Also jealousy plays a bigger part in forcing me to launch few affiliate blogs.

  29. Anger is the worst of them all, I believe. When you are angry, you got no control over anything.

  30. Darren, this post makes me want to cry… and then laugh… I’m such a mess. I’m hormonal right now and you’re messing me up!

  31. From my experience, I would like to add trust to the list. If as bloggers we build up trust in what we are saying, the readers tend to be more responsive.

  32. Truly a delightful post Daren!

    From my experience, I would like to add trust to the list. If as bloggers we build up trust in what we are saying, the readers tend to be more responsive.

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