Provoking Content: Admiration & Loathing

Next up in my provoking content series: The emotions of Admiration and Loathing.

I decided to take a different approach to this week’s blog post; instead of being wrapped-up in my feelings and emotions, I decided to branch out and find examples of content already on the web that provoked readers into action. So here it goes…

Admiration

We all have someone or something in our past or present that we respect, are impressed by or look up to – that’s admiration. The beauty of this emotion is that it’s completely free flowing and non-discriminate; anyone can be admired. Take Obama admiring Romney for how seriously he takes his faith, for example. These two political figures are ‘sworn enemies’ praying for each other’s demise and ready to pounce on any whiff of a scandal. Yet, there’s still a place for admiration. Even comic book characters are admired; not only because they have awesome special powers that help fight crime (for some that may be a big part of it) but also because they have qualities that we respect and what they stand for.

Now you might think that admiring Spiderman (crime fighting youngster that spends his evening swinging from lamp posts) might be a bit ridiculous. But did you feel that way when you were 8 years old? Ultimately, what our audiences admire might be absurd to us, but clearly it isn’t to them. It doesn’t always matter what you think; we don’t decide, nor should we try to shape or change whom our audience admires. Just like when dealing with the emotion of Grief, we cannot force our audience to feel admiration in a particular direction without propaganda, because it is too personal of an emotion. Although, we may not always understand why and who our readers admire, we must of course accept it and use it to our advantage.

Capitalizing

It’s simple enough to look at your audience and pinpoint what they admire. If they love technology, it might be Matt Cutts. If they’re into sports, you could pick out any of the many gold medal Olympians from London 2012. Or if they so happen to be into body-art and piercing, they might admire Elaine Davidson – world’s most pierced woman. Regardless of what they are into, it is important to take it and run with it. Giving you the biggest bang for your buck would be conducting an interview with the individual, but of course not all of us are very important journalists with access to celebrities and VIPs. So the next best thing you could do is take the admired person/concept/thing and make it (or them) the focus of your content. You can approach this in a few different ways: from writing about The Top 10 Reasons Batman is better than Superman to creating your own Pinterest board about the people that your audience admires.

Both of these content ideas allow for community sharing and discussion on the topic, but as usual your strategies will strongly depend on your audience and their needs.

Loathing

Defined as “A feeling of intense dislike or disgust”. Sometimes this feeling is so intense that it provokes a physical action, (have you ever seen something that made you literally sick to your stomach?) as well as an emotional action. Take the “2 Girls 1 Cup” video for example: if you haven’t seen it or don’t know the premise behind it, you can go and do your own research – at your own risk. But the bottom line is that this web content was found to be extremely disgusting by many. However despite the mass-disgust, the video went instantly viral and within the first 6 months the website had 32 million visits after its launch in August, 2007.

How did it get so popular?

Human curiosity fuelled the fire for this particular video’s views. Author Sidrah Zaheer wrote explained the nature of human curiosity:

It is curiosity in man’s nature which drives him to understand different phenomena in life. The curiosity about one’s self and the environment leads a person to investigate and with the help of his findings draw adequate inferences.

If you have already gone and Googled “2 girls 1 cup” because you didn’t know enough about it, then you’ve just proved my point. Back in 2007 people heard about how disgusting this video was and just had to see it from themselves. Once viewed, they felt emotionally provoked to share their thoughts and feelings regarding the video online in forums & comment sections everywhere.

What added to this content’s virality was the Internet phenomenon of tricking a friend or family member into watching it and then recording their reactions to the video. There are ample videos out there, but this was my particular favorite:

As disgusted as Grandma Marlene was, she stuck with it – like a trooper – and kept watching. I expect that she, like most others did not want to miss anything equally or more disgusting in the video. Thank you curiosity!

The Domino Effect

On more of a “micro” level of disgusting content, I came across this response to a Facebook status, which was then posted on Reddit:

Here is an instance of two actions stemming from intense disgust. On one hand there is the Mayor of Troy, MI who seems disgusted with the ruling that the state of New York has allowed same-sex marriages. She then felt provoked to update her Facebook status that reflected her feelings on the subject. On the other hand there is another party who was disgusted with the Mayor’s reaction and felt provoked to share her Facebook status on Reddit. This chain of social reaction continued on Reddit with 390 comments, 3,007 up votes and 1,929 down votes. This Reddit situation exemplifies how content that hits on an emotion closer to the center of Plutchik’s wheel will indeed provoke people into action.

In For A Penny, In For A Pound

A bit like the dead baby jokes in my first post of this series, disgusting your audiences is an All or Nothing decision. If you do want to be known for disgusting your audience with content, then you will need to go “all in” to make an impact. Just remember when you do, your reputation will precede you and you may take yourself and your brand past the point of no return.

When it comes to admiration, there is a lot more flexibility in what you can do. However, if you are planning on hitting this emotion with your content, I would definitely suggest over-glamourizing the subject of admiration. If you merely start to downplay or emphasize your audience’s “hero”, then expect to have a disgruntled set of readers who will quickly lose interest in what you have to say.

About the author

Lizzie Seedhouse