We are making our way through the Emotionally Appealing Content Series.

So far we have covered Ecstasy & Grief and Loathing & Admiration from Plutchick’s Wheel of Emotion and we’ve looked at how each emotion can be used in content to create reactions with readers.

Today, we hit on intensity as we cover Rage and Terror.


To understand how people move from annoyance to anger to full blown rage – think about how you feel when you are in a hurry and a slow moving, rickety hoopty creeps into the fast lane and goes ten under the speed limit.

Image via emotioneric.com

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If you can create content that accelerates emotion in readers as fast as no acceleration in the fast lane, you have social sharing gold. People love to share their rage. Why?

Most of the time when someone is getting red in the face, the only way they can find relief is by sharing their tantrum with someone else.  So push the buttons of your readers to get them to push their social sharing buttons.

Many of the tips for causing Rage are similar to writing for Loathing because when we really hate something, it usually pisses us off too.

Tips for writing to incite Rage:

  1. Tear down or take away something people enjoy – People hate to see something they love fall apart. Whether you are shining a negative light on a positive person, place or thing, or literally sharing the news of something going away, find something people love and rip it apart.
  2. Prove someone wrong – Call out a mistake made by an audience or group. Be sure you are right or at least have a strong angle that backs up your statement. You will likely get shares because the audience or group will want to give their opposing version of the story.
  3. Complicate things – People resist change. Give them a reason to believe that their normal routines or philosophies are wrong and/or will need to be changed drastically.
  4. Give solid reasons to be mad – Don’t just provide a broad perspective. Litter the entire piece of content with solid examples and anecdotes on why the story should make the reader mad.

Examples of spinning boring topics toward Rage:


  • # Accounting Tips Your Boss Never Told You, But Should Have Because It Costs You X Hours of Extra Work
  • # Changes in the Tax Code that Are Going to Make You Miserable

Cloud Computing

  • Is Cloud Computing Just Another Way to Say Headache?
  • # Ways the Wrong Cloud Computing System Will Lose Your Most Prized Photographs

Home Insurance

  • # Things Your Home Insurance Company Probably Told You That Are Absolute Lies
  • Families Who Found Themselves on the Street Thanks to [Evil Insurance Company Name]

Remember, when people are so mad that they don’t know what to do with themselves, they typically will do at least one thing – tell their friends.

Image via comesitbythehearth.blogspot.com


If you want some examples about how well fear works as a motivator, just watch some mainstream news stations. News that incites apprehension stirs up emotions, but news that incites terror stirs up high ratings.

Image via traemcneely.com

The same is true for online content. People watch Nancy Grace because she taps into her target demographics’ main fears (being kidnapped, being kidnapped, yea well, mostly being kidnapped).

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If you can use Nancy’s tactic of understanding your audience and playing off of their fears, then you can get them to share content, because if they are scared about something, they will want their loved ones to be aware of the scary secret too.

Tips for writing to incite Terror:

  1. Play off of fears and insecurities – We mentioned doing this for inciting Grief, and the same goes for terror. If you already know that your audience is afraid of something, you can inflate it to really scare the sh*t out of them.
  2. Be outlandish, but truthful – If you are going to use the shock factor in your terrorizing content, make sure that you back up the hype. Bold statements without the support to back it up will lose you an audience faster than boring content.
  3. Put the reader in a bleak situation – By putting a first person perspective on a scary situation readers will feel more attached to a story, therefore more likely to identify with and share the post.
  4. Be topical – If the news is already spreading fear about a certain subject, ride the wave and build off of the fear by spinning it to your topic.

Examples of spinning boring topics toward Terror:


  • # Accounting Mistakes That Will Definitely Make Your Boss Fire You
  • # Ways a Bad Accountant Can Make Your Homeless

Cloud Computing

  • Cloud Computing Could Put # Americans Out of Jobs
  • Can Cloud Computing Share Your Deepest Secrets with the World?

Home Insurance

  • Katrina Costs Residents X and Only Costs Insurance Companies X
  • # Household Errors That Could Burn Down the House

Remember to know your audience; what is terrifying to one audience may be something completely mundane to another audience.  (This chart could really scare women in their late 30’s.)

Image via dailydish.typepad.com

Tackling Rage and Terror is a risky subject. We always stress the importance of knowing your audience before you dive into inciting any sort of exaggerated emotion; that’s true here too, but in this case you also really need to think about the intended direction of that emotion.

Make sure that you are directing Rage and Terror toward something that you don’t mind shining in an unbecoming light. If you are trying to get people to come to your blog about Hollywood Dogs, don’t write about 7 Movies with the Worst Conditions for Their Animal Star. And if your client is a beach resort, don’t send over a piece on the 14 Most Gruesome Shark Attacks.

These examples are pretty obvious, but always make sure to really think about out the ideas that seem great on the surface buy may hold some underlying negative attention.

Join us next time, when we take on the final of the Emotionally Appealing Content Series – Vigilance and Amazement.

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