How do you leverage curiosity to increase interest in your brand?

This post originally appeared on the MerchantCantos blog.

Here’s a timely question for you: which social platform is reportedly secretly experimenting with this very format?

Well, if you read the headline first you’ll already know it’s Instagram. It won’t be the first interactive feature that they’ve introduced on Stories. Polls and emoji sliders are already being used, and the new open-ended format adds to the range of options available.

By delivering a big boost to engagement, this option will allow brands another means of checking whether users are actually paying attention to their content. It also means they can get unique feedback in addition to the simplistic preferences that polls can reveal.

Alongside the increasing use of chatbots (a market ‘expected to reach $1.23 billion by 2025’), open-ended questions introduce another level of interactivity. The media and major brands have dipped its toes in interactive, and indeed I produced a number while at Red Bull and the BBC.

At the Beeb we made iWonder guides, the ‘i’ standing for – you guessed it – ‘interactive’, and part of the idea was that we could deepen the relationship between brand and audience through feeding their natural curiosity. It’s a notion that I took on to Red Bull when I was Global Digital Editorial Manager there, and which makes perfect sense from a more business-orientated prospect where you may be wanting to push consumers down the purchase funnel – or if you simply want to raise awareness of who you are and why people should care about what you do.

It’s been estimated that Americans see 4000-10,000 ads per day, and even if the figure is less than that for many of us in other parts of the globe, then anybody who has scrolled down a social media feed is aware how quickly posts can slip by with minimal attention being paid. Curiosity interrupts that and re-focusses audience attention while making them want to find out more.

Questioning the audience can be a great way of introducing a two-way relationship and building brand recognition and positive sentiment, but it will only work if the storytelling framework being utilised is strong enough that the user will feel a need to engage. Even if that’s an image or a single sentence, it requires a pull: that’s where the curiosity factor comes into play. And for that, you yourself need to answer a question: what is it about your brand’s story that will make your target audience curious?