Using suspense to promote interaction

by Martin Reed on 2 April 2007 in Articles

The key to a successful online community is getting people to interact. Some forums have a huge number of members but a much lower number of posts than you would expect. This is particularly the case in ‘general forums’ where there is no particular subject for discussion.

If a community continues in this way for too long, it will only slip further into decline. Members will visit less often, and the lack of activity will mean potential new members will be put off from joining.

A good strategy to keep your community buzzing is the use of suspense.

Using suspense to promote interaction

This is a tried and tested formula that works. Why do you think TV soaps end on a ‘cliff hanger’? Why do some advertising campaigns refuse to reveal the brand they are promoting until later in the campaign? Because suspense gets people interested. Suspense gets people involved, it gets them talking and it captures their imagination.

This technique can easily be transferred to your online community. If you have a blog or a forum, you can make a ‘teaser-post’ in order to ‘bait’ your members.

Back on 1st February this year, Jon from the Super Affiliate Marketing Blog made a post stating that he was going to show his readers how to make a million dollars in a single weekend (strong language warning). By the time you get to the end of the article, Jon writes:

I’ll just release the information sometime this month. Let you guys sweat it out a little while.

Of course, everyone was now on tenterhooks – they really wanted to read the article, but now they have to wait before it will be fully published. By telling people that the information will be released ‘sometime this month’, Jon has guaranteed himself return visits for up to a month before he fully publishes the article.

If you are going to adopt this method, be sure that the amount of suspense you are building is worthy of the ‘pay-off’. If your ‘huge announcement’ turns out to be the fact that you have a persistent itch in an embarrassing area, people will no longer take your ‘suspense bait’ seriously and it will never work again.

If you take the time to ensure the ‘pay-off’ is worthy of the amount of suspense you have built up, this technique will work again and again for you – just be sure not to overdo it; suspense is only effective in moderation!

Have you employed this tactic at your community? If so, please place a comment and let me know what you did and how successful it was.

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Sara August 19, 2007 at 11:04 pm

How could you use this tactic in a forum?

Martin Reed - Blog Author August 20, 2007 at 9:19 pm

Sara – I think there are many ways to incorporate this in a forum. You could announce that you will soon share some exciting news, you could post a question but delay the answer for a few days, you could start writing a post series with cliffhangers at the end of each one – think outside of the box, and get creative!

abbigliamento October 1, 2007 at 11:46 pm

This kind of language it used in many websites, especially on websites those sell ebooks.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 3, 2007 at 8:21 pm

abbigliamento – You’re right; and if it works for those ebook-selling sites, then it should work for us when developing online communities, right?

segnala sito October 27, 2007 at 6:16 pm

abbigliamento : you’re corrent , it’s really the reallity on ebook websites.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 29, 2007 at 8:14 pm

segnala sito – Sites promote ebooks in this way as they want to make the sale; we should think the same way – we want to ‘sell’ our site to every visitor.

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