3 Data-Driven Tips to Improve Your Creative

Need to boost the performance of your digital creative? Give these tested tactics a try.

Creative IMGE Studies Strategy

Whether you’re a solo content creator filming daily Reels for Instagram — or managing content strategy in the corporate world — chances are you’re never satisfied with how your content performs.

We get it.

There’s always room for improvement.

But knowing how to improve your content is rarely obvious.

Sure, content is king. We hear that phrase everywhere these days. But what’s a king without a queen? We believe that the missing piece – the key to knowing what step to take next – is constant testing and optimization.

And after running hundreds of creative tests this year, we’ve learned a few lessons about producing better-performing content. Here are three tips we’re using to up our game – and hopefully, they can improve yours, too.

1. Make Your Content Feel Exclusive

There were two bars in the small town where I attended college — one that liked to charge cover fees, and one that let anybody party, free of charge. And on any given Friday night, you could bet on the bar with the cover charge to be just as busy (if not busier) than the other bar, despite having a higher barrier of entry.

I bring this up because content creators often assume that any obstacle standing between their audience and their content is bad.

But when you put that assumption to the test, the results will shock you.

In one of our recent tests, we saw password-protected landing pages produce more clicks and donations versus landing pages with open access, despite having a MUCH higher barrier of entry. But we didn’t stop there.

Password-Protected Landing Page Creative Test Stats

In a recent SMS showdown, we invited two groups of subscribers to take the same poll, with Group A under the impression it was an “exclusive MEMBERS-ONLY poll” and Group B being told it was open to the public.

The result? Group A submitted TWICE as many poll responses as Group B, despite being the smaller of the two groups.

Branded SMS Poll Creative Test Stats

Does this mean every piece of content you create should hide behind a password or a paywall? No – but when you make your content just a little harder to reach, your most dedicated followers will put in a little more effort to listen to an exclusive podcast episode, read a members-only blog post, or watch a limited-access video.

The desire to make content more exclusive – and personal – has led to the rise of platforms like Patreon and Nebula where fans and content creators can interact on a deeper, more personal level – and it seems this trend is here to stay.

2. Give Your Viewers A Villain

Social media companies are often accused of boosting negative content to produce stronger emotional reactions and create more engagement. Is that just a hasty assumption we hear from armchair psychologists –– or does negative content actually create more engagement?

We recently explored this idea by testing ‘positive’ ads with bright colors and optimistic language against ‘negative’ ads featuring dark, moody tones and pessimistic language — and the winner couldn’t have been any more clear.

Positive vs. Negative Creative Test

The negative creative ad (left) produced 5x more impressions and 1,280% more emails acquired compared to the positive creative — an absolute blowout!

Despite this test having a clear victor, we’re not taking this as a sign to abandon all bright colors and optimistic language in our content going forward. Just because something happens once doesn’t mean it will happen every time — and we know that from another similar test we ran where the negative creative barely beat the positive creative with a 66.4% confidence rate.

So, what’s the takeaway here?

Slightly adjusting the tone or appearance of your content can dramatically change how people engage with your content. In this case, our audience needed a villain. Maybe your audience does, too. But you’ll never know without making those small tweaks and observing how they respond.

3. Say Less. And More.

Whenever you’re tempted to send a long-winded email or text, remember that Neil Armstrong broadcasted 544 words from the moon — and we only remember 11 of them.

It doesn’t matter how important or groundbreaking you believe your ideas are. Your audience will never remember half of what you say. Brevity is one of the greatest skills you can master as a content creator because the less you say, the less your audience has to remember.

say what
Staying true to IMGE form, we’ve been testing short-form content against long-form content because you can never have too much data on your side.

Here’s what we found:

➡️ Across eight tests, four tests decisively showed shorter MMS texts receiving more clicks than longer texts.

➡️ Breaking news alert emails without article descriptions under the headline received nearly 20% more clicks than headlines with article descriptions.

Will These Data-Driven Creative Tips Work For You? You Won’t Know Unless You Test

Every audience is different, but you’ll never know what makes your audience unique without testing every possible variable and optimizing based on the results — something we do every day here at IMGE.

Curious about how you can use testing and optimization to boost your own engagement? Subscribe to our testing newsletter and we’ll share our most valuable insights directly to your inbox.

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