At the exact moment we realize we are separate beings from everyone else with our own distinct emotions and motives, we begin our lifelong journey to define ourselves. This journey involves constantly seeking opportunities for self-discovery and attempting to categorize exactly who we are within the realm of the billions of people we share the earth with.
And so when you get a chance to find out whether you’re the pop or country version of Taylor Swift, you take it.
Quizzes are an effective way to play on people’s inherent self-interest and desire to define themselves. This is a major reason you’re seeing them all over your social networks. They are rarely founded upon anything scientific, but they are a fun and easy way to get just a little more insight to someone’s personality.
Given the undeniable popularity of quizzes, they should be a key part of any company’s content strategy. People love taking them and sharing them with their friends, and they can even be used as a lead generation tool.
With all that in mind, lets take a look into where quizzes came from and why people love taking and sharing them so much.
A Brief History
On an episode of Friends, Chandler walks out of the bathroom holding one of Rachel’s or Monica’s magazines.
“All right, I took the quiz, and it turns out, I do put career before men,” he announces to his friends.
That episode aired in 1996.
So although the quiz phenomenon may seem like a fairly recent trend, they’ve been around in some form for a long time. Magazines like Cosmo and Seventeen frequently contain quizzes about dating and relationships. Later, sites like BuzzFeed and Zimbio jumped on the concept to astounding results—this “What City Should You Actually Live In?” quiz from BuzzFeed has been viewed more than 20.5 million times.
Another quiz that is frequently credited with igniting the recent quiz craze is the “How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk” from the New York Times. It was actually 2013’s most popular story on NYTimes.com, despite being posted less than two weeks before the end of the year.
And the quiz trend doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. Qzzr, a network of quiz creators and takers, has seen 330 percent month-over-month growth rate. PlayBuzz, another site with a heavy quiz focus, was the second-most shared publisher on Facebook in October. And the most shared piece of content on Facebook last quarter was a Bitecharge quiz titled “How old do you act?”
Why Quizzes Are Irresistible
Sherry Turkle, an MIT psychologist and cultural analyst, told Wired that people turn to quizzes as a result of their irresistible need to quantify the human condition.
“Basically, we’re trying to get a number,” she said. “(People will) use a quiz to get the number. It gives people something to look at, an object to think with. I think these quizzes are a kind of focus for attention for thinking about yourself.”
She goes on to add that people have always loved quizzes, but in the pre-social media days, we primarily took them for ourselves. “Now they’re specifically for performance,” she said. “Here, part of the point is to share it, to feel ‘who you are’ by how you share who you are. [It’s] the conflation of who you are and who thinks you’re okay.”
So when you’re making quizzes for your audience, you’re giving them an opportunity to learn something interesting about themselves and a chance to start a conversation with their friends. It’s hard to say that about a lot of other forms of content.
Of course, all of this is completely useless if the quizzes you’re pushing on your audience are lackluster or don’t speak to their interests. When you create a quiz, be sure that the end product will educate and/or entertain your audience, or it will remain in content purgatory where no one will see it.
A major part of this is knowing your audience. CollegeHumor frequently uses quizzes to entertain their audience. For example, this “NFL Player or Key & Peele Character?” quiz has been taken nearly 100,000 times. They understood that there was a large overlap of people who were fans of both CollegeHumor and the sketch comedy show Key & Peele.
Carwow, a British website that helps people choose and buy the right car, created a quiz titled “The world’s hardest car quiz.” It has been taken more than 215,000 times, and it’s another solid example of how to write interesting questions centered around a subject that is compelling to the audience.
Why Quizzes Are Insanely Sharable
Carwow isn’t the only automotive website that has struck gold with quizzes. Car Throttle, “the Internet’s car community,” posted a quiz titled, “Are you a true gear head?” It has been taken more than 330,000 times, and nearly 10 percent of people who finished the quiz shared their results on Facebook.
Sharing your results from a quiz is subtle way to say something about yourself without sounding vain. In the aforementioned Car Throttle quiz, it gave users a justifiable reason to broadcast to their friends how much they knew about cars.
Sharing your results could also be a way to start a conversation with your friends. Christine Whelan, a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin, echoed this sentiment to NBC News.
“These personality quizzes, at their best, are conversation starters, and give you a shared language to discuss things that are meaningful for you,” Whelan said. People who take a quiz are eager to let their friends know their result, and people responded to them by chiming in with their own results.
Quizzes Are Constantly Going Viral
In all of the above examples, the quizzes were created by brands that understand the topics that resonate with their audience. A “Which Girls character are you?” quiz probably wouldn’t have done so hot on Car Throttle’s website, just as Car Throttle’s gear head quiz wouldn’t have gone anywhere on HBO’s Girls’ page.
Another company that is having outstanding results with quizzes is Sideshow Collectibles, a seller of collectible figures from movies and comics. One quiz generated over $75,000 in revenue and 1,220 new customers. They implemented an email capture form at the end of the quiz to get leads, and they were able to segment their leads based on their quiz results, allowing them to target the different segments with relevant messaging.
Dorkly, a site that covers movies, TV shows, videogames, and comics, has consistently delighted its audience with quizzes. “Which Nintendo Character Are You?” has been taken 221,000 times, and its irreverent tone struck a chord with the audience.
And although it helps to have a large channel, having one is not a prerequisite for creating a successful quiz. Just one person (with about 300 Facebook friends) launched this quiz by posting it to his wall: “Which Connecticut town is your true home?”. The original post got zero likes and six comments, and just 93 people took the quiz in the first 24 hours. Over the next few days, the quiz blew up and was taken more than 60,000 times. As of today, it’s been taken 80,000 times.
What Does All of This Mean?
Your ultimate goal with content marketing is to delight your audience, and quizzes can accomplish this in big ways. They are fun, interactive, pieces of content that allow people to learn something about themselves and start conversations with their friends.
Launching a viral quiz requires you to have a solid understanding of your audience’s’ interests and ability to create compelling questions, and although it helps to have a large channel, a quiz can take off even without one. People are much more likely to share results from a quiz than just about any other form of content, and quizzes are often the beneficiary of insane social lifts.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on why quizzes are all over the place. Why do you think people love taking and sharing them so much?