I Used an Ancient Storytelling Trick to Get 11k TikTok Followers | Nudge with Phil Agnew

Check out the Nudge Podcast episode page and show notes


  • Nudge podcast host, Phil Agnew (@p_agnew), explains the ancient storytelling technique he used to make viewers 82% more likely to follow his TikTok

Ancient Story Telling Trick

  • Phil recalls a TV show he used to watch in Britain as a child: EastEnders
    • One of the longest-running shows in the UK, with over 6,500 episodes
    • Airs four times a week and has five million views per episode
  • The drum pattern at the end of each episode sets up a cliffhanger
    • The show can’t continue unless they continue to hook the viewer, so they use endless cliffhangers
    • Cliffhangers are a powerful storytelling technique

Origin of Cliffhangers

  • One Thousand and One Nights (The Arabian Nights) is credited with the first use of a cliffhanger
    • The story is still being told 1,500 years after it was written
  • Charles Dickens was a cliffhanger pioneer
    • His book, Great Expectations, was originally published in small segments in a weekly magazine with each story ending in a cliffhanger
  • Now, cliffhangers are everywhere!
    • From commercial breaks to season finales, and more

Why Do We Love Cliffhangers

  • Zeigarnik effect: people remember unfinished or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks
    • Research example: Students who took a break while studying were more likely to recall the information than students who completed their study session from start to finish
    • Literary example: Ernest Hemingway finished every day writing in the middle of a sentence – “I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.” – Phil Agnew quoting Ernest Hemingway
  • “Unfinished tasks hoard our attention, so they can be performed and dispatched successfully. Meaning we quickly forget once a task is complete.” – Phil Agnew

The Curiosity Gap

  • The curiosity gap: the desire to seek out missing information
    • Tinder example: The dating app uses the curiosity gap to convert 8% of its users into paying users. They upgrade to a gold membership just to see who has liked their profile, reeling them in with a blurred image.
    • “A small nudge works wonders” – Phil Agnew
  • If you want to become instantly attractive, leave certain things about yourself unknown
    • When an important outcome is unknown to people, they can hardly think of anything else
    • Hypothesis from Pre-Suasion by Robert B. Cialdini
  • This doesn’t just work for dating, it also works for marketing
    • There is great power in a little bit of curiosity
    • Evolutionary Ideas by Sam Tatam explores how products use the curiosity gap to boost sales

Phil’s Curiosity Gap TikTok Experiment

  • Goal: wanted to see how the curiosity gap would attract listeners to the Nudge podcast
  • Materials: started a TikTok account from scratch so he spent $400 in ad money to get started
  • TikTok video experiment #1: leveraged the curiosity gap within the first five seconds
  • TikTok video experiment #2: did not use the curiosity gap
  • Results: curiosity gap videos were 82% more likely to convert a viewer into a follower
  • Key Takeaway: Starting content with a cliffhanger will keep people watching. Share something surprising and make users curious about the answer.
Nudge with Phil Agnew : , , , , , , ,
Notes By Drew Waterstreet

More Notes on these topics

Top Insights and Tactics From

31 Best Podcasts of All Time

FREE when you join over 35,000 subscribers to the
Podcast Notes newsletter

No Thanks