Ive never thought about it, but it actually makes sense, when people see something that outrages them, they will engage with it, by commenting it, or by sharing it so other people will be outraged too, indignation is one of the best ways of generating engagement, and there is even a type of content designed specifically for that: controversial content.
Controversial content works under negative emotions, like sadness, indignation, angry, etc, they triggered emotional responses on the audience, and those reactions are the key to generate engagement. Think about it, how many people do you have in your own Facebooks or Twitters, sharing controversial stuff because they are outraged by them.
Think about the electoral campaign that has just ended in the Unites States, I dont have the exact data (and it would be great if someone could gather it) but im sure Clinton supporters actually shared more of Trumps content than his supporters. "Have you seen what Trump said this morning?".
Controversial content can be a very good asset for generating engagement, however you need to have a very deep insight about your audience if you want to use it, otherwise you could alienate them, and that wont help.
According to Hubspot, if you want controversial content to work, it has to be more than just shocking, it must also bring value to the audience. They say a good example of this is this ad called Love Has No Labels, which promoted tolerance and the acceptance of differences:
Your controversial content must also be credible, if you are telling a controversial story or something like that, you must be certain you are telling the truth.
You must also be careful and avoid shaming a particular group, controversial content tends to generate polarization in the audience, it divides and split it in two, so you have to very careful you will not shame a particular group with your content.
And if you do, you need to have a response system for managing disagreement with respect and efficiency, if a debates happens in your comments, that will boost your metrics sky high, but you must manage that debate, control it and ensure it wont turn into a mess.
Have you ever ran a controversial content campaign in your Social Media accounts? If you have, share your experience and results with all the other warrior here!.