All the while we’re using social media there’s a whole host of psychology feeding into our decisions about what content to engage with and which social media accounts to follow.
Knowing what’s going on in our brains when we use social media is the first step to working with those processes to ensure that your content delivers the desired response. That’s why in today’s blog we’re sharing 5 elements of psychology that are at work when we’re using social media and the tactics you can use to improve the success of your content!
1. Emotion mirroring
This first process was identified by neuroscientist Giacomo Rizzolatti as ‘mirror neurons‘ that explains how we read people’s emotions and mimic them to express empathy, better understand each other, and learn.
While this process is strongest when having a conversation with someone in person, mirroring has also been found to occur through videos and photos. Studies have shown that when people watch a video with a protagonist that’s happy or disgusted, the viewer tends to express similar emotions back.
This means that when designed right your social media campaigns can really leave a lasting impact by making your audience genuinely feel something and triggering a mirroring response. You can see this at work in the video ad below as the Olympic gymnast Simone Biles starts laughing the audience mirrored her by feeling happier too.
Keep this in mind when planning your photo and video content for social media and consider how you could help to stimulate more positive feelings around your brand!
In social psychology, reciprocity is a social norm of responding to a positive action with another positive action, meaning that in response to friendly actions, people are more likely to be nicer in return and much more cooperative.
This is the principle that’s at work on social media everyday and understanding the psychology of what’s happening can make a massive difference to your social strategy.
Fundamentally it means that to be successful in social media marketing, you have to think about your audience first. Satisfying their needs, helping them, or providing them with content that adds value to their lives or work before you can expect them to help you.
Gary Vaynerchuk talks about this very principle in his book ‘Jab, Jab, Jab. Right-Hook‘ which is essentially saying ‘give, give, give. get’. The more time you spend getting to know your target audience and supporting them, the more likely they are to start coming back to you and it’s at this point that you’ve built enough of a relationship that you can ask for help in return like sharing your post.
To work with this principle consider how you can reach out to your target audience. It could be as simple as congratulating someone on their successes, or sharing a post to help someone raise awareness of a cause or event. Just remember the more tailored these actions are, the better your results will be!
3. Social proof
Social Proof Theory was recognised by psychologist Robert Cialdini in his book ‘Influence‘ which details how as humans we’re influenced by the decisions and actions of people we consider to be similar to ourselves in some way. And as a rule, we’ll usually end up choosing to do the same thing or take the same action as those people.
This effect is even greater when there are larger numbers of people involved. For instance, the more people who get behind an idea, product, service, or event, the more it’s validated to an outside observer.
So what does that mean for marketers?
It really reinforces the importance of the following on social media:
- Sharing customer success stories and testimonials.
- Increasing employee advocacy to improve influence.
- Making your content more shareable as sharing is arguably the greatest indicator of engagement and may influence that person’s peers.
4. Transparency and honesty
This might sound obvious but with concerns over ‘fake news’ and misinformation on social media, transparency is more important than ever and can have a big impact on how we perceive organisations.
The best example of this in action is the famous Volkswagen advert opposite. Unlike their competitors, VW took this full-page ad as an opportunity to say that although this car might look perfect, it actually has a scratch on the chrome strip on the glove compartment and therefore is not fit for sale.
This allowed the company to discuss how important quality control is to them and that they have a full inspection team who check every single car before they’re sold.
Although this is an old ad, the message still stands today just as much as it did nearly 60 years ago, no organisation is perfect and sometimes it’s better to own those imperfections in order to win the trust of your audiences.
So consider how you can be more open and honest in your social media marketing and customer service and prioritise authenticity over perfection. There are some great starting points and ideas in this blog: The Best Advice On Meeting Social Media Customer Expectations In 2019.
5. Confirmation bias
Confirmation bias is a really common phenomenon that you might have already experienced. It’s the tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting facts that are consistent with your existing beliefs. Our brains always choose the path to least resistance and so it’s easier to find information that we believe confirms our existing beliefs than it is to completely reprocess and change that understanding.
This gives each of us an unintentional bias towards certain ideas and beliefs which can often work to marketers’ advantage in the following ways:
- Aligning your brand with other organisations or beliefs that your target audience support because they’re more likely to associate your brand with that same positivity. Prime examples of this are football team sponsors, and other partnerships can work in similar ways.
- Planning campaigns that are online and offline to help reinforce the message you want your audience to buy into.
- Targeting your audiences with content that reinforces ideas that you know they already believe in – for instance if you know that your audience believe if they eat 5 pieces of fruit and veg a day they will be healthier then they will respond well to content about easier ways to get more fruit and vegetables into their diet!