Social Media Marketing Psychology 101: 3 Ways To Tap Into The Addiction

Mar­keters can find big oppor­tu­ni­ties on social media by know­ing what com­pels con­sumers online.

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 0 comments

Social media has had a pro­found impact on con­sumers and mar­ket­ing alike. In fact, stud­ies have shown tweet­ing is hard­er to resist than cig­a­rettes and alco­hol. So why is social media so addic­tive?

Our col­lec­tive social media depen­dence can be, in part, attrib­uted to two chem­i­cals: dopamine, which is about desire and caus­es us to seek out infor­ma­tion; and oxy­tocin, which gives rise to warm, fuzzy feel­ings, such as when we demon­strate affec­tion.

In fact, tweet­ing with friends has been shown to spike oxy­tocin to the same lev­els as a groom on his wed­ding day. That’s pow­er­ful stuff, accord­ing to Court­ney Seit­er, head of con­tent mar­ket­ing at social media man­age­ment plat­form Buffer, who spoke recent­ly at Moz­con.

It also impacts how con­sumers see the world. Case in point: Seit­er said Face­book users are 43 per­cent more like­ly to feel oth­er peo­ple can be trust­ed.

Addi­tion­al­ly, Seit­er said con­sumers post online because they like to talk about them­selves. In fact, she said we talk about our­selves 40 per­cent of the time in face-to-face inter­ac­tions, but a whop­ping 80 per­cent of the time online. In part, that’s because there’s gen­er­al eti­quette about talk­ing in per­son, but the rules are still unclear online.

In addi­tion, Seit­er said going to our Face­book pages has been shown to raise self-esteem.

So what does this mean for mar­keters?

Shareable Content

These are cer­tain­ly rev­e­la­tions mar­keters can use to their advan­tage when craft­ing con­tent.

Anoth­er ele­ment for mar­keters to con­sid­er is that con­sumers have a ten­den­cy to use things – like clothes, games, music, or even logos on lap­tops – to say, “This is who I am.”

In fact, Seit­er said 68 per­cent of con­sumers say they share con­tent to show who they are, while 78 per­cent say it’s to strength­en rela­tion­ships, as in, “I won­der what my friends will say about this?”

That, in turn, means con­tent designed for shar­ing can be extreme­ly spe­cif­ic, Seit­er said. She uses the exam­ple of BuzzFeed’s 38 Things Min­nesotans Are Too Nice to Brag About. Even though it is super-spe­cif­ic, it’s huge­ly share­able because those that can relate to it imme­di­ate­ly feel res­o­nance and can’t keep it to them­selves.

An addi­tion­al 62 per­cent of con­sumers say they share for social cur­ren­cy, mean­ing oth­ers turn to them as experts. In order to cre­ate con­tent with social cur­ren­cy, Seit­er said mar­keters must “attack the tak­en-for-grant­ed,” such as The Dress did with our col­lec­tive notion of col­or.

Relationship Building

We can love brands as much as we love friends,” Seit­er said.

Stud­ies have demon­strat­ed that when con­sumers are shown pho­tos of part­ners and friends along with beloved brands, the reac­tion to the brand is not quite on par with the love for a part­ner, but it can be equiv­a­lent to that of a friend, she said.

This means there’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty for mar­keters to embrace aspi­ra­tional mes­sag­ing and make con­sumers feel like they are part of a com­mu­ni­ty and have a role to play, she not­ed. Brands like Gatorade with its Be Like Mike cam­paign, as well as Lego, which asks con­sumers to share ideas for Lego sets on its Lego Ideas page, and Coke with its #MakeI­tHap­py cam­paign, which launched with a Super Bowl spot and the inten­tion of spurring online pos­i­tiv­i­ty, make con­sumers feel like they have a role to play in some­thing big­ger, she said.

There’s also poten­tial­ly an oppor­tu­ni­ty for mar­keters to tap into the fre­quen­cy of social behav­ior.

Per Seit­er, 44 per­cent of con­sumers go to Face­book once a day to like con­tent while 29 per­cent like con­tent mul­ti­ple times a day. This, Seit­er said, is par­tial­ly attrib­ut­able to rela­tion­ship main­te­nance.

It’s a nod that says, ‘I see you and I know what you’re doing. We’re still close. We’re still friends,’” she said. “There’s a reci­procity effect.”

But that doesn’t mean brands should go over­board with con­tact: 23 per­cent of con­sumers say they believe they have a rela­tion­ship with a brand, but only 13 per­cent say fre­quent inter­ac­tions are the rea­son why.

[Con­sumers] were far more like­ly to say shared val­ues were the way they saw cre­at­ing a rela­tion­ship with a brand,” Seit­er said.

The Biggest Opportunities For Marketers

Here are Seiter’s big three mar­ket­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties.

1. Selfies

There are 300 mil­lion pho­tos on Insta­gram tagged with #self­ie, she said.

His­tor­i­cal­ly, only those who were wealthy enough could afford to have por­traits of them­selves com­mis­sioned, so there is some­thing about pow­er in har­ness­ing your own image via self­ies today. But Seit­er said the attrac­tion to tak­ing self­ies is also about fig­ur­ing out who we are. She points to the con­cept of the “look­ing glass self,” in which we can nev­er get a com­plete pic­ture of our­selves.

We need that feed­back,” Seit­er said. “Self­ies are a way of cre­at­ing that atmos­phere where we can get that feed­back.”

In addi­tion, con­sumers sim­ply like faces. Per Seiter’s fig­ures, pho­tos with faces are 38 per­cent more like­ly to get likes and 32 per­cent more like­ly to get com­ments. Faces also guide our gaze online, so they’re a great way to point con­sumers to impor­tant infor­ma­tion, she adds. In addi­tion, faces cre­ate empa­thy. Seit­er said research has shown faces in patient files have actu­al­ly led doc­tors to treat those patients dif­fer­ent­ly.

This means there’s a ton of oppor­tu­ni­ties for mar­keters, such as with brand­ed self­ie sta­tions or sim­ply ask­ing con­sumers to sub­mit their own self­ies in a giv­en cam­paign.

You can use them to human­ize the brand,” Seit­er said. “The empa­thy they cre­ate can’t be over­stat­ed.”

2. Emoji

Sev­en­ty-four per­cent of con­sumers use emo­ji reg­u­lar­ly and 6 bil­lion emo­jis are shared every day.

When talk face to face, we mim­ic each other’s facial expres­sions,” Seit­er said. “Online, we didn’t have a way to do this until emo­jis.”

This, in turn, has result­ed in a new brain pat­tern in which we see the smi­ley face emo­ji and react the same way we do when we see a human face.

Our mood changes,” Seit­er said.

In addi­tion, as the num­ber of emo­jis ris­es, slang also falls, so emo­jis are chang­ing our lan­guage pat­terns as well, she notes.

In par­tic­u­lar, emo­jis can help dis­tin­guish emails when used in sub­ject lines. MailChimp even did a study of the top 15 emo­jis by sub­ject line, find­ing the reg­is­tered trade­mark and smi­ley face emo­jis among the most pop­u­lar.

In addi­tion, play­ers like Ikea, Coke, Burg­er King, and Com­e­dy Cen­tral have put out their own brand­ed emo­jis.

If you tap into self-iden­ti­ty, peo­ple don’t see it as adver­tis­ing, they see it as part of their self-expres­sion,” Seit­er said.

3. Nostalgia

Nos­tal­gia is also some­thing of a uni­ver­sal feel­ing in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing in part because things change so quick­ly.

Seit­er said con­sumers are more like­ly to give mon­ey to a cause or pay for a prod­uct that is adver­tised with nos­tal­gia. That’s part of the rea­son Face­book launched its On This Day fea­ture, which rein­serts mem­o­ries into news feeds.

In addi­tion, she said Insta­gram is about ide­al­iz­ing a moment and cre­at­ing nos­tal­gia the instant a pho­to is tak­en.

We speed up the process of nos­tal­gia,” Seit­er said.

Miller Lite has employed nos­tal­gia in its throw­back pack­ag­ing, which raised sales; the Mad Libs app has 5.5 mil­lion down­loads; and col­or­ful design­er Lisa Frank teamed up with Urban Out­fit­ters to cre­ate “rare vin­tage notepads.”

The ‘90s are nos­tal­gic now,” Seit­er said. “You don’t have to have hun­dreds of years of brand his­to­ry to be nos­tal­gic. Just find what the audi­ence is nos­tal­gic for and tap into that.”

Which social behav­ior do you think mar­keters can cap­i­tal­ize upon best? Why?

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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