Social media marketing is a new field, and as such it’s been met with many differing opinions. Some view it as a fad while some hail it as the ultimate marketing channel. Some claim its benefits can’t be objectively measure, while others have tied their following numbers directly to an increase in revenue.
No matter how much you’ve gotten involved with the medium in the past, a series of new psychology studies can help you better understand how social media has become such a powerful tool in our lives, and how social media marketers can take advantage of it. Read up on five of these important studies below:
Most people already realize the vital importance of first impressions. It’s why we dress up for interviews and meetings, and why we try to look and act our best on first dates. But a recent study from Princeton University suggests that first impressions can be based on incredibly subtle qualities—and are incredibly important in the social media world.
In the study, participants were exposed to pairs of faces. Two sets of one identical pair were shown to separate groups of participants so that each participant would view the same two faces, but with slight alterations in their facial expressions. A subtle change in expression was more than enough to cause groups of people to significantly prefer one face over the other—people tended to trust one person more than the other, the person who was smiling, after briefly glimpsing each face.
As a social marketer, you need to be wary that your followers’ first impressions of your online presence are going to set the tone for your entire relationship. Make sure your branding is consistent at all times, and each new piece of content you push out should in some way leave a lasting impression with the people who are seeing your brand for the first time. You should also take the time to welcome new followers individually and personally, to leave them with a positive first impression.
When someone’s having a bad day at the office, they tend to bring down the mood of the entire place. When someone’s lively and having a great time, that jubilance is likely to spread. It seems intuitive that emotions are somewhat contagious, but much of that has to do with subtle things like body language and tonality, right?
Actually, the University of California recently found that when a strong emotional reaction or sentiment is shared online, that feeling can spread socially just as it can in the real world. For example, let’s say you share something exciting. Your friends and followers who read that exciting statement are going to be more likely to post something exciting on their own over the course of the next few days, especially if they read more exciting posts in the meantime.
Knowing that emotions are contagious, you can specifically create situations where people begin to associate your brand with positive feelings. For example, if you share something happy or funny and encourage your followers to do the same, you’ll introduce a wave of positivity throughout all your followers and followers’ followers. Strong emotional responses tend to generate more shares and more attention, so do what you can to introduce strong positive feelings whenever you can.
Though not a Psychology study per say, Ipsos’s research into who shares what online and why shows us much about the nature of social sharing. According to this research, about one quarter of all people share “everything” or “most things” on their social media profiles, indicating a great willingness to divulge the details of their lives to the general public. However, another one fifth of the general population tends to share nothing at all.
However, this data varies wildly both by region and by other demographics such as age and gender. Obviously, as a social marketer, you want to find an audience that shares your content as much as possible. The more your content is shared, the more visibility it’s going to get, and the more traffic and interest you’ll generate as a result.
The key takeaway here is to write content that’s customized for the segments of your audience who are prone to sharing “everything” they encounter on the web. It may take you some time to figure this out, but if you can take advantage of this segment, you’ll maximize your content’s sharing potential.
Communities function organically in the real world. When a person engages with a group, he/she feels more connected to the group, and vice versa. However, the online community has unique means of engagement—brands can interact with thousands of people simultaneously, while those people can respond or engage in conversations on their own.
A recent study from the University of Queensland showed that users who were active posters on respective Facebook communities tended to feel more connected to those communities than inactive participants. This is somewhat intuitive; after all, if someone feels less connected to a community, he/she would certainly feel less inclined to post regularly.
However, there is an important lesson here for social marketers. Engaging with your users in the form of a stream of content and responses to comments simply isn’t enough to foster a sense of community within your following. You have to find a way to get your followers actively involved with your page. If you can manage to influence more people to actively participate, you’ll cultivate a much greater sense of community amongst your own followers, and as a result, people will feel closer to your brand.
The Pew Research Center recently published an article that identifies “power users” as the culprits behind the phenomenon we’ve all experienced—there are far more people consuming content on social media than there are producing content. These “power users” are responsible for the vast majority of all posts and tend to have the greatest followings as a result.
As a social marketer, there are two things you can take away from this. First, you can woo these “power users” early on to increase your chances of getting shared and seen, not to mention building your following by dipping into those users’ followings. Second, if you eventually build yourself into your own “power user,” you can become a much greater influencer in your field. The key is to make yourself known as an authority by posting valuable, unique pieces of content and getting involved in as many conversations as possible pertaining to your field of expertise.
Understanding the psychology behind social media use and interactions is the first step to building a social presence that makes an impact. If you can cater your strategy to your most valuable audience segments, make a great first impression, stimulate positive emotions and eventually build yourself into a social media “power user,” you can tap into the untold potential of the marketing channel and dramatically increase the traffic to your site. Beyond that, truly get to know your followers and give them the content they want to read.