Next, let’s look at some of the major activities we do online and find out what psychological strings are being pulled with each of them.
Why we post
t’s not news that we love to talk about ourselves.
Why? Talking face-to-face is messy and emotionally involved–we don’t have time to think about what to say, we have to read facial cues and body language.
Online, we have time to construct and refine. This is what psychologists call self-presentation: positioning yourself the way you want to be seen.
The feeling we get from self-presentation is so strong that viewing your own Facebook profile has been shown to increase your self-esteem.
What’s also interesting for marketers is that the most prominent way we tend to work on self- presentation is through things—buying things and acquiring things that signify who we are.
Think: Clothes, games, music, the logo on your laptop right now.
The intensity of emotion people can feel for their favorite brands as a result of this is incredible. An experiment showed volunteers two types of photos: the logo for a brand they loved and pictures of their partners and closest friends.
Their physiological arousal to the logo was as intense as the arousal of looking at a picture of their closest friend.
Things—and by extension, brands—are a huge part of who we are.
What I take away from this is to work really hard to figure out what is aspirational about my brand that my customers can identify with.
Brands that can create aspirational ways for their community to interact with them not only create social media opportunities but also the chance to move beyond likes into something lasting.
Why we share
If we like talking about ourselves so much, what would make us share something of someone else’s?
Passing information on is an impulse that we’re hard-wired with. Just the thought of sharing activates our brain’s reward centers, even before we’ve done a thing.
Self-presentation, strengthening relationships
First, it comes back to our own self image: 68% of people say they share to give others a better sense of who they are and what they care about.
But the biggest reason we share is about other people: 78% of people say they share because it helps them to stay connected to people.
Experiments have shown that the best predictors of contagious ideas in the brain are associated with the parts that focus on thoughts about other people.
This means content designed for social media doesn’t need to appeal to a large group or an average group. it just needs to appeal to a specific person.
And when we share the right type of content, we gain social currency—our stock goes up. 62% of people say they feel better about themselves when people react positively to what they post on social media.
How can brands create social media currency? By having something interesting to say.
Jeff Goins wrote on our blog about this little-known research paper from the 1970s that attempts to create a unified theory of what makes something interesting.
The author, Murray Davis, says all interesting content is “an attack on the taken-for-granted world of their audience.”
Like “the dress,” things that are interesting deny our assumptions in some way; they shake us up.
Why we like
44% of Facebook users “like” content posted by their friends at least once a day, and 29% do so several times per day.
We do this because we want to maintain relationships. When we favorite and like each other’s posts, we add value to the relationship, and reinforce that closeness.
We also create a reciprocity effect. We feel obliged to give back to people who have given to us, even in a small way. We want to even up the scales.
A sociologist sent Christmas cards to 600 random strangers and received 200 in return. That’s the power of reciprocity.
You see reciprocity in Snapchat, where receiving a snap makes you feel compelled to send one back. And anytime you receive a like, you’ll probably feel a little pull to reciprocate in some way, whether it’s by sharing something in return, signing up for an email list, etc.
Why we comment
Most marketers tend to think conversations with customers are hugely important. That engagement—interacting as much as possible—is what builds long-term advocacy.
So it’s surprising to find that customers don’t feel the same way. A survey of more than 7,000 consumers found that only 23% said they have a relationship with a brand. Of those who did, only 13% cited frequent interactions with the brand as a reason for having a relationship.
Consumers said shared values were a much bigger driver for a relationship than lots of interaction with a brand.
This is not to say that comments aren’t powerful. In fact, they can be incredibly so—there’s a phenomenon known as shared reality that says our whole experience of something is affected by if and how we share it with others.
85% of us say reading other people’s responses on a topic helps us understand and process information and events.
This means comments actually have the power to change our minds, and science backs this up.
- A study on news sites showed that comments that simply attack the author, with no facts at all, are enough to change our perception of a topic.
- On the other hand, polite reviews – even when they’re negative – cause a brand to be seen as more honest and wholesome. Users were actually willing to pay about $41 more for a watch when they saw polite negative reviews than when the reviews were removed.
Basically, any comment about you, anywhere online, is to a consumer a reflection of what kind of company you are. It’s not exactly logical, but that’s how our brains work.
This means being actively engaged in the comments section of your blog and with the customer reviews of your product is crucial, not so much to the person you’re responding to but for everyone participating in the shared reality of comments and reviews.