The Psychology of Social Media

Why did you share that post? Why did you follow that page and what has psychology got to do with social media? Well… a great deal actually! Every action we take has a psychological reason behind it and a psychological effect after it but because we take thousands of actions each day we just don’t stop to think about it. As a Social Media Marketer I am fascinated by the psychological causes of action via social media and the impact of campaigns on the mind. So let’s take a look at the psychology of social media and how you can work it to your advantage:

Firstly, did you know that social media interaction is also chemical? According to BufferApp.Com our brains produce Dopamine which is stimulated by new information and unpredictability – for example… your social media news feed! Our brains also produce oxytocin, referred to as “the cuddle chemical” as it’s released when you hug… kiss…. or tweet!  Research shows that in 10 minutes of Twitter time, oxytocin levels can rise as much as 13%! And the blissed out after effects of oxytocin—lowered stress, empathy and generosity are felt via social media too.  So dopamine and oxytocin, create a potent and heady chemical mix which amplifies natural psychological reactions.

social media psychology

WHY DO WE LIKE?

Ever stopped to think about why you actually liked that post? Did you even read it? We are social creatures with most of us subliminally seeking approval in some way. If I post a photo I receive satisfaction from seeing each like, whilst the liker is maintaining positive relationships and reaffirming my social validity. Sound unbelievable? 44% of Facebook users “like” content posted by their friends at least once a day. Meanwhile with page likes we see “social proof” in play. Social proof, in short, is the phenomenon of being influenced by those around us into taking an action. On social media, 5 of your friends liking a page can cause you to like it whilst an online review from a friend about a new bar could cause you to check it out yourself. In many cases, social media is just an online version of the high school cafeteria with its cliques of “geeks”, “sporty jocks” and “cool kids”.

TAKEAWAY– Utilise social proof by showing sponsored posts to “friends of fans” to persuade them to like your page or buy your product. Use social media testimonials or reviews via apps like Kudobuzz to win popularity and sway opinion.

WHY DO WE SHARE?

Ah yes that need to be connected and with the in crowd comes into play again because 78% of social media users say they share to stay connected to people. Of course, the question social media marketers should also ask is “Which posts do people share most?” The answers are:

  1. Informational
  2. Humorous
  3. Heart warming

The top reasons people cite for sharing is to promote a cause or share news (64%). Of course this also plays into the notion that everyone wants to be a leader … the first to share a piece of news or bring attention to an issue. In turn, when someone shares your post, oxytocin is released and you feel a sense of acceptance, pride, warmth and agreement.

TAKEAWAY- Marketers should strive for high quality, unique and relevant information which is highly sharable. If you are promoting your brand then you need to hit a note which resonates with human emotions- eg humour or sadness.

WHY DO WE POST?

We are a narcissistic bunch aren’t we? In fact, people devote 30–40% of all speech to talking about themselves. But online that number jumps to about 80% of posts. Unfortunately we are also creative with the truth and online there is plenty of scope for creating the “perfect” version of ourselves. “Happily Married”, “Successful Career” Model Figure”… we craft ourselves carefully on our social networks. Interestingly for marketers, most people position themselves through “objects”. Hands up if you never posted a photo of your home, car, laptop, phone, nails, clothes and brand logos? The emotion people feel for their favorite brand may even be as intense as the arousal of looking at a picture of their closest friend or partner say psychologists! Sadly we are also fairly insecure with 62% of people confessing they feel better about themselves when people react positively to what they post on social media.

TAKEAWAY– Marketers can exploit the narcissistic trends through photo competitions, and selfie marketing. They can also work to find ways in which their brand or its products can be aspirational enough to be shared online in some way.

WHY DO WE COMMENT?

The comment sections of blogs, posts and videos are always a hotbed of debate, insults, trolling and controversy aren’t they! However they are also used to obtain more information and understand the story behind the story. In fact, 85% of us say reading people’s responses helps us understand and process information. However, our narcissistic tendencies rear up again on this one with each person feeling the need to be heard in an online debate. The common phrase “Well… that escalated quickly” is often used to describe the out of control nature of the comments section. This is where brand monitoring and engagement can be important in comment threads because it is here that you can actually see what people are talking about, interested in and really think about your brand.

TAKEAWAY– Being engaged in your comments section is just as important as posting topics in the first place. It is also important to find a balance between playing Big Brother and allowing users to have their own debates.

INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SOCIAL MEDIA

  • 63% of users say they are addicted to social media
  • 45% of people feel worried or uncomfortable when unable to access their networks
  • Teenagers who spent more than 2 hours a day on social sites are more likely to report distress, poor mental health and even suicidal thoughts (News Discovery)
  • Nearly 63% of consumers would purchase from a site if it has ratings and reviews.
  • 40% of users don’t care about the source of their share as long as it’s interesting
  • Psychopathic men post more selfies than anyone else (Psychology Today)

I hope you enjoyed reading The Psychology of Social Media. Of course I have just lightly touched on the subject and there is a whole mine of information available for analysis. I will be returning to the subject again this year but in the meantime please share and connect with me on Twitter @Charli_Says