Psychology and marketing have a long history together. In order to understand how buyers are thinking, how to improve sales communication or make better relations with customers we rely on different psychological theories and techniques. As social media is all about people engaging in conversations and interacting with each other it’s no surprise that many psychological principles can be applied to this communication platform as well. So, if you are looking for a way to get more of people’s attention, create better relation with your audience or simply outsmart your competition here are 3 psychology techniques that will greatly improve your social media practice:
We may presume that we do nice things to people we like and bad things to those we dislike, but what the psychology reveals is quite the opposite. We actually grow to like people for whom we do nice things and dislike those to whom we are unkind. This curious effect is named after a specific incident that has happened early in political career of Benjamin Franklin. When Franklin ran for his second term as a clerk in the Assembly, a peer whose name he never mentions in his autobiography delivered a long election speech censuring Franklin and tarnishing his reputation. Although Franklin won, he was furious with his opponent and, observing that this was “a gentleman of fortune and education” who might one day come to hold great power in government, rather concerned about future frictions with him. Instead of ignoring or even disliking his opponent Benjamin decided to do just the opposite and asked him for a favor. Knowing that this man has a collection of rare books Benjamin asked to lend one and upon receiving the book thanked him graciously with a letter. When they met the next time this man, who never spoke with Benjamin before, actually approached him and they ended up becoming great friends.
This idea that asking for a favor will get you further than offering to do the favor, however counter-intuitive may seem, was tested and confirmed during 60s in the US. The study found out that those who researcher asked for a personal favor rated the researcher more favorably than the other groups did. The explanation for this is quite simple. If someone does a favor for you, s/he will likely rationalize that you must have been worth doing the favor for, and decide that therefore s/he must like you.
Wondering how this can help you in social media? Well, if you are shy of asking people to like or share your post don’t be. And don’t stop there. Ask for their help in choosing what items to put on sale or what products to include in your offer. Asking them to do you a favor creates a feeling that you are worth the favor and therefore more liked. This is particularly effective if your social media network is small and you are looking for a way to expand or come to good terms with fans that don’t like you much.
Technique 2: Create a sense of urgency – Scarcity Heuristic effect
The idea that we might miss out on something simply makes us want it more, even if it’s something we didn’t want in the beginning. In 1975 Worchel, Leen and Adewole conducted a research to see how people would value cookies in two identical glass jars. One jar held ten cookies while the other contained just two. The question was simple: Which cookies would people value more? Although jars and cookies were identical shortage of supply in one jar affected the perception of value making participants see the ones in the near-empty jar more highly. Why? People interpret scarcity as a sign that there is something special about certain product. Even if they don’t know what’s so special about it they simply trust that other people know something they don’t. Owning a scarce product satisfies their need to be recognized and seen as competent.
This technique is used in different flash sales that push people into purchase not because they need something but because they stand to lose the opportunity to acquire it on favorable terms. Another way to achieve the same effect is to add an element of exclusivity by previewing a new product, new TV show or inviting limited number of fans to an exclusive adventure. Take Facebook for example, in the beginning it was only available to Harvard students. Then the service rolled-out to the Ivy League and college students nationwide before it expanded to high school kids and employees at select companies. Finally, in September of 2006, Facebook was opened to the world. Today billion people use Facebook, but its early invitees were among a small exclusive group. As the service grew in popularity, others wanted in too.
Driven by the fear of loss people willingly participate in exclusive deals and openly say that the chance to have early or exclusive access to offers and promotions is a top reason to connect with brands on social media. So take advantage and think about ways you can start the conversation by giving an exclusive peak into hot topic. If all fails you can always count on the power of “today only” offers.
Technique 3: Make people second-guess - Cognitive Dissonance effect
Coined by a young American social psychologist Leo Festinger in 1957, cognitive dissonance refers to the psychological state that occurs when someone holds two conflicting ideas or beliefs at the same time. According to the cognitive dissonance theory that situation is frustrating and it motivates people to reduce the conflict through rationalization. Let’s say you’re a student that has to choose between two different Universities. After being accepted to each, you’re asked to freely rate both Universities after considering all benefits and potential problems. Once you choose one of those two Universities you are asked to rate them both again. People will usually rate the selected University as better and the rejected one as worse after having made their decision. So even if the University you didn’t choose was rated higher initially, selection of the other one dictates that more often than not you’ll rate it higher. Otherwise it wouldn’t make sense why you chose the lower-rated school. This is cognitive dissonance at work.
If you want to experiment with effects of cognitive dissonance try posting blogs and articles that challenge pre-existing beliefs. For example, if we decide to write an article about ways to improve social media effectiveness we may be inclined to use “5 Ways To Grow on Social Media” as our headline. But, according to the cognitive dissonance theory more success will be achieved if the headline goes along the line of “5 Mistakes That Stop You From Growing On Social Media”. Reason is simple. We are confident that we know a lot about our business, so we tend to limit our intake of new information or avoid thinking in a way that doesn’t fit within our pre-existing belief. But, if we suggest that you are doing something wrong we are creating cognitive dissonance and influence you into clicking on the headline to find out what exactly you are doing wrong and how to correct your behavior.
If you want to use this effect in your social media think about ways you can tap into brains of your fans and create cognitive dissonance. Try rephrasing your headlines and posts in a way that will challenge your audience in the field they thought they knew well.
What do you think? Have you already used some of these techniques without realizing it or even knowing their names? Do you think they could work for your social media campaigns or help you understand your audience better? Let us know, we are looking forward to your comments!