Brands today understand the importance of incorporating social media into their marketing strategy. In fact, the most recent State of Social report by Buffer* revealed that 88% of marketers consider social media to be somewhat or very important as part of their marketing strategy. A whopping 94% of businesses reported that they used Facebook in the past year! And 65% of brands reported they planned to increase their social media marketing budget in the coming year.
Your business is savvy enough to know that in order to stand out from the crowd, it isn’t enough to blindly post on social media and hope that your customers respond. The more brands take advantage of social media channels to interact with their audience, the more content there is competing for user attention. Social media algorithms, including Facebook, increasingly favor content with significant audience engagement. In simple terms, engagement is how involved your followers are with you on social media. Facebook prioritizes content that “encourages meaningful interactions,” such as content that is shared over Messenger, shared across timelines, and earns significant likes and comments.**
Beyond Facebook, your competitors agree that audience engagement is important. Luckily, you can get an edge on your competition by using science when crafting your social media strategy.
Here are some ways that you can use psychology to increase engagement with your audience:
Create a sense of community
Humans crave acceptance as part of a social group. A sense of belonging is so important that it is included in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, right after our physiological needs and a need for safety. Research demonstrates that our interactions on social media significantly affect our sense of belonging. Creating a sense of community with your followers will improve their relationship with your brand. Social media strategies can include answering questions left on your posts, responding to messages and Tweets, and asking users to engage and share content with you. For example, all of Boxed Water’s Instagram posts are reposts of photos posted by customers.
Another strategy for harnessing the power of community is using social proof. Social proof is based on the theory that individuals will conform in order to be similar to and accepted by their community. Consumers are likely to “follow the crowd” — if a post has thousands of shares and likes, it is perceived as more trustworthy and credible. Types of social proof include endorsements from celebrities, endorsement from experts, positive reviews from customers, and recommendations from friends and family members. Social proof is a powerful marketing strategy – 83% of Americans say that “word of mouth” recommendations make them more likely to make a purchase.*** Popular forms of social proof on social media include “Wisdom of the Crowds,” such as the number of followers, shares, and retweets a brand has. Another increasingly popular strategy is the use of social media influencers. 37% of brands in 2019 reported they are using influencers as part of their social media strategy.
Emotions are contagious – particularly happiness!
In 2014, a groundbreaking study revealed that emotions spread between users on social media, even without nonverbal cues or physical proximity. The process of emotional states transferring between people is known as emotional contagion. In a similar study, researchers found that positive emotions are more contagious on social media than negative emotions. We have written previously about the importance of tapping into positive emotions to increase engagement with your customers. Positive emotional associations with your brand are equally important on social media. Your audience will be more likely to share posts that make them feel something.
What has surprising emotional power? Emojis! A unique way to create emotional contagion is to use emojis in your social media posts. Individuals who use emoticons and emojis tend to be more popular or influential, and emojis even activate the same parts of our brain as face-to-face conversations. Instagram posts with at least one emoji receive almost 50% more interactions. McDonald’s has used emojis to tell short stories and share positive emotions about their product. Emojis can also be used to increase engagement with your followers. You can ask your audience to “translate these emojis”, or to respond with an emoji to describe how they feel.
Post often, and use retargeting
In psychology, the frequency illusion is a cognitive bias in which people who just learn about or notice something for the first time start seeing it everywhere. For example, someone considering purchasing a new Toyota will suddenly pay far more attention to the number of Toyotas they see while driving – and possibly even feel like they are seeing Toyotas more often than they used to! Furthermore, the mere exposure theory states that the more we are exposed to something, the more we like it.
How can you use these effects to your advantage on social media? One easy step is to post often and consistently. Your posts will be more effective if they are about content that your followers care about. A sense of similarity powerfully contributes to the effect of mere exposure. Also, take the time to target customers who visit your website with retargeting campaigns. These strategies work: conversion rates increase with more ad impressions.
So what is the secret to increasing user engagement?
“The secret” is to use psychology to make your social media marketing more effective, such as all the examples we have given above. These examples are just a handful of the contributions psychology has made to marketing. Stay tuned for future blog posts with more practical applications of psychology in experiential marketing.