How To Use Psychology To Boost Social Engagement

Ever heard of neuromarketing? According to Dictionary.com, the definition is "the process of researching the brain patterns of consumers to reveal their responses to particular advertisements and products before developing new advertising campaigns and branding techniques." People tend to act in predictable ways. If you can understand how your audience's brain works, you can produce better content that will bring about the type of actions you are looking for. In this case, social engagement.

There is a lot of competition on social media - not just from other companies in your industry, but from other family members, friends, and pages your audience follows who are constantly posting photos of their vacation, babies, pets, etc. However, by understanding human behavior at a deeper level, you can apply psychology to your social marketing to gain back the attention of your audience and boost social engagement. Here is how you accomplish that:

The Halo Effect

Let us begin by defining what the halo effect actually is. According to the Psychology website, the halo effect refers to the "widespread human tendency in impression formation to assume that once a person possesses some positive or negative characteristic, other as yet unknown qualities will also be positive or negative, in other words, consistent with the existing impression." The thought process here is that when someone is found to have positive traits, the perception surrounding that person is positive, and on the flip side, when someone is found to have negative traits, the perception surrounding that person is negative. 

So to apply this to the world of social media marketing, you need to create as many positive traits for your brand as possible, this way your audience views you in a positive light and will be more inclined to engage with you. For example, if you develop a reputation for posting high-quality content on Facebook on a consistent basis, that is a positive trait that should benefit you in other areas of social media and even extend to other networks. Positive traits create trust and with trust comes an enhanced reputation, giving your audience more reason to comment on and share your content as they feel comfortable in the value it offers to their friends and family.

Leverage Social Proof

Social proof as a concept has been around for quite some time. For example, if you've ever been to a restaurant and seen them advertise the number of customers they have served (think about McDonald's and their signs out front advertising over 99 billion served), that is an example of social proof. Basically, any time the actions of others influence people to take action because they believe those actions are the norm and should be followed, that is an example of social proof. But because of the growing popularity of social media platforms, social proof has been consistently gaining momentum as of late. The 5 kinds of social proof include:

Social Proof

So how can you implement social proof into your social media marketing and use it as a method of increasing engagement? If you get a lot of reviews from customers (which you should encourage), share those reviews on social media, which also helps build brand loyalty. If customers send in testimonials, share them on social media. People love to interact with that kind of content and it will help drive sales. If an industry expert, media outlet, or celebrity endorses your product or service, or gives a review, share it on social media. You can even do something as minor as installing a social media share counter on the articles you post on your blog so others can see how many times the article has been shared - if others are doing it, that will encourage more too, as well. 

Give Your Brand A Personality

It's more important now than ever to become a human brand. Why? Because it has been proven time and time again that it is easier for consumers to identify with brands as they become more human-like. From a psychological perspective, that means developing a persona for your brand, so when people think of your brand, a personality and face comes to mind. Let us use Progressive as an example. When you think of Progressive, what is the first thing that comes to mind? For us, it's not their car insurance or any other services they offer. It's Flo, the Progressive Girl, who is the face of Progressive and has been drilled into our heads via all of the marketing Progressive does.

Flo has been the cornerstone of their TV ads for quite some time now and she has become quite famous - to the point where she has her own Facebook page with just under 5 million likes! In comparison, Progressive as a company has just over 400,000 likes. That is a tremendous difference, but it also demonstrates the value of giving your brand a personality and the results doing so can deliver. Consumers like to buy from brands they like - and they clearly like Flo, which gives Progressive an amazing advantage in the extremely competitive auto insurance industry.

So how can you implement giving your brand a personality into your social media marketing and boost your engagement as a result? Create a mascot, include pictures of your employees in your social media marketing, have employees post on social media or even have the mascot post, when providing customer support identify yourself by your real name versus using an abbreviation or initials, and so on. Anything you can do to make social media feel more personal will go a long way to making your brand feel more human-like and will have a positive impact on the social engagement you receive.

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Use Nostalgia To Your Advantage

Don't you just love when you see a post on social media that makes you remember something from when you were a kid? Posts that invoke a memory tend to bring about engagement on social media, so it would be wise of you to use nostalgia to your advantage and incorporate it into your social media marketing. According to Robert M. Brecht, Ph.D., "A variety of marketing research studies do indicate that the use of nostalgia in advertising does arouse attention, is entertaining, is persuasive, and evokes nostalgic reflections in consumers. Besides the positive emotions, they also induce mental images of former situations and experiences that are also positive in nature." Additionally, Robert states "One study indicates that when consumers experience nostalgia in a consumption context, they have a higher purchase likelihood with regard to the advertised products." 

Here is a perfect example of a post on social media that incorporated nostalgia:

The tweet brings back memories of a beloved muscle car and as a result received plenty of engagement. Throwback Thursday is one of the easiest ways to incorporate nostalgia into your social media marketing, but you could also post pictures at any time showing what your products looked like in the past to invoke memory and boost social engagement, especially if you form the post in a question asking your audience if they can remember what the product looked like. 

Incorporate Social Reciprocity

According to Wikipedia, the definition of reciprocity is "in social psychology, reciprocity is a social rule that says people should repay, in kind, what another person has provided for them." How exactly does that apply to social media marketing and boosting engagement? Let's say you run a contest or a giveaway. You are giving something away - normally there will be a requirement to like your page, like your post, and/or share your post in order to enter the contest, but even without those requirements, because of the basic element of reciprocity, because you are giving something away to someone, people are going to more obliged to engage with you than they otherwise would.

So to boost social engagement, run contests or giveaways every once in awhile, which is also a great way of boosting brand loyalty as it gives your audience the motivation to regularly check your social media pages to see when the next contest will be or do free trials that are only available to those who follow you on social media, depending on the type of business you have. Or you can even offer social media exclusive sales or coupons, as this is going to bring about engagement and help build a community feeling.

Part of reciprocity is also building a deeper relationship with your audience, thus providing them with more reason to interact and engage with you in the future, so when people take the time to engage with you, take the time to engage with them. Respond to comments, thank people for feedback, share customer ideas on your page, ask for user-generated content and share it for others to see, etc. The idea here is to demonstrate to your audience that you value their relationship and that social reciprocation will be a two-way street.