Using Psychology to Boost Social Media Posts – 5 Tips

Using Psychology to Boost Social Media Posts – 5 Tips

Emotions. They are the one thing that all humans share – joy, sorrow, excitement, boredom, fear, confidence, inspiration, and anxiety. And emotions cause humans to act in certain ways – sometimes impulsively.

Tapping into emotions on social media is common, and when done well, posts are shared. When a company’s posts are shared because of a high emotional engagement, then its brand is spread among new communities.

So how do content marketers know what emotions to engage and how?

Fortunately, a lot of research has gone before you, and you can use that research, plus the tips that follow, to improve the emotional appeal of your brand.

A Quick Look at the Research

Much of what the research tells us we probably already know at a “gut level.”

When we access our Facebook pages and scroll down, we choose certain things to share; we choose others to just read because they are personal posts from friends and family, and we skip over a lot of posts because they don’t appeal or we’ve heard/read/viewed too many similar things.

If we think about what we share, we know those things that stir emotions in us – humor, excitement, awe, inspiration, and sometimes anger and fear. And if marketers know what things stir those emotions in us, they will post things like that, knowing that we will probably share them.

This is one of the jobs of content marketers – to know how to stir up emotions in their target audiences.

Not long ago, a couple of grad students at Wharton School of Business studied the types of content that went viral. They discovered that the most popular content invoked strong emotional responses in the readers/viewers very early in that content through headlines, opening text, and/or strong visuals. Most shared contents included the following:

  • Appeal to Positive Emotions: - jokes, funny stories, videos
  • Shock, Awe, Inspiration: - news and personal stories; shocking data in infographics and other visuals
  • Fear, Anger: - events, news stories, visuals

Other studies back this up, as shown by this pie graph from Statista:


This data tells you what to do if you want your content shared.

Two Goals

You have about 2-3 seconds to grab a reader’s/viewer’s attention. This will be your headline and maybe the first sentence if you begin with text or a caption for a visual or video. There needs to be an emotional response during that 2-3 seconds. Consider which goal you have for the post:

  1. If you are trying to spread your brand, share some precious information, or build relationships with your audience, then you are looking for enough emotional response so that your audience will want to share that post.
  2. If you are trying to move someone to a conversion, then you will want to use principles of sales psychology and newer neuroscience These stimulate emotions, but those that are geared more toward wanting or needing your specific product or service – limited-time offers, big discounts, solutions to problems, or relief of a pain point.

The Tips – As Promised

The job of a content marketer is not easy, especially when using social media to arouse emotions. You have to be a good writer; you have to be a creator or finder of great visuals; you have to be a psychologist of sorts; you have to have a deep understanding of your target audience; and you have to craft content based upon all of these factors. Here are some tips that should help.

  1. Review Your Customer Demographic: If your customer persona is old, look at it again and compare it with your actual customers. Sometimes, you will find other traits to add. And conduct newer research to find out where they hang out on social media. Research from even three years ago may no longer be good. For example, Snapchat has become quite popular recently, and certain demographics are using it.
  2. Develop a Psychological Customer Profile: Follow your demographic on social media. What do they find humorous? What types of content do they share? What makes them angry or happy? What inspires them? What are their values? You can create post content that appeals to those emotional triggers when you identify these things.

For example, millennials want to do business with companies that exhibit social responsibility, support the environment or a charitable cause. Does your company have a favorite charity? Are your operations eco-friendly? Some e-commerce companies use only recyclable packaging for their wrapping and shipping. Other companies have causes that they support by donating a portion of their sales. Toms Shoes donates a pair of shoes to a needy child for every pair it sells. It has since expanded its charities to clean water, eyesight, prenatal care and anti-bullying. Here is a typical post on Facebook.

One day without shoes

Toms Shoes has 3.5 million followers on Facebook.

  1. Tell Stories: Everyone loves stories. And when you tell stories that invoke emotion, people remember them, share them, and remember you too. If you get known for great stories, followers come and return. And when those followers are ready to buy the product or service you sell, they will remember you. You can tell stories of your team and their family members and feature stories about your customers.
  2. Use Visuals: Always have a visual with everything you post. All of the research points to the engagement of social media viewers when they are exposed to visuals. Posts with images get 94% more views than those without them.

See what visuals your customers view and share, and use similar ones. Visuals, including videos, are a great way to tap into emotions.

Dollar Shave Club loves humor and makes the whole thing of male shaving pretty funny. They have tapped into humor and fun from their website to their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Dollar Shave Club

79.4 followers on Twitter; 2.6 million on Facebook

Use humor as you can, but be certain you know your audience well. Use appropriate humor for what you know will not offend and will be at a level of their understanding.

  1. Avoid Joy and Sadness: It’s tough to tap into these two emotions on social media. Instead, go for humor, happiness, inspiration, and poignancy. Cancer is sad but can be turned into something positive and inspirational. Here is an example of Headbands of Hope appealing to inspiration and hope rather than sadness.Headbands of Hope sells headbands

Headbands of Hope sells headbands. For every purchase, it donates a headband to a little girl battling cancer and $1 to children’s cancer research.

People can be uncomfortable with sadness – an emotion they don’t want to feel, and they may not share sad content with their communities. It will be shared if you can make it poignant and inspirational.

Emotion vs. Logic

Some people are quite impulsive with their purchases; others are not. However, all people can be engaged through emotional appeals, and you want this first engagement when you use social media as a marketing tool. Social media is just that – social. You want a social relationship with your audience that will make your brand memorable and result in it being shared. The logic of purchasing from you comes after that relationship has been established.

Luisa Brenton is a blogger at TrustMyPaper . She was born in Italy, graduated from The St. Louis School of Milan and went to Chicago to pursue higher education at the Chicago's Public Research University. Luisa is interested in modern literature and new films. She is interested in journalism as well. You can find her on Twitter or Facebook

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