All marketing is psychology. Ultimately, a marketer wants people think and feel a certain way so they take a specific action, usually in the form of buying something.
This is the crux of psychology. We psychologists study how people think, feel and behave. And we have a large body of research that tells us how humans interact with each other, products and brands.
I am currently tired of seeing so called social media ‘experts’ flub up the most basic psychological drivers of online purchasing behavior. It’s not their fault, they just don’t know better.
Here is the low down on the real psychology of social media marketing based on brain-based research that informs how people think, feel and behave online and off.
1. People are inherently social and want to interact with other humans. People want to hear from you if you engage with them as a real person. No one goes online to search for a brand name when they are lonely at night. They also don’t want to interact with your logo or a cartoon avatar.
We respond strongly to real faces, eyes, and smiles. Infants a few hours old will track another human’s eyes and smile. They ignore stuffed animals or things in print. This doesn’t change throughout our life.
2. Building relationships builds trust. My next door neighbor never says hello to me. It’s weird because we live in a cul-de-sac and all the neighbors wave and chat over the the fence, so to speak. Except this guy. He drives by my son and I at the bus stop and never waves. I don’t trust him. My son doesn’t trust him. Why is he so rude? What does it take to wave?
He owns a pub one town over and we have never been there. But a restaurant we regularly go to 3 towns over sends me email updates on monthly specials, gives a birthday coupon. I don’t know the owner by name, but I certainly trust him more than my neighbor.
We are wired to spend time and money with those we are in relationship with and value that more than geography.
3. Relationships are based on consistency and showing up. I had an interesting debate with a few bloggers the other day about frequency of blogging and trust. Their premise was quality of blog posts trumps consistency in frequency.
Psychological research says they are wrong. Consistency builds relationships. Showing up with something fabulous to say once in awhile may build an audience, but do they trust you enough to pay you?
If someone I don’t know blogs 1 time a month, I really don’t have a lot to go on in terms of building a relationship. Sure, maybe they optimize the post and get lots of click throughs and email list conversions, but those people can’t quickly build a relationship with me and get me to invest in them.
However, someone who blogs daily will have an easier time connecting with me. I can see they are consistent, show up when they say they will, and are serious about building a community. Maybe not every post is awesome, but they show up and I like them for it.
Biologically this makes sense. Are you closer to people you see once a month, or those you see every day? Sure maybe they aren’t always in a good mood every day ,but you know them better, care about them more, go to their holiday party. The guy you see once a month, eh, his party isn’t a priority.
This is also hard wired in infancy. A mother who gives her kid one awesome hour of mothering a day and then wanders off to do other things is not a good mom. An infant will die with inconsistent parenting like that, even if that one hour is the best damn hour that mom can offer. We like to see people in our space often and consistently.
4. People buy with their heart, not their head. You can give me 100 logical reasons to learn SEO but if I’m not feeling it, I won’t invest in that process. Yes, some folks are more logical than others, but most of us make purchases based on how we feel,not what we think.
Add a relationship into the mix and the effect is even stronger. How many times have you bought stuff from someone because you know and like them, more than because you need their thing? Admit it, many times, right? If I like the person I assume I’ll like their stuff too. This is called the “halo effect”.
5. Relationship is hard to measure. We psychologists have been measuring relationships for over a century and I’ll tell you, it’s hard to do. Marketers who are looking for measurable ROI of social are looking for a needle in a haystack.
Yes, you can measure clicks, opt ins, time on page. The only measure that really matters is how much you sell, right? Building the relationship leads to sales. It isn’t quick.
Don’t get stuck on numbers that don’t matter. Because 10,000 visits to your site each month doesn’t mean squat if no one invests in anything you offer.
6. Being human isn’t hard. Businesses and marketers make social media hard. “How do we do it!?” they fret. Then they try to measure stuff (see above).
Here’s how you do it: create lots of value for lots of people. Talk to them like you would at a work-related cocktail party – casual, helpful,more informally than in the board room. Respond to questions, ask a few of your own. Share things relevant to your brand. Be a resource. Be nice and kind and give freely. People like that stuff. They do not like blatant pitches for stuff they don’t know about, do you?
7. Novel trumps conventional every time. If a guy walks down the street in Manhattan wearing a blue suit, do you notice him? Of course not. He is conventional, his attire is expected and 100 other guys on the street look just like him. Our brains habituate to the man in the blue suit in New York City.
If a man walks down the street in NYC in a bright pink suit, do you notice him? Yes, you do.
Now if a guy walks into a truck stop in rural North Dakota wearing a blue suit, do people notice him? My guess is they would. The brain sees that as unexpected in the context of the truck stop. But a guy in jeans isn’t interesting.
If you want to stand out, you have to do or say something unexpected. It doesn’t have to be shocking, but blending in won’t get anyone’s attention. This is why marketing “blueprints” and “system”s are useless. Once everyone is doing it, no one is paying attention. Make sense?
8. But don’t be random and weird. In high school, the kids like the guy who wears a different hat to school every day. He’s cool, unique in a safe way. He is cool and to be his friend is to be cool, too.
However kids do not like the guy who wears a Speedo to school on random days. This is too out of the norm, it’s unpredictable and weird.
Our brains say that someone who is too far out of the realm of expected behavior isn’t safe. We don’t know how to read Speedo kid. Is he a swimmer, a pervert, trying to be funny? When we can’t figure something out we reject it because our brains just can’t process if this person is safe, stable and worth risking our reputation on (remember the halo effect? It works both ways…)
So be unique, but not so out there that you freak people out.
9. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. People have long memories. If you use sleazy marketing or blast people with tweets that pitch your product all day long, they catch on quickly that you aren’t someone they can trust (see #2 above).
Your tactics may get you a lot of opt-ins, but if you become a jerk once you have the email address, people rule you out as a viable option to spend money with.
We have evolved to reject, ignore and forget things that give us a negative experience. Got food poisoning at McDonalds once? You’ll never eat there again. Girl with nose ring humiliated you at the prom? Won’t date girl with nose ring again. Gave email address to nice guy who then spammed you daily with emails about his new e-book? Can’t trust those internet marketers!
Always respect your community. Otherwise you will work very hard to get their attention and then lose them forever.
Remember, all marketing is social psychology. And because psychology is a soft science, it’s often hard to measure the exact ROI of your social efforts. But taking the time to build relationships and a community pays much bigger dividends than investing thousands into an ad campaign that might get a few clicks from people uninspired and lukewarm about your offer.
Be smart about the brain wiring that leads prospects to choose to buy with you. We are not going to trump millions of years of evolution. Rather, go with people’s inclinations to want to join in conversation, get to know you as a fellow human, a drive to want to trust someone before investing further. This will make your marketing work much more effective and fun…
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