The Psychology of Social Media and How it can Build Your Business

By now the world has pretty much agreed that the internet is not the fad or phase our grandparents said it would be. Not only is social media here to stay, it’s fundamental to much more than the teenage angst, celebrity worship and cat videos that we initially pigeon holed it for.

Social media has become one of the biggest facets in business plans and so it’s essential when treading these waters as a new business that you remember one vital thing: it’s the medium of communication that’s changed, not the people who are doing the communicating. With this in mind we have compiled a few nifty ways that the psychology of social media can be utilised for your business.

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You have (hopefully) been building relationships your whole life and if you’ve been doing it right then you’ll have grasped one thing that easily translates to social media: rapport. Rapport between two people, or a brand and its customers takes time. You have to build trust, create a sense of being ‘on the same wavelength’ and reflect the ideals of the person you’re trying to develop a relationship with.

So how do you do that on a social media platform? That apparent void where you can hurl information and only hear the dull echo of rejection in return?

Firstly, you need to be clear about who your company is and what its target market will be. Once you have that very crucial (often illusive) concept in mind you can begin to post content that is relevant, engaging and not exclusively sales-oriented. At this tricky juncture you’re not yet ready to expect huge growth in revenue, so defer the sales push. Instead, you have to slowly build a client base and show them you are not just a business, you’re a business that is competent and interested in its industry and customers. To do otherwise is the equivalent to asking a guy to marry you on the first date. All he’s going to do is turn tail and make for the sunrise, very likely never to be seen again.

Building rapport is crucial but it takes time; cultivate it, don’t rush it.


Impressions Management

Though it pains me to be the one to say it, the playground mentality of caring what others think of us never really ends and nor does the constant project of ‘who am I?’ Before the internet came along with its fancy ways of expressing oneself we had a much more limited means of conveying who we were. We had to tell it through the clothes we wore, the music we listened to, and the company we kept. Of course all of this still holds but with the dawn of social media we actually have a space in which to declare and solidify all this.

We can go much further in expressing who we are (or at least and not necessarily the same thing) who we want you to think we are. We can ‘follow’ people we identify with, publically acknowledge approval for a company or persons output by ‘liking’ posts. Unconsciously or not our behaviour on social media is not without an agenda and this is something a brand can tap into and put to use.

To do this you need to firstly appreciate that this is accompanied with building rapport. Generating content that your target demographic will find engaging and ‘like’. However, to truly use Impressions Management to its fullest potential you need to not just generate and create content that’s relevant to your target market, your brand needs to be relevant.

How you ask? Aren’t I doing just fine with all the rapport and content I’m ramming down their throats?

No, not really. You see, people don’t identify so much with an item (or a brand if you like) as much as what it stands for. Be passionate about what you do and show character in what you post, have a ‘voice’.  Plenty of companies are becoming known for their ‘voice’ on social media, a voice that plenty of people want to be seen aligning with.


Operant Conditioning

A flowery way of saying ‘reinforcing behaviour either positively or negatively’. Again, it all links back to rapport. Humans, no matter how much time they spend glued to some form of screen, are social animals and we are for the most part seeking approval.

With this in mind, it’s essential you engage with your audience and keep on top of the engagement. Customers that ‘like’ or retweet or positively comment about your content are not only showing their allegiance to you, but asking for some recognition in return, some reinforcement that they are valued and exactly the kind of person your brand wants to be associated with.

The more you keep on top of this the better – humans are not only social but now increasingly in need of immediate gratification. In an era where we are used to having everything all the time, waiting a few days to receive acknowledgement is often a few days too many.

So keep on top of it and especially praise (positively reinforce) behaviour that is particularly beneficial to the business. If someone takes the time to write a long, gushing comment about how wonderful your company/product/service is then make sure you reply in kind; no one likes to give a friendly smile and receive blank indifference in return. Again, it’s like a romantic relationship, if you’re feeling ignored and undervalued, you’ll eventually start looking elsewhere.

With social media becoming more and more integrated with our devices, sometimes it can be easy to forget that the text and images you see on your screen come from a real human being. Human beings have behavioural traits – ahem, psychology – that in knowing them, can benefit how you interact. As a business, the better you interact with your potential customers, the better the chances that they’ll advocate your brand.

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Nakita Mason

Author: Nakita Mason

Media Executive at Midas Media. When I'm not writing or reading, I'm wondering how I would fare in a Zombie apocalypse. Pretty sure I'd ace it.

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