principles of social media engagement

5 Psychological Principles to Increase Engagement on Social Media

This post originally appeared in GoWithTech, but is no longer available. [Republished with minor edits and new information.]

Customers are on social media and so should the business. Naturally, the competition is getting steeper on such platform. How will you stand out? The most straightforward answer is to increase engagement. However, amplifying engagement is not as simple as it seems. Thankfully, we can take cues from various psychological concepts to do just that. Below are some of the principles worth exploring.

Principles for social media engagement strategy

1) Social proof

Social proof is perhaps the most popular theory known to online marketers. Its influence is too significant not to put it as the first item in this list. Social proof pertains to the theory behind people adopting the actions and beliefs of other people they trust, like, adore, etc. Call it the “me too” effect, but we are after positive associations.

Thus, when we see a Facebook notification of a friend asking you to like a page, the first thing we look for is the number of likes. If the likes are in thousands, we will give it a like too. In some instances, we instantly click the like button because we trust the friend that shares with us the information. It’s the wisdom of our friends we trust, working like an endorsement.

With this, it is essential to build your credibility first. Remember, for the people to trust your brand, you must have a reputation that they can easily relate and willingly associate with.

Building trust and credibility are not without difficulties. But is not impossible. Take a cue from these insights.

  • Be authentic. Reflect brand values when communicating with your community.
  • Be transparent. Capitalize on actual conversations happening in real-time. So…
  • Be at the moment. Engage in the process of responding to every comment as quickly as you can.

2) Emotion

Well, emotion is not precisely a psychological principle, but there is psychology behind emotion. There are also several theories that explain such.

The phrase ‘smile; it’s contagious’ is mostly applicable how people interact with social contents and with one another. Did you know that posts with high emotional value are shared 10x more than posts without any emotional impact? Have you noticed that the majority of the viral posts evoke happiness?

In an era wherein the emphasis is on stories, a post can be your storytelling platform. Through this, a brand can connect emotionally with its target consumers. People will only feel disconnected with you or your brand and products and services when you publish purely abstract information or figures.

Knowing this, create or look for posts that are share-worthy—posts that do not only evoke happiness but also positivity. The best ones are those posts that people can relate to or simply pieces of content that bring on pure nostalgia. Better yet, understand your target audience’s emotional spectrum so you won’t upset or frustrate them with the stories they read on their news feeds.

While at it, ponder on the following points on how you can be as relatable as you should be.

  • Operate with empathy. Develop deep connections not solely based on ‘opportunities’ but with the genuine desire to help others.
  • Think inclusively. Let your community know you care about their well-being and not just about your profits.
  • Go the extra mile always. It always pays to build real connections instead of superficial relationships.

3) Reciprocity

Social media marketing is all about persuasion. One sub-concept of this principle is reciprocity or the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefits. Simply, if a person does something for you, you’d naturally want to do something for him or her. You scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours, right?

This also rings true in social media interactions. Nevertheless, it utilizes another principle which is motivation in the form of rewards. Social users are often asked to subscribe, like, comment, and share posts. Their usual response? What’s in it for me?

Express how the users will benefit from doing what you ask them to do in your favor. A free ebook? A free meal? A 15% discount? An exclusive coupon code? Understand what makes your target audience ticks and start from there. It doesn’t have to be of epic proportions, but just enough to paint your brand image as fun and generous.

Have no idea where to start? Take heed of these pointers.

  • Address real concerns appearing in the comment section.
  • Curate and share other people’s content.
  • Tag the people you mention on your own content.
  • Use well-researched yet original hashtags.
  • Schedule updates to increase reach.

4) Anchoring

Also called focalism, anchoring refers to our tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information (anchor) we learn when making decisions.

Such concept is important for companies that use social media as their marketing arm. It is crucial that your brand is the first brand name that your customers will think about when they heard or read something (i.e., top-of-mind awareness). Shoppers compare, and if they remember that your store offers the lowest price, they will shop at your store.

In some instances, even though they are aware that a particular item sells cheaper on other sites, they will still buy at you because you mentioned that Victoria Beckham loves that pair of wayfarer shades and other such information. This information is your anchor and backed by an image as proof.

A few tweaks on social ads also rely on this concept. Perhaps, you’ve seen a sponsored post that says Friend A and Friend B also likes Brand C. The anchor used in here is the name of your friends. Again, social proof and emotion are at play here. Thus, if ever you’ll use this tactic, tread carefully because people have ways of knowing.

Remember these things when you are anchoring.

  • Speak their language. Use the words that your target market uses.
  • Be a part of the narratives. But choose the narratives that you want to partake in.
  • Offer something new. And do this on a constant basis.
  • Choose a side. And communicate what you stand for.

5) Verbatim effect

‘Verbatim effect’ is a memory bias where people will remember the gist of what has been said and not every word verbatim. Humans are wired that way—we remember things that are easiest for our brain to remember. Interestingly, we remember only seven information at a time, fewer or more depending on the situation.

Such principle has an enormous impact on how your content will perform once you publish it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms. To begin with, the users judge the shareability of your post based on its headline first and accompanying image second. Hence, make your headlines as share-friendly and relevant as possible.

Also, avoid using your headline as a clickbait. Your audience will not like it, and it will only impact your brand or organization negatively. For one, the headline should accurately describe what is in your article, for instance. Guide their expectation. Make the content entertaining and informative that the readers are compelled to share it.

As a follow through, these things might shed light on your content creation techniques.

  • Make it human. Make it humane.
  • Tell stories. Inject real life experiences.
  • Develop some context. Put yourself in their shoes. Put them in your shoes.
  • Make it visual. But not confusing.

In sum, rely on these principles, and the users will crave your brand. All the elements of a post can actually increase the social engagement from the title, image, text and even previous engagements. It should not only be a holistic experience, though. Instead, the content must offer value to your readers so they will engage with it and encourage others to do the same. Follow the herd, right?

One more thing, the social platforms are here at the disposal of brands and businesses. They offer opportunities to go above and beyond for the sake of servanthood, connecting on a human level. So let’s not give social marketing a bad name before it’s too late.

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