Reading Your Audience: How to Incorporate Psychology into Social Media Marketing

Over the past decade, social media has become the domain where much of the world’s buzz takes place. By 2021, the number of users across the globe is expected to surpass the 3 billion mark.

In addition to all the people talking, sharing, liking, and posting all over the place, eMarketer estimates that 90% of businesses currently use social media for marketing purposes, too. Through all this racket, it can seem like an impossible feat to post content that customers actually pay attention to.

Want to hear some good news? It’s not.

A great deal of human interaction is based on impulse. By incorporating psychological cues in your strategy, you can create the kind of content that tugs on the mental strings of your audience and forms a real connection.

Without further ado, here are four ways to get into the minds of your customers and knock your social media engagement numbers out of the park.

1. Create A Relatable And Authentic Brand Voice

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of social media is that it gives brands the opportunity to give their messaging a more conversational, everyday personality. The University of Southern California recently conducted a study on consumer behavior and found that customers tend to assign human-like traits and attributes to brands, which in turn influenced their feelings about the businesses behind those brands.

Even though your business is an entity, it’s important that you create a humanized brand voice to connect with customers on a personal level. Decide which words you would ideally want people to use to describe and ascribe to your brand’s persona. Is your company:

  • Fun?
  • Serious?
  • Sophisticated?
  • Witty?
  • Matter-of-fact?

Create a list of these characteristics and see how you can tie them into your brand voice through the content you generate. For example, Denny’s restaurant has fully embraced a humorous and “pun-ny” personality through their social media posts.


When you’re designing your brand voice, you need to take your into target audience and create a tone that they can relate to. Creating archetypes (personas, if you will) of your ideal customers is a great way to help you build a more personal understanding of your audience. Try giving them names, backstories, and personalities, while pinpointing common characteristics and consumption traits – just like you relate to characters in a book or a movie.

This will help you get into the minds of your customers and create content that speaks directly to them. To help you start out, explore Hootsuite’s social monitoring function, which enables you to keep tabs on certain keywords or brands related to your niche.

From here, you can see the kinds of reactions taking place across social media. This is a great way to learn more about the types of people you need to appeal to.

Making accurate personas requires intensive research into the likes, dislikes, interests, and demographics of your target audience, so get ready to dive deep into analytics. Start by using data from your current list of followers for accurate descriptions of the types of people already engaged with your brand. Many social media sites now offer audience analytical data, such as Twitter Business Analytics, which displays specific categories your followers are interested in.

Once you’ve nailed down your brand voice, your next step is to build up a library of content (which conveys this voice) that is ready to share. Social Jukebox is a phenomenal tool to club your posts by category and publish them whenever you need. By filling “jukeboxes” with posts of a specific genre (read, niche), you can schedule them out according to your upcoming campaigns.

Social Jukebox will make sure your accounts stay active by recycling posts that receive high engagement beyond a preset threshold.

2. Use Emotional Triggers To Drive Engagement

Humans crave understanding and acceptance. That emotional connection carries through to social media marketing. Harvard Business Review conducted and in-depth study and found ten emotional motivators for consumers. These factors are what drive customers to brands to fulfill their needs. In order to develop content that connects with your audience, you must learn their motivations.

By understanding the science behind these emotional motivators, you can learn how to use them throughout social media to boost engagement. People act on emotions, and they often feel the need to share these experiences with others. While there is obviously a broad spectrum to the human emotional scale, there are four basic segments that you can apply to your strategy that will elicit these motivations from your audience.

(1) Positivity

Posts focused on happiness and humor are the most shared on social media; over 66% of social shares have a positive tone to them. The reasoning behind it is fairly simple: people dig happiness (which is what, perhaps, they go looking for on social media).

Positivity has great power, especially on media, so adding a positive spin to your content is a great way to encourage sharing and engagement. For example, Starbucks began a recent campaign that aimed to share positive stories from all around the country.


Even though these stories have nothing to do with coffee, it has resulted in a huge engagement boost because of the feel-good content and story lines.

(2) Inspiration

According to Psychology Today, people loved to be wowed and shocked. This is because it’s literally built into our biology. Awe-inspiring information helps people to shift their focus off of themselves and their problems. In turn, it elicits positive feelings vital for social behavior.

Inspiration is a strong emotion, and it can be used in several ways. For instance, National Geographic continuously wows their followers with beautiful pictures and videos from all around the globe.


Another great example is Nike. The basis of their messaging is to inspire their audience with positive affirmations and incredible feats of athleticism.


(3) Anger

While this seems like a reaction that businesses would want to steer away from, creating a feeling of frustration, or even outrage, can actually elicit positive engagement. As long as it’s used correctly. 84% of people share posts that express the entire spectrum from displeasure to fury as a way to bat for an issue they care deeply about (think about all those political posts flooding your social media pages).

NowThis often uses this tactic across their accounts, like they did in this post about a disabled girl that is going to be deported.


People tend to be the most impulsive when they are angry. Therefore, this tactic can be the most powerful in driving engagement.

(4) Sadness

Similar to anger, this negative emotion can actually produce a positive impact for brands when it is utilized correctly. It can motivate the need for change or inspire the feeling of hope for something better. Many charities and organizations use this type of marketing to rally their followers to support a cause for change. PETA does it in the course of enforcing its commitment to stop animal abuse.


Incorporating these key emotions into your social media strategy is a highly effective way to trigger psychological responses that result in higher engagement levels.

3. Strategically Incorporate Social Proof

Humans tend to base their behavior off of other people’s opinions. We learned how to talk, walk, and tie our shoes by following what our parents did, and this fundamental habit carries on well into adult-hood. When it comes to marketing, consumers are strongly influenced by the behavior of other customers, and purchasing decisions are strongly influenced by social proof. Many businesses tap into this concept via five distinct personalities.

(1) The Expert

Customers trust recommendations from people who are perceived as experts, which is why bloggers or public personalities can effectively help spread the word about your business to their own loyal followers.

This psychological association is called the Halo effect (influencer marketing, in marketing-speak). It essentially means that whatever perception a customer has of an influencer, it will transfer over to the product, too. This fundamental aspect of influencer marketing can be exacerbated on Facebook and Instagram, which account for 87% of influencer campaigns.

A simple grocery delivery company like Milk and Eggs can leverage this effect.


(2) The Celebrity

This is similar to the Halo Effect and we see it in marketing every day. However, the finer details of this tactic are a tiny bit different. In essence, this tactic is powered solely by star power. Why do so many brands use celebrities in their advertising? This form of social proof runs on the consumer ideology that if a product is good enough for George Clooney or Jennifer Anniston, then it’s good enough for me, right? That’s Brand Ambassador vs. Influencer for you!

From a psychological standpoint, this type of endorsement works because people desire to emulate the people they admire. They want to look like their favorite actor and be as funny and successful as them. So, buying the same things helps people feel closer to being more like them.


(3) The Joneses

84% of consumers base their purchase decisions on online reviews. If other like-minded people preferred a product, then they should too! For this reason, it’s essential to use customer reviews to your advantage, as it can lead to 62% more revenue from each customer!

Use positive customer comments and testimonials as captions for your posts, like Perfect Locks did on Facebook.


(4) The Mob

We are, more or less, psychologically programmed to follow the crowd. What started off as a physical survival tactic is now an essential part of social behavior. Don’t you hate that feeling when you’re the last person to hear about something? Whether it’s a rumor circulating the office or a breaking news story, people don’t like feeling left out.

Many brands use this tactic to their advantage by listing impressive numbers or statistics that establish their credibility, like the numbers on HubSpot’s homepage.


Essentially, this approach harnesses the power in numbers and conformity.

(5) The Homie

Personal recommendations from your friends. family members or coworkers tend to carry a heavier weight than that of a stranger on the internet. This type of proof is much more personal than the others, making this tactic a little tricky for brands. However, many companies incentivize their customers to share their experience with close acquaintances, with promises of discount codes and referral offers for both parties.


4. Capitalize On Visual Psychology

Which compilation of facts will you look at for more than a couple of seconds?

This list:

· People remember 55% more about a piece of content if it includes visual aids.

· 400% more customers prefer to watch a video, rather than read an article about a product.

· Twitter posts with images are shared 150% more often than tweets without a picture.

· Facebook posts have nearly 2.5 times more engagement when a picture is added.

Or this:

Chances are, the infographic caught your attention (for 3 seconds, albeit).


Visuals conjure up emotional responses that quickly share information. The brain processes pictures or videos quite faster than text (not 60,000x though), making it the most efficient way to get your point across to an audience.

Photos and videos can invoke many feelings, such as:

  • Curiosity


  • Hunger:


  • Nostalgia:


And so on.

The fact of the matter is the majority of people are visual learners (according to a recent study, 65% of the population falls into this category). This is why your content should revolve around visual elements as much as possible if you want to share information and encourage engagement. Not only does it make your content more exciting; it also makes it more memorable.

Over To You

Regardless of how much science-backed research you incorporate into your social media strategy, there will always be a certain degree of trial and error. Some approaches will simply work better than others, given your niche and goals. Over time, tapping into the psychological meanings behind consumer behavior first-hand will lead to much better engagement and genuine connections with your customers.

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