A new study attempts to get to the heart of why consumers “like” a particular piece of social media content:
“Every time we post, share, ‘like,’ comment or send an invitation online, we are creating an expectation,” according to the study. “We feel a sense of belonging and advance our concept of self through sharing.”
The findings are compelling not only because they help explain why we feel compelled to click “like” so often, but also because they lay bare the power that marketers can wield by creating “likable,” shareable social content.
When a consumer shares something from a brand—whether it’s a funny video, a coupon or a white paper from a B-to-B thought leader—she’s made that content her own, and is thus invested in that content and that brand. She will anticipate the social media feedback that comes from that sharing and is motivated to share more.
“The challenging part for marketers is to make that social media connection into a human connection, and not an automated or derisive connection,” [Dave] Hawley says. “The connection doesn’t happen because that’s what the brand wants—because the brand wants you to say something nice about them or validate their point of view. It’s actually about validating the audience’s point of view. The goal should be for a brand to validate a person’s point of view about the brand or something related to the brand.”
There’s more danger in disappointing your customer with impersonal or too promotional content online than in not providing content at all, [Mauricio] Delgado contends. Since dopamine is tied to anticipation even more than reward, when anticipation is met with disappointment, the brain learns to refrain from engaging with that content.
“Dopamine codes a prediction error when a reward is better or worse than expected,” according to Delgado. “If your expectations are not met, and the outcome is either worse or better than expected, then that’s going to impact the next time you encounter that condition. It’s called reinforcement learning. Social media will have similar rules.”
Make branded social media posts personable, timely and informative to trigger a pleasure-causing dopamine release.