media update’s Taylor Goodman takes a look at three psychological principles that are commonly used in social media marketing and why they are effective.

As of January 2020, there are 3.80 billion social media users worldwide. Factoring in location-specific social networks like WeChat or ByteDance, it would be quite the challenge to find someone who isn't online.

Human psychology plays a huge role in why audiences feel bonded to a brand, compelled to share content, or driven to make a purchase

As a marketer or advertiser, social media is probably already a part of your marketing strategy. But, have you taken the time to look into why certain actions award certain outcomes? Taking a look at social media from a psychological point of view may help you to better understand your audiences, allowing you to market to them more effectively. 

Here are three marketing psychology insights that may help you to engage with your audience more effectively online:

1. Social proof gives you a good reputation

Think about the last time you booked a hotel room: When doing so, it is likely that you checked out a few places and made note of the reviews. These customer reviews play a larger role in consumer buying behaviour than is noticeable at first glance.

It is an unspoken rule that if a product has positive reviews, that the product is of a high quality. Why? Well, this circles back to psychology and the theory of social proof.

The principle of social proof states that people look at the opinions of others to guide them along the decision-making process.

Social proof marketing tactics are used by many e-commerce sites in the following ways:
  • Disclosing how many people have purchased a certain product: This is a strategy used by popular retailer, Pretty Little Thing. When they have an item that many users are buying, they will note that the item is popular and how many people have bought it that day. This encourages users to buy it purely based on the notion that because it’s popular, it must be worth it.
  • Ratings and reviews: This is the easiest way for a consumer to do research into a brand and its products. These reviews can either be seen on the brand's site or on social media accounts. Usually if a customer has had a bad experience with a brand, the first place they’ll share it is on their social platforms.
  • Showcasing how many subscribers they have: To encourage their audience to sign up for their newsletter, some brands will show the number of subscribers they already have. An example of this is ProBlogger, which advertises that those that visit their site should join their community of over 300 000 bloggers.
Social proof is an effective marketing tactic because you are selling without actually selling. By doing this, your audience will not feel like you’re shoving products down their throat because the other consumers that purchase the products and leave reviews are doing it for them. 

The best way to leverage social proof in your marketing strategies is by encouraging customers to leave reviews. This can be done by offering them incentives, like a discount code.

2. Make yourself (or your products) scarce 

It’s likely that you’ve heard that “people want what they can’t have” and this rings particularly true in marketing. 

Now, before you get ahead of yourself — no, you should not sell consumers products that you don’t have. Rather, you should emphasise the scarcity of your product. 

This might seem like an arbitrary practice when all you’re trying to do is make as much money as possible, but it relates to the psychological principle that rare items are valuable

This is relevant from a marketing perspective because if consumers believe a product is in low supply or rare they are more likely to pay more for it. This ties into the concept of FOMO (fear of missing out) because they don’t want to miss out on a product or opportunity that may sell out.

To utilise the principle of scarcity in your marketing strategy, consider running offers that are only available for a short amount of time. A brand that does this regularly is Superbalist, which runs daily promotions that expire after 24 hours. 

You could also use the terms ‘While stocks last’ or ‘For one day only’ in your campaigns.

3. Reciprocity is key

When someone gives you a gift unexpectedly, have you ever felt immediately compelled to return the favour? This is the principle of reciprocity at play.

In a marketing context, reciprocity is when consumers often feel somewhat indebted to a company if the business gives them a product for free.

This can be an effective marketing strategy because a small gesture of goodwill can encourage consumers to make a purchase and it can give your reputation a boost as they will see you as a brand that doesn't mind giving something away for free, in order to build faith.

For example, if a consumer buys makeup online and gets free samples with their order, they may feel more inclined to make a purchase as a way to return the favour.

You can also see this principle at restaurants where a server leaves a note on the receipt saying something like ‘Thank you [name]’. The patron may think because of this extra bit of effort, they should leave a larger tip.

Consumers, what draws you to a brand online? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

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What to know more about marketing your brand on social media? Then you should check out The do’s and don’ts of marketing your brand on social media.
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy