If you’re anything like me, your response to finding that your social media content has performed well is to lean back in your swivel chair, as your villainous laugh echoes around your secret Oxfordshire volcano base*. Why? Because you know how to use mind control to make your audience share your posts.
Perhaps ‘mind control’ is a little misleading, not to mention sinister. But when it comes to crafting social media content, there is some psychology behind post popularity. And you don’t need to be as malevolent as The Master to understand it.
It doesn’t mean there’s an exact formula for the perfect social media post out there (not that we’ve discovered yet anyway), but there are a few techniques that can inform how you create content.
As individuals, we like to express our identities. For example: we wear clothes to convey the type of person we think we are – whether it’s Jimmy Choos, or a Fat Face hoody (or both); we decorate our homes with splashy modern art, or minimalist elegance (or both). The external representation of our inner selves is important to the large majority of us, and it’s the same on social. If we see a post that we feel reflects our personality, our interests, and our values, we’re much more likely to click that share button.
What might your followers identify with? This will usually be closely tied in with your brand, or the lifestyle that your company promotes.
We love to recommend to our friends the things we think they’ll enjoy. We’ll happily let them know if we reckon they’d love the Kiwanuka album, or The Boys series, or the latest Rivers of London novel. (These are all things I’m currently enjoying btw.) We like to be seen as a positive influence on our social media followers too, so if we notice something we think would interest or entertain them, we’ll tend to share it – especially if we think we’ll get a bit of credit for doing so.
From the funnies to special offers, what might compel your followers to share a post with their own followers?
We love being part of a gang. If people see that a post is already popular, they are more likely to engage with it – because if loads of people like it, it must be important or valuable, right? This is called ‘social proof’.
This one’s hard to manufacture, but it helps to explain why certain posts will continue to blow up once they hit a certain level of popularity.
Many social media users aren’t there just for the craic. They’re there to connect with strangers to build personal or professional networks. Sharable content can include posts that help people to make those connections with like-minded individuals, or peers in our industry.
What unique content might you have that people can engage with to grow their networks? Perhaps you can set up an industry Q&A, or pose questions pertinent to your business area?
Scrolling through social media can be exhausting! With a flick of the finger you can see a list of posts that might provoke joy, anger, laughter, disappointment, love, jealousy – all within seconds of each other. We tend to share the content that affects us emotionally, especially if we want other people to feel that way too.
As a business you’ll obviously want to steer away from provoking rage (unless you work for, I don’t know, certain tabloids?). But what content do you have that could be awe-inspiring, hilarious, or moving?
The key thing to remember with all these tips, is that they are based around positivity. And positivity needs to be authentic. So try to make sure every post – whatever dastardly psychological technique it employs – has your brand at its heart.
manipulating people creating content for social media.
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*Never spotted a volcano in Oxfordshire? That’s how secret my base is.