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How to take advantage of social media emotions

How to take advantage of social media emotions Nora Valencia

Some brands are failing to attract audiences and. for the most part, keep them interested in social channels over time. On the other hand, many marketers invest a lot of effort in deciphering and mastering the peculiarities of social media, especially compared to the time they dedicate to understanding the public they are addressing more in depth. Is there a relationship between these two?

Think of social media not as the icon of Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, or YouTube, but as John, Lorraine, Florence, your boyfriend or girlfriend, your cousin, your friends, the artist you adore the most, your favorite football team, or the expert you admire. All these people are social media. These groups have been shaping the media through their language, their usage patterns, their experiences, and the impact they've caused elsewhere. Without these people, the media would be completely irrelevant.

Only a few brands understand the importance of what this means, and yet they still give more importance to the media than to the human beings behind them. In the last few years, as a consultant in social business intelligence, I have read through thousands of comments made on social media by consumers and users of brands that represent consumer goods, financial services, entertainment, and the automotive industry, to name a few, in several Latin American countries. I have observed that consumers only participate or occasionally express themselves to keep a relationship with the brand. There was a common element in all of these cases: emotion.

How can a post with the picture of a puppy and a fun comment or photo of a pizza made with Oreo cookies generate thousands of retweets? And in turn, why did a post by the noodle brand Mama Lucchetti (Argentine brand) saying, "Today someone shouted an awful compliment to me in the street, but it was so cute!" generate thousands of shares and comments of all kinds? The common answer in all these messages is that they triggered an emotion.

Club Social

Oreo pizza


Humans are highly emotional, and our behavior and interactions (including purchase decisions) are influenced by emotions. According to psychologist Paul Ekman, there are six basic emotions that are common among people of all cultures: anger, happiness, surprise, disgust, sadness, and fear. Now as a marketer you may be wondering, "Are there any emotions that generate more engagement than others? How can I generate certain types of emotions in my audience to capture their attention and preference?"

According to the report "Social Transmission, Emotion, and the Online Content of Virality," conducted by The Wharton School of Business, there is a strong relationship between emotion and virality, but the interesting thing is that unlike what ordinary people would normally assume, positive emotions generate more viral action than negative emotions. It is curious that the media and news insist on paying attention to spreading negative news while people prefer to share positive news in social media instead.

We could prove this by doing our own analysis using my company's Socialmetrix Social Media Listening Tool with snacks and chocolate drink brands from across the region in 2014. In this case, we took 29 brands to understand how often consumers used the word "love" compared to "hate" when referring to any of these 29 brands within their messages. The results were surprising, since the word "love" was used in more than 64,000 cases while "hate" was used in only 9,000 (i.e., seven times more expressions relating to love than to hate in a year).

There are other emotions that generate virality, according to studies and experience:

  • Content generated by amazement, inspiration, or mood/humor goes viral often.

  • Messages that cause sadness can generally go viral but less frequently.

  • Content that evokes anger and wrath is more commonly viralized. In fact, the study shows that you can predict the virality of content based on the anger evoked by the message.

Well, then, how do we turn this knowledge into concrete actions that will help our brands attract the attention of our audiences and their preferences?

Here are four suggestions:

1. Plan your content in order to generate emotions with more virality and preference, such as happiness, amazement, inspiration, and humor. Ask yourself what unique messages your brand is offering and which of those your audience values. Remember that a "share" is generated by an emotional response that happens in fractions of a second. It's a reaction that takes place almost without thinking.
2. Take into account elements that are unexpected. If you use amazement, be careful not to go too far and risk backlash. Some examples to generate amazement are:

  • Challenge commonly used concepts and to try to be different.

  • Share new ways of doing things. Oreo is a great example of a brand that appeals to the creativity of ways to enjoy its product.

  • Ask a provocative question.

  • Notice and point out any fact that may not be known and generate surprise.

3. Entertainment, fun, and playfulness (choose an option, find the hidden word, how much there is in the image, etc.) generate participation and anticipation. People like to play. Many brands use these resources to keep their audiences expectant and attentive.

4. Ask your audience what they like. It is so basic, but we forget that people are willing to share their preferences and motivations more than ever thanks to this huge focus group called social media. Many brands have become experts about their audiences by doing surveys and showing an open attitude to receiving feedback.

Undoubtedly, marketers that can emotionally connect with their audiences will be the best equipped to generate longer relationships with their brands and their products. Like the great Maya Angelou said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but what people will never forget is how you made them feel."

You can see if your audience likes your campaign if they are engaging and interacting with it -- and most importantly, if they are engaging with the campaign in the way you'd hoped -- using analytics solutions.

Nora Valencia  is a consulting manager at Socialmetrix.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

Nora Valencia leads the Intelligence and Consulting area at Socialmetrix, focused on Social Business Intelligence, Customer Voice, Consumer Behavior and its connection to brands.

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