Social media isn’t only about getting likes, reactions, and retweets – it’s about building meaningful, long-term relationships with your audience.
All human relationships can be classified into three broad categories:
- Authority relationships: Relationships where one individual has clear power over the other. One gives instructions; the other fulfills them. Think employer-employee.
- Exchange relationships: Relationships where there is an equal give and take. These relationships are sustained only as long as both parties continue to offer incentives to remain together. Ever reward a user for a “like” on Facebook? That’s a classic exchange relationship.
- Communal relationships: Relationships where there is a deep bond of mutual trust between both parties. The relationship does not depend on bribes or incentives to survive; it is propelled along by deep-rooted goodwill and shared common ground. This is the type of relationship we share with our closest friends.
Unfortunately, whether they know it or not, many marketers perpetuate exchange relationships, where they “bribe” users to carry out specific actions. Studies show that67% of users who “liked” a brand page on Facebook did so to become eligible for offers.
This model of bribes in return for desired actions is only sustainable up to a certain point. Exchange relationships may be effective for attracting followers, but you may wind up with a pipeline filled with unqualified leads who are only interested in receiving freebies.
The goal of your social media campaigns should be to establish “communal relationships” with your followers – the type that keeps bringing returns over the years without the need for constant “bribes.”
Here are five psychological tactics to help you connect authentically with your social media followers and lay the foundation for an ongoing communal relationship.
1. Put a human touch on brand interactions
Think of brands with distinct personalities – Old Spice (masculine, adventurous, irreverent), Nike (sporty, up for any challenge) each brand paints a vivid picture in your mind.
When a brand is truly successful in demonstrating what it stands for, consumers identify with the brand’s personality. And that’s when conversations (and conversions) start happening.
This goes to show that it’s easier to be friends with a human on social media than with a faceless marketing machine.
Don’t leave that big personality at home. Bring your brand’s personality over to your social media accounts. Let your brand profile, your posts and your voice spell out exactly who your fans are talking to.
To add a dash of personality to your social media campaigns:
- Use fixed social media assets like your profile picture or your cover image to evoke your brand’s personality. You could include pictures of your social team or a behind-the-scenes look into your marketing “war room.”
- Let your employees connect with users one-on-one with their real names and identities. Beyond putting a face (or faces) to your brand name, this offers employees a renewed sense of ownership towards their work and keeps them more motivated.
2. Use a compelling narrative to inspire followers to take action
Don’t just ask users to “like” your page in exchange for a coupon or a freebie. Give them a real reason to behave in a certain way.
A great way to motivate people to take action is with a compelling narrative. Give users a peek into those small beginnings that have made your brand what it is today, or share the story of a cause you care about.
People feel trusted and important when you open up to them. According to research by Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary, the need to belong and identify with people similar to us is a strong emotional driver and motivator.
Sharing your brand’s story or that of a worthy cause makes people listen to you more than when you simply peddled your wares to them – and it makes them want to reciprocate by sharing their story with you.
If you want people to use narrative in your social media campaigns to engage followers:
- Share a story (about your brand or a cause that you believe in) that will strike an emotional chord
- Ask your fans to share their own tales to make it an engaging two-way process.
3. Make it fun and encourage participation
Most marketers are so immersed in their brands and maximizing mileage on social media that they forget the most important rule of interaction on social media: It’s got to be fun!
Think about it: In your personal social media accounts, what is the stuff that you see your friends and family sharing the most? Is it updates from the finance team of some company? Or is it hilarious jokes, memes, and one-liners? My money is on the latter.
Fun and laughter are proven to help bring people together – as Psychology Today reports, “Laughter bonds us through humor and play.”
How to apply this to your social media campaigns
You may argue that your brand is serious and not some frivolous youth-oriented one to make a song and dance about.
But hey, surely your brand isn’t more serious than Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS?
4. Leverage nostalgia to trigger warm fuzzies
People tend to look back at old memories through rose-tinted glasses.
Brand interactions that evoke nostalgia also evoke happy, fuzzy memories that researchers believe transfer to the brand in question. Remember that communal relationship that we discussed with our customers? Nostalgia is an effective gateway to a personal, familial and communal relationship with your fans.
Nostalgia is a strong psychological trigger that prompts sharing, engagement, and social connectedness.
An article from Hootsuite includes a ton of ideas for incorporating nostalgia into your own social media strategy:
- Post photos of your first office and employees, or show how your product has evolved over time.
- Write listicles or roundup posts that make your prospects think about “the good ol’ days.”
- Create quizzes that induce nostalgia and encourage sharing.
5. Shift your mindset from “selling” to “sharing”
Nobody likes to talk to people who can’t stop talking about themselves. The same goes for brands on social media. Your goal may be to sell more of your products, but harping on that one topic alone is sure to make you the most unpopular kid in class.
People hate being sold to. That’s old news. What they do enjoy is sharing ideas, experiences, information – the very basis of social media.
Instead of talking about yourself on social media, shift your focus to sharing common interests with your fans.
Are you a healthcare brand? Share inspirational stories of patients that overcame tough illnesses. Are you a fashion retailer? Share the season’s latest style tips with your fashionista followers.
6. Connect with your followers as people and as friends
If you look at your prospects as statistics – numbers on your analytics dashboard or sales figures on your balance sheet – then you’re not likely to be motivated to connect with them on a human level.
Drop your bean counter glasses and look at users through the lens of what really makes them tick.
Your aim as a social media marketer should be to move from “exchange relationships” with your followers to trust, friendly and transparent “communal relationships.”
This can be achieved by:
- Putting a human touch on brand interactions
- Using a compelling narrative to inspire followers to take action
- Making it fun and encouraging participation
- Leveraging nostalgia to trigger warm fuzzies
- Shifting your mindset from “selling” to “sharing”