Social ROI Answer Lies in Brain Waves

With many brands turning to social media as a viable marketing platform — and questioning its ROI — it’s critical to understand the core drivers behind how and why people engage with these networking sites. Grasping what motivates these behaviors is the key to unlocking the door to the value of social media.

To the subconscious, “going social” means that the mind seeks to connect, to be heard and to express. The brain loves what is novel, and a new landscape of interacting with consumers who love a particular brand is waiting to be explored. We also know that it’s not only about how many friends one has, but also the relevance of those friendships. The brain constantly seeks context, which is certainly the case with using social media.

Marketers and users of social media should keep in mind that the brain is designed to place a high value on efficiency. In neuroscience, the term is “processing fluency,” meaning the ease with which our minds can receive and process stimuli. Complex commercial messages in a social media setting can serve to turn the brain off, because the mind perceives the amount of effort expended may not be worth any potential reward received. Simply put, marketers need to keep their messages simple and straightforward.

With our brains comprising 100 billion neurons, how does a brand become relevant to an astronomical number of possible emotional triggers? The answer lies in emotion. More and more consumer neuroscience studies underscore the importance that emotion plays in the brain’s ability and willingness to pay attention to stimuli — feel engaged by and with it — and encode it into memory. At their core, social sites are all about emotion; all the postings that comprise these sites are essentially expressions of emotions formed and felt by the subconscious. Anchoring emotion at the core of your marketing messages can drive directly to the level of the mind where core marketing objectives of initial product interest, purchase intent and brand loyalty are formed.

A good example of this is the way in which the Red Cross has designed its Facebook page. While Facebook has a proscribed format, page owners can limit the number of images and text on the initial page to make it less taxing on cognitive resources. The Red Cross achieves this through an uncluttered design. It uses an emotionally ambiguous face for its main photo, which makes users compelled to decipher the intent behind the expression, appealing to the survival nature of our brains. The page does an excellent job in weaving emotional appeal throughout the page in helping to grab users’ attention.

Madison Avenue can gain ground in the social media landscape by benefitting from what consumer neuroscience knows about how the brain is structured and how it functions in regard to marketing in these arenas. By implementing some proven neurological best practices, marketers today can successfully reach the largest mass audience ever assembled.

Caroline Winnett is CMO of Nielsen NeuroFocus, which brings neuroscience to advertising, branding, product development and packaging, and entertainment.

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