The psychology of social media

What makes content shareable? How important is colour in your social posts? Here’s everything you need to know

You don’t need to be Freud to understand your social media audience, but there is definitely psychology behind why some online activity chimes with followers and others don’t. Luckily, there is plenty of data out there which gives some indication about what kind of things social media users like to see on their feeds.

Of course, a lot of this is subjective and dependent on your specific target audience and business, but these are some of the general findings about the psychology behind social media.

Why do people share content?

There are all sorts of reasons why someone might share something on social media, but an extensive study from The New York Times boiled it down to five key reasons:

  • To improve the lives of others. 94% of respondents said they share to make their followers’ lives better in some way.
  • To grow relationships. 80% said they share content in order to stay connected with others.
  • To define themselves. 68% reported sharing content in order to curate an idealized online version of themselves.
  • To share what’s important to them. 84% of respondents shared posts to spread the word about causes or brands they care about.
  • For self-fulfilment. Respondents reported enjoying content more when they shared it, and enjoying content more when it is shared with them. This helps them feel more valued and included.

People trust people more than brands

Research shows that people are far more likely to trust recommendations made to them by other people rather than by brands, so the more people you can get talking about your services, the better.

One study by visual content platform Olapic found that 76% of consumers are more likely to believe content shared by ‘average people’ than that shared by brands.

Most people are visual learners

A study by the Current Health Sciences Journal found that 65% of the general population are classed as visual learners, and this translates to the way they use social media. A visual component to your content, be it a video, photo or infographic, is more likely to make people stop and take notice, and remember your post.

In fact, research by found that posts that include images achieve a whopping 650% more engagement than text-only posts.

People share positive posts

Evoking positive emotions with your content can increase the chances of the message being shared, according to research by Psychological Science. The study also states that people are more likely to be social, and therefore interact with content, when emotionally stimulated.

So how does this translate into your content? Aspects like sharing personal stories, testimonials, appropriate humour and even relevant emojis can give a post more of an emotional punch.

Colour is key

Social media is all about instant gratification, and colour plays a huge part in our instant reactions to things, including social media posts. One in-depth study titled ‘Impact of Colour on Marketing’ found that “people make up their minds within 90 seconds of their initial interactions with either people or products. About 62 to 90% of the assessment is based on colours alone.”

On social media, it’s all about using colours which accurately reflect your brand. Bright pink and lime green may stand out, but if you’re a serious finance company then they may not be the most suitable choices. Use colour to create authentic content.

FOMO is real

FOMO — or Fear Of Missing Out — is a phenomenon of the social media age. It refers to the desire to be included in things which appear luxurious or exclusive, making us feel special.

Obviously, you don’t want to be exploiting people’s anxieties about missing out on things, but there are ways to put FOMO to good use in ways which are more effective than exploitative.

For example, try adding a sense of urgency to your posts by with additions like “This offer ends at midnight, so act fast!”

Clear Editorial can help your business make waves online with great content. Get in touch today to find out more.