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Three psychology theories that apply to social media

Seeing as I work in social media AND have a psychology degree it only seemed right that I should do a blog post on useful psychology theories and studies that apply to social media. Here are my top three:

1. Different personalities and social media uses – A study conducted at the University of Texas found that different personality traits is a predicting factor in how much someone uses social media and engages in online content. Their study revealed that in both men and women extraversion (being outgoing) and openness to experiences were positively related to increased social media use. Males high in emotional instability are also linked to increased social media usage (but not females).

Learning: Producing content that appeals to very outgoing individuals will produce the best engagement rates. People high in extraversion are very positive and love excitement and variety. Content that produces intellectual curiosity and imagination will appeal to individuals high in openness to experiences.  

2. Why people share things online: The social identity theory states that everyone has an intrinsic drive to become part of a group, as this boosts the individual’s self image. Researchers from the University of Queensland examined an active group of Facebook users to examine this principle in relation to social media. They found that sharing online content created positive feedback from peers which produced social validation and a greater sense of connectedness for the individual sharing the content.

Learning: When individuals post anything online they are seeking comments, shares, likes. Being actively engaged with people you want to target will enhance their sense of belonging to your brand, and boost their self esteem.

3. How to promote online deals effectively: The anchoring effect is a cognitive bias that describes an individual’s tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered. This can affect how people perceive a ‘good’ deal. For example if the initial  price of a car is then negotiated down the car will seem more reasonable even if the price is still higher than the car is worth.

Learning: When trying to promote a deal online through Twitter and Facebook it is important to emphasise the initial price of the product. It is also worth considering the sequence of the posts – promoting the offer after posts containing the full priced item.


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