What Social Media Marketers Can Learn From Psychology

You don’t need to be a Freudian psychologist to use social media to your advantage.

A. Sharma
4 min readJun 19, 2020

Ah, the quintessential coffee-mug-with-a-poetry-book shot.

Used generously across social media platforms, this particular scene is an absolute classic, but what is it about this cozy-but-overused setting makes people ‘like’ it thousands of times over?

The emotion that it inspires.

In 10 minutes of social media time, oxytocin levels can rise as much as 13%; that’s a hormonal spike that rivals that of some people on their wedding day (but no, you can’t replace one for the other). That means people feel more connected and secure in just ten minutes of spending time on social media.

So what does that mean for your social media marketing (or influencing) strategy?

The Reciprocity Effect

This is the “if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” phenomenon. It’s important for us to maintain relationships, and followers feel obliged to give back to a company that’s given them things like a product/service giveaway, limited free content, or even a resource centre they can regularly access. In return, they might share something in return, sign up for your mailing list, or fill out a survey.

Color Coordination

Humans are visual creatures, so much so that the colors you use has a major but subtle impact on how users perceive your brand, and red call-to-action buttons outperform green ones by almost 21%. However, when you’re using color psychology in your marketing, it’s important to make sure the color palette suits your overall tone and essence of your ‘personality’, rather than stereotypical color associations.

Spreading Positivity

Ever wondered why animal rescue videos go viral so frequently?

Positive emotional contagion is greater than negative, and usually, these videos aren’t about the animals, but about showing human empathy at its best: fostering, caring and nurturing. That means keeping your marketing on the sunny side, including dealing with prolonged customer issues offline, or swiftly tackling negative reviews to keep it from spreading.

Photo by freestocks.org via Pexels

The Power of Emoticons

Emoticons haven’t had the best reputation for being very professional, but on social media they make you appear more approachable, and are seen as self-expression, not advertising. Just like spreading positive messages, this study shows that using positive and relevant emoticons makes you more popular and influential on platforms like Twitter and Instagram; you can even create your own branded emoticons for your followers to share and use.

Sharing Reality Via Comments

As a brand name, any comment you make online is a reflection of what kind of company/person you are. The shared reality phenomenon means that a person’s whole experience of a product or service is affected by how they share it with others, and often, shared values were a bigger driver than a lot of interaction between customers and a brand. Comments have the power to change people’s minds, so make sure you stay actively engaged on your blog’s comments section and respond to important customer reviews.

Source: Buffer

The Endowment Effect

This emotional bias means that when people have a feeling of ownership over something, they tend to assign a greater value to it, regardless of its objective value or worth. Not only this, but people identify and define themselves and others intensely with brands and logos. Think clothes, restaurants, the logo on your phone or laptop.

But how can you use this to your advantage?

As a marketer or influencer, you can present original content of clients finding value in and identifying with your brand, and help existing clients increase their ownership in your brand through feedback and suggestions, involvement in social media, and present free giveaways to create that feeling of genuine value in your product/service.

Social Influence

Most people wouldn’t buy something from someone they don’t trust, and your demographic is no different. A study on what kind of message encourages people to act and save electricity shows that out of the four messages sent:

  1. You can save $54 this month
  2. You can save the planet
  3. You can be a good citizen
  4. Your neighbours are doing better than you

The last one encouraged a 2 percent reduction in household energy usage. This is an example of social proof, where through user-generated content (UGC) and exemplifying positive reviews, you show potential customers that others are already super satisfied with you.

According to Alex Laskey:

If something is inconvenient, even if we believe it, persuasion won’t work. But social pressure? That’s powerful stuff.

You don’t have to be a Freudian psychologist to understand how to use social media to your advantage, really. As long as you can portray your authenticity through the content you put up and relate to target demographics, there’s nothing to be a-freud of.

Originally published on and written for Digital Odyssey.



A. Sharma

A Generation Z kid studying sociology and searching for the Fortress of Solitude.