Social media is one of the most effective marketing channels for any company. Why? Most experts explain away the phenomenon with the how, not the why: “Social is an excellent venue for content sharing and a useful tool for subscribing to news of your favorite brands.” While that is true, it only scrapes the surface. There must be a better answer, and I’ve found it.

Social media is unlike any other marketing channel because it requires the customer to reach out to the brand before the brand reaches out to the customer with a message that leads to customer action. Normally, it works the other way around, but why is it so effective when the roles are reversed? The explanation boils down to a basic rule about relationships between people.

People don’t like to throw away relationships that they have worked to nurture.

A simple trick for making connections is that you should, at some point, ask the other person for a favor if you want them to really care about you. A person who takes the time and energy to do something for another person is learning to genuinely care for that person — whether or not this is the desired side effect.

In other words, people try to not forget relationships that they’ve gone out of the way to develop, and they don’t want to abandon people who they’ve learned to care about. As a result, if you want someone to care about you, ask for a favor. In this case, ask for a “like”.

When users “like” your business page or share your company’s content, they are — in a very fundamental way — doing your brand a favor. The customer may not spend a single thought on the mental consequences of this behavior, and it may not seem like a big deal to him or her. But the psychological effect is critical and real, and the research suggests the same.

This social media-based relationship between a brand and a customer isn’t as strong as the connection between two real people, but it is much stronger than the relationship a customer forms with a brand through TV, print or Web ads. By allowing the customer to reach out to the brand first, the brand builds a much stronger and longer-lasting connection with the customer.

The effectiveness of social media marketing is also explained by these additional reasons, which are also important.

  • By allowing the customer to reach out to your brand first, you are allowing the customer to invite your brand into their own private world. Traditional advertising, on the other hand, assumes that the customer wants to interact with the brand, or it tries to convince the customer that he or she wants to interact with the brand. It tells the user what he wants, which is unattractive in many situations.
  • Social media also enables brands to understand their target audiences better than any other platform so brands can adjust their campaigns to be more attractive. Social media also allows for the development of low-cost campaigns that target niche audiences or subcategories of their own audience. It’s much easier to serve subcategories of your audience with relevant content than it is to serve your entire audience with the same general content.

Fausto Mendez is a marketing manager for AnyPromo and the editor of The Bizz, the marketing and business blog for the wireless generation. He often analyzes and dissects marketing trends and successful campaigns to understand the core motives of human behavior.

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3 Responses to “The secret psychology of effective social media relationships”

  1. Christian says:

    How would you get people to reach out to the brand, to invite the brand into their personal space, without telling people about the brand?

  2. Margaux says:

    Nice blog!