• Priyanka Tamuley

5 Neuromarketing Cues in Social Media Marketing You Never Noticed

Updated: Oct 22, 2020




The recent hustle about social media platforms being responsible for affecting the mental health of its users is doing the rounds. Facebook, in its pilot project in Australia, has confirmed that it has removed one of its most engaging features (/KPIs) - the number of 'likes' - in order to facilitate a step towards ensuring the betterment of the mental health of its users.

But did you know, on the contrary, social media has always been a goldmine when you look for hidden psychological cues that are sometimes deliberately subliminally placed in specific user touchpoints to enhance the performance of user engagement?

How about we streamline and utilise these cues for providing the users the best user/customer experience?


Enters here, the concept of Neuromarketing...

Neuromarketing, as a concept, has been around for a few years but still, today very negligible number of marketers actually apply the neuroscience concepts and notions in order to determine a better understanding of its consumer’s needs and behavioural patterns. As the name suggests, neuromarketing implies using neuroscience concepts and notions in marketing - market researchers observe brain activities of the consumers about how they respond to a particular marketing message - in terms of motivation, preference, decision criteria, and process. The effective marketing strategy can be based on the researched results based on neuroscience - such as creating advertisements, product development or pricing strategy.

Neuromarketing is a winner when it comes to filling up the deficiencies of traditional marketing methods which can be mainly the gap in ‘action’ and the actual ‘buying’ due to consumer cognitive biases. The main goal of digital (content) marketing is to understand the needs of the customer and disseminate content accordingly - here we can signify the value of neuromarketing in digital marketing. As we see today, more and more marketers are using neuroscience marketing in digital marketing consumer research - for example, in social media AB testing is usually applied when it comes to using the strategy from neuroscience.

Let us now go through a few critical neuromarketing concepts which are embedded in the very business model of social media, performance metrics used by brands for social media marketing and combating the ethical issues that may arise out of these.



1.   Scope for Social Validation

An element of neuroscience, the concept of seeking approval and validation of an action by a social being has now been highly facilitated by social media platforms. For example, the particular trait of sharing a picture of visiting a very hyped destination in a specific season on social media depicts the self-preservation motive of the user. This can be translated into the achievement of the brand engagement objective in social media. For instance, giving scope for the audience of the brand to engage in the brand through contests – “share a selfie with best Brand XYZ filter in the most creative way. The most liked and shared selfie is the winner and gets featured on our page.” It has been observed that social media engagement metrics like a number of likes, comments and shares peak up for such content due to the idea of co-creation of content. Influencer marketing (or testimonials), the buzz marketing trend that we know today ties back to the concept of social fame among a like-minded community – here comes the ultimate conversion goal that marketers have which is sales – brands encouraging the people to buy a particular product for them to be featured as a blogger, ‘style icon’ or an influencer. Studies state that assessment of other users increases the Click Through Rates of such posts - increasing sales by 20%.


But the critical issue here is the issue of ethics- whether brands should play on this psychological factor

As it has been studied that people are being self -obsessed and gradually developing a separate and unique virtual self of themselves- hiding their true selves – leading to social disorders like anxiety and depression.

 The challenge for the marketers is to constantly create responsible curated content by keeping a check on the content throughput and content production time and the section of audiences for the sole purpose of harmless engagement towards the brand.



Picture and post of an instagram fashion influencer
Picture and post of an instagram fashion influencer

2.   Emotional Connect

It has been proved that audiences tend to connect more with a brand when the brand creates a communication message with an emotional element. Herein, let us discuss some concepts related to this neuroscience element that can be implemented in digital marketing for social media and can be measurable.


-    Storytelling

Storytelling is nowadays quite a popular tool that brands use especially for the objective of reach and engagement of audiences on social media platforms. The main goal here is to stimulate the senses that activate the ‘pleasure centres’ of the brain through the brand communication content.

Most brands nowadays tend to humanize the brand by personifying the brand personality and communication through a unique voice of the brand

So that the audience subconsciously gets attached to the personality of the brand – which ultimately helps in top-of-mind recall when there is a possibility of purchase. For example, brands like Dove are more on the way of communicating a cause for women empowerment – viewers can recall Dove now as a strong, vocal and bold brand personality. The virality of the storyteller posts through end metrics like a high number of shares, mentions (what is being mentioned) and an upsurge in the number of followers can determine how effective the storytelling element of the content is.



Dove's social media post on girl empowerment
Dove's social media post on girl empowerment


Image source: http://bit.ly/2JXMfST

-    Reducing pain points

Reducing pain points is now being first prioritized over providing pleasures. Studies state that the brain’s response is 3 times stronger when it is addressing pain than seeking pleasure. Here marketers thinking of content strategy on social media should first understand the pain points of its buyer persona – to build an emotional connection by making it more relatable for the audiences – and then aim to provide solutions through the brand. In this case, marketers will not only fulfil the objective of engagement but also has a chance of positive advocacy (retention) for the brand. An example of social media content articles like the one illustrated from Search Engine Journal addresses pain points during a website migration. A new emerging metric to calculate the impact of emotional communication on social media is Return on Emotion which encompasses values from online interviews, ORM monitoring, emotion on comments and advocacy by referrals.


A blog post by Search Engine Journal to address pain points
A blog post by Search Engine Journal to address pain points


Image source: https://www.facebook.com/SearchEngineJournal/?epa=SEARCH_BOX

-   The Reciprocity Principle

The Reciprocity Principle (or giving before you get) is the simple human neuroscience notion of giving back something out of empathy when one gains something from the other party.

In fact, this principle can be said to be the core base of inbound marketing.

Providing audiences with some quality information or maybe some sudden unexpected discounts will increase the attachment of the user towards the brand and there will also be a subliminal effect of obligation – the user feels it is his duty to provide something in return to the brand – in this case, the conversion (purchase, subscription, email id, etc.) It has been found out that number of users who give click the Call to Action when given content first is two times more than those who convert without content. Brands like Spotify gives a free trial for its first time customers with the anticipation that the customers will stay back for the paid subscription This fulfils the objective of retention for a brand which can be measured through advocacy rates on social media like mentions, the share of voice and Net Promoter Score.



A screenshot of the end of a blog post by Social Media Today asking for email IDs in order to provide valuable newsletter
A screenshot of the end of a blog post by Social Media Today asking for email IDs in order to provide valuable newsletter

Image source: https://www.socialmediatoday.com/

The critical issue here is to understand whether the content on social media is performing due to the emotional connect suggested by neuromarketing or is it just some other factors. Also triggering the emotional stimuli of each audience and triggering the same emotion is a big question. The solution here is to conduct extensive market research to understand the average behavioral patterns of the online audiences for the particular brand.

3.   The Concept of ‘Urgency’

This concept can be directly correlated with advertising on social media. The concept of ‘immediacy’ refers to the creation of a situation of scarcity which induces the person exposed to the urgency to take immediate action. In the case of social media advertising, words like ‘limited offer’ ‘offer valid till’, ‘offer ending on’, ‘hurry now’ and the use of the colour red creates a situation for quick purchasing behaviour. In order to support this situational stimulus, anchoring, another philosophy of neuromarketing, can also be a great tool for digital marketers. Anchoring is the first piece of information that is provided to the audiences by the marketers to remove their already existing bias/anchors regarding a brand or a product. By giving the audiences a base/anchor, the marketer is already having an upper hand. The objective here is the pure conversion through sales and can be measured. An example of the convergence of both cases can be a product is compared with its old model and showing it as a limited offer.

The main objective here is the pure conversion through sales and can be measured with metrics like Click through rates, the volume of conversions, click-to-open rate, transaction-to-click rate, lead conversion rate, website traffic (from social media).

The critical issue here is to understand whether these principles of neuromarketing are actually effective. Another issue is that of ethically using such tools.


The recent controversy that Booking.com is misleading people with the message of '1 room left' is a good example of misusing the concept of urgency.

Marketers should develop a sense of responsibility to know where to draw the line when using anchoring and urgency as a tool.



Buy Now written in bold and red to depict urgency
Buy Now written in bold and red to depict urgency


4.Design             

Neuromarketing plays an important role in advertisements, presentation of models or products attribute for different marketing objective either for building awareness, engagement or sales. There are several useful techniques:

              -Using the right color can significantly increase brand recognition. For instance, applying a red button with the text “Buy now” to attract the attention and creating urgency to stimulate purchasing or using the green color pattern on the website of bioproducts to align with brand personality.


-Text fonts also affect online marketing, marketers use complex fonts to attract audience attention and make it memorable as a result of research found that the more difficult for the brain to process, the more concentrated and deeper process. However, in order to trigger actions, marketers use simple fonts to make it easy for target audiences to read and understand the content which later encourages actions, for instance, filling subscription form.



An image depicting heatmap on a webpage based on the colour schemes
An image depicting heatmap on a webpage based on the colour schemes

Image source: https://www.jeffbullas.com/examples-of-neuromarketing/

             -Text layout affects the level of content visibility by placing the highlighted message in the right place. For the advertisement that includes the picture of a human, audiences will look in the same direction as that of the person (in the ad), thus the brand can put important text there for better communication and response such as gaining more clicks by using “Click here to discover our product”.

-Images represent the mood of customers, using positive mood image in online media as a person with a smile can boost positive mood to customers which they are likely to purchase more than normal advertisements without human or un smile human.  

For measurement performances, brands are using several metrics regarding the purpose of publishing. For reach, brands can compare social media metrics like the number of followers or social mention to similar online advertisements without applying those design of themselves or benchmark with the market by using Share of Voice. For engagement, brands can simply look at comments and shares or in case placing a hyperlink in the direction that a human in the picture looks at, brands can simply measure by CTR. For conversion, brands can look at direct indicators like sale volumes or form filling rate and compare to other campaigns of themselves as well.

5. Visual Content

83% of marketers are convinced that video is becoming more important.

With the rise of the very popular video content creation and engagement application TikTok, video content is here to stay. According to a study 'The State of Video Marketing' by the Demand Metric, 83% of marketers are convinced that video is becoming more important. Besides better appeal, infographics or videos advertisement increase better perceptions for audiences as the content itself reflects characteristics of the brand and makes the brand become more humanized. Audiences emotionally connect themselves with the brand with a feeling towards the brand which makes visual contents very effective. For example, the series of Nespresso ads always conveys a single essence of the brand that it is a niche, stylish and classy - connecting with a similar type of people.

To measure the performance of visual content, brands can measure engagement by looking at the volume of Video Watch Time meaning that completed watching videos volume, Average Completion Rate or Average View Duration in order to know how attractive their content is, brands can compare other types of their own advertisements or compare to the same type but different theme of content to know which theme audience more preferred. Besides, brands can also measure Video Audience Retention Rate or Peak Live Viewers, the highest number of viewers watching the video at the same time, to monitor whether they have produced the right content as the constant or increased numbers represent positive performance while decreasing of the figure illustrates irrelevant content production which needed improvement. Moreover, regarding high production cost compared to other types of advertisement, brands should consider KPI related to cost such as Cost of Content Production or Distribution Cost of Content by comparing others KPIs like number of volume of viewers who complete the video, average view duration or a KPI for a specific purpose like CTR.

With easy content creation platforms, individuals are being able to make videos even without giving it a second thought about their reputation. Arecent styling video by a boy backlashed for him as he was turned into a meme and became a victim of trolls and cyberbullying. Content moderation is the necessity of the hour at this point.


The Future as We See It

It can be definitely stated that neuromarketing is here to stay and grow rapidly.

An official from Nielsen Consumer Research states that research organizations now are coming up with more sophisticated measurement tools and methodologies. Data processing from brain activities still faces some hindrances and scientists are developing noise reduction technologies of transferring, processing and interpreting data into insights to be produced for communication processes. It is said that neuromarketing will become a mainstream service with features like automation facilitating the total understanding of the consumer - conscious, unconscious and subconscious state of the consumer. Tying neuroscience attributes to each component of the purchase path is going to be a common phenomenon - creating an impact on the ‘outcome measures’. There are serious ethical concerns regarding neuromarketing as it might be seen as a highly manipulative way of luring customers towards a brand. But if used ethically neuromarketing can actually help users enjoy a

good online experience. Marketers are quite optimistic about the response of the consumers regarding neuroscience - for example being specific targeting and relevant and quality content. Nevertheless, it can be definitely stated that neuromarketing is here to stay and grow rapidly.




This article is an academic article written by Priyanka Tamuley and Chonthicha Samakkan

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