Three uncomfortable truths of social media, and what they mean to businesses

Posted on August 6, 2015

 

At times, social media can be hard to love, and it’s particularly cool to dislike Facebook. It’s loud and boisterous, and constantly reminds us of how annoying and boring many of our friends are, but can we do without it? Could you go back to the days of remembering birthdays, arranging a night out through a series of texts and phone calls, and not realising your friends had had children until you saw them pushing a pram through the park?

Interestingly, while liking Facebook might be unfashionable, ‘liking’ it doesn’t seem to be. At the time of writing, more than 164 million people ‘like’ Facebook’s Facebook page. As well as highlighting the ongoing popularity of Mark Zuckerberg’s social media site, it perhaps also illustrates how readily people will interact with anything on social media, even if there’s no reason to do so. I mean, what exactly are people gaining from ‘liking’ Facebook on Facebook? It seems a bit like holding a sign saying “I Like Signs”.

Perhaps there are some mysterious forces at work in social media, so it’s no surprise that some detailed studies have been conducted about the phenomenon. The findings of them often make for unsettling reading, so let’s look at what businesses can learn from the following revelations:

1 – We’re obsessed with ourselves

It’s undeniably true, I’m afraid. Go back through your posts and tweets and count how many of them include words like ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘my’. You might start thinking you’re a complete narcissist, but if you look at your news feed and what your friends are saying, you’ll probably find you’re in good company.

According to a 2012 American paper titled Disclosing information about the self is intrinsically rewarding, as much as 40% of the speech we engage in every day is simply telling other people about our own experiences and relationships, as in “I watched a film last night”, “I’m going to the pub later” and “I have a new girlfriend”.  On social media, this is even higher, with the study noting that more than four out of five posts are about our own immediate experiences.

In fact, the study goes on to suggest that talking or posting about ourselves engages a certain part of our brain – a part that also responds excitedly to food, money and even sexual arousal.

Obviously, most businesses don’t want to get their customers quite that excited, but it’s worth remembering that people prefer to talk about themselves rather than someone else. So, when using social media for your business, don’t just talk about your business. Share content that means something to your followers, and invite them to get involved. We find that questions often work well.

2 – Social media can sway our decision making

Social platforms have also exposed humans as wishy-washy, easily-led individuals who can’t make their minds up.

Do you feel envious of that friend who always seems to be on holiday and posting and tweeting about it? You might also be being persuaded. Earlier this year, Social Media Link revealed that more than half of us have had a rethink of our accommodation plans as a result of social media posts, and just under half have changed our plans on what we do when we get to our destination, all as a result of the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

This indecisiveness is surely good news for anyone in the travel or leisure industries, who may be able to influence decisions in their favour by using social media shrewdly. Don’t forget, a picture can tell a thousand words, and images tend to be liked by Facebook and Twitter anyway. An idyllic beach scene or a lively bar setting could be all that’s needed to help someone settle on their evening or summer plans.

3 – We’re sad without social media

Earlier this week, I wrote on the Engage Web blog about how people will often share anything, perhaps not realising what they’re truly broadcasting. Why do they do this?

Last year, the University of Queensland published a study in which social media users were split into two groups: those who kept on posting, liking and sharing, and those who simply read social media content without interacting with it. It’s maybe little surprise that members of the second group began to feel lonely, ostracised and low on self-esteem.

This is why it works well for businesses to not only post and tweet themselves, but also read and respond to what their followers are saying. After all, this is what we do in real life, isn’t it? We might even butt into somebody else’s conversation if we have something valid to say, although always in a polite British “I couldn’t help overhearing” kind of way. It’s how conversation works, and why should it be any different online?

So, ultimately, are these uncomfortable truths or are they just human characteristics coming through in a modern medium? As social media advances and businesses find new and innovative ways to use it, perhaps we’ll find out more and more about ourselves?

John Murray

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.

Like us on Facebook to see more posts like this

You might also be interested in:

1 Comment »

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Have your say!

Call Now Button

We have worked with:

minute-man-press-image
TEL: 0345 621 4321