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Once upon a time, there was a complex blob of neurons called the brain. It was a good brain, an active brain, but when the web exposed it to untold gigabytes of data and screen-based communication… Boom, the brain’s activity mushroomed at unprecedented rates.

Neuroscientists say the 2000s witnessed more understanding of how the brain works than in all of history combined.

Knowing how the brain responds to multi-platform messaging is key to unlocking social media marketing success.

How do we, social media’s guinea pigs, filter through a world’s worth of information, especially when it’s free and available in an instant?

Time and time again, we prioritize that which:

  • Acknowledges us as the emotion-driven, meaning-seeking creatures we are
  • Makes us feel good
  • Appears to be easiest

Did you know the root of all human behavior is based on either dodging pain or grasping at pleasure? With this in mind, boost online communications with these social media feel-good brain triggers.

1. Brain Gain

When it comes to gaining knowledge, our brains can’t get enough. Studies show that the brain has an instant feedback mechanism that sweetens the kitty when we solve problems and learn something new, which makes brain-gain habitual. Hook potential customers in with brand-related teasers:

  • Puzzles
  • Word games
  • Anagrams

Teasers not only get our brains’ synapses firing, they are also great attention-getters.

2. Inspire Curiosity

Want your readers to share your killer content? Open that email? Read your blog?

  • Tell them not to
  • Tempt them with a tidbit
  • Ask them a topical question that leads to the only answer: your product

Inspiring curiosity lights up the pleasure centers of our brains. Carnegie Mellon professor George Loewenstein’s Information Gap Theory illustrates this fact perfectly. When we experience a “gap” between the known and the unknown, our brains tend to fill it, like yours just did.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it inspires action in wetware.

3. Tell Me Why

Our brains are always searching for answers, even when there aren’t any. Content that simply and candidly explains “the why” makes us feel good. Because humans need-to-know, when you give us a reason, we feel like we matter and respond positively, even when the reason given is arbitrary.

Consider psychologist Ellen Langer’s now famous Xerox experiment in which people waited in line for the photocopier. When a researcher asked to cut in line, an astounding 93 percent said yes because they were given the reason, “Because I have to make copies,” as opposed to only 60 percent who were told, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”

If you tell us why, we’ll be more likely to stay on your site and revisit it.

4. Good News Travels Faster

In traditional media, good news is no news. But social media has generated new rules of engagement. Neuroscientists and psychologists are finding that online readers share positive, feel-good posts over tales of destruction and woe, and that includes the sharing of customer service experiences.

The same finding applies to online video. When senior research associate Karen Nelson-Field of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing studied video sharing habits, she found that a strong positive reaction is 30 percent more likely to get a share than negative responses like anger or shock.

Of special note to marketers: posts that exhilarate also make viewers better remember your brand.

5. Something New

That new car smell. A new puppy. The latest iPhone. Studies show that when you expose us to something new, our brains reward us with a booster shot of the feel-good chemical dopamine. It’s no wonder we seek out novelty. Even the word new motivates us and tickles us pink. So can newfangled uses of colors, images and words.

Our brains were built to consume originality, and that includes chomping down on innovative content. Since the web is the be-all-end-all of cutting-edge information and material goods, with every reboot and click come the hope of some new treasure and/or creative thought.

6. Intuitive Lists

We do love our lists. Our brains were built to categorize, so an article-as-numbered list feels intuitive and thoughtful. Who doesn’t love feeling as though someone has done all the prep work of reducing chunky paragraphs? Orderly, clean-lined, and finite numbered or bulleted lists:

  • Stand out for their simplicity
  • Tell us right at the front door how long we have to commit before receiving another pleasurable feeling – the one that partners with a completion
  • Are easy-breezy

Because our brains process information spatially, when we come upon a list we appreciate the break in our visual field. We know that sorting out data will come more easily, and that hits an emotional sweet spot.

7. Tell Tales

Stories are in a class of triggers all their own. They activate the subconscious, emotional area of the brain, which is where we decide to buy or not to buy.

Because stories stimulate areas in our brains that are connected with our senses, they have the magical quality of creating bodily responses, as if what we read is happening in real time.

Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman, who wrote “How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market,” says the subconscious brain is where 95 percent of cognition occurs. So by all means, move us by telling a riveting buzzworthy story that motivates the desired action.

8. Action Words

Discover. Explore. Share. Join. Find. Our brains assign importance to action words. What does it do with the passive ones? It tends to filter them out.

Passive words sit static on screens, but words that convey activity, movement and emotion titillate our brains, and are much more likely to engage and call us to action. So, wield action words and wield ‘em well.

Bonus Tip – Branding Video

Don’t forget to brand your video well. Nelson-Field’s study also showed that when comparing the average social video to a 30-second TV ad, social videos had significantly less branding, about a third.

As long as your video makes an emotional impact, branding won’t get in the way of sharing, even if it’s overt.


Instant access and exposure to online information and connections are in a boom time. Studies on the brain are also experiencing a surge. Master the art of social media marketing by incorporating these scientific brain triggers that are guaranteed to increase:

  • Predictability
  • Engagement
  • Sharing
  • Click-through rates

Are you getting that feel-good sense of completion? Are you now off to a new site? Of course you are, because you know online brain-gain is free and immediate, and always just a click away.

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 Posted on : February 28, 2015

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