From the youngest of age, emotions are an integral part of our lives. Even though they are not easily described, or even understood, we experience an enormous variety of emotions in different situations. Our earliest emotional response is fairly basic and is triggered mostly by nonverbal communication, such as a mother’s smile. As we get older, capable of complex rational thinking, we get a grasp of the complexity of emotions. However, they still influence our decisions and behavior. Gut feeling is a mechanism that we, albeit being rational, remain to use to determine the course of our actions. New studies suggest that we are capable of experiencing only four “basic” emotions: happiness, sadness, fear/surprise, and anger/disgust. The remaining palette of emotions is derived from us being able to combine various emotions.
Given the complexity of our emotional states, it is no wonder that emotions influence almost all aspects of our everyday life, including consumer habits and behavior. Studies have repeatedly shown that people rely on emotions, rather than information, to make brand decisions. This is why marketing, especially advertising, focuses on emotional appeal. Emotional responses are what influences one’s intent to buy, rather than evidence, although it can be argued that emotions are derived from evidence that an individual finds relevant in their consumer wants and needs. Since our consumer habits have transferred over to social media, it’s impossible to ignore how emotions influence our behavior on them.
As a large-scale experiment from 2014 has shown, emotional states can easily be transferred via emotional contagion over social networks. Since Facebook’s algorithm filters what people can see on their news feed, based on reception and preferences, the study has shown that social media activity is greatly influenced by the emotional quality and directions of the content the people are exposed to. In other words, people tend to produce less amounts of positive content when positive expressions are reduced and vice versa. This is important for digital marketers as it clearly shows that, to drive desired behavior related to brands, certain emotions have to be emphasized throughout the communication process, and, since human emotions are fairly complex, to drive the desired behavior, the tone often has to be adjusted and that is often more challenging than it sounds. For example – if your brand, for some reason, appeals to the fear of rejection, the tone of social media content has to produce emotional contagion in order to achieve desired results. Although various metrics reports are what determines if certain social media marketing campaigns are successful or not, it is emotional contagion, among others, that influences their behavioral patterns.
As an analysis of the IPA dataBANK has shown, campaigns with purely emotional content performed about twice as well (31% vs. 16%) as those with purely rational content. Facebook has publicly displayed just how important emotions are in February 2016 when a set of emotional responses were added to the well known “thumbs up” response. This has enabled users to interact with the content more deeply, making them more likely to interact with the content as this gives them a variety of emotional responses, which is a great thing for both Facebook and marketers as the thumbs up reaction was extremely limited when it comes to the emotional complexity of content being found on Facebook.
But, not all emotions are equal, especially when it comes to social networks, such as Facebook. A new study from Fanpage Karma shows how different emotions trigger different reactions from fans. The dominant emotion based on reactions per post is joy. In this case, likes are the dominant way of expression. Posts that trigger fear do have the highest percentage of shares of all emotions. Posts that make the fans angry do get commented. Sadness makes the last place when it comes to reactions. All in all, joy and happiness will create healthy long-lasting relation with the relevant public.
If you get to know your prospects, their needs, and emotions, you can choose the right emotional appeal, that will help them engage with your content and relate to your brand. Emotional intelligence plays an important role here. The capacity for understanding our own feelings and those of others can help us respond to the behavior, style of communication and actions of others. As mentioned above, positive emotions connect people and can bring change. It is important to bring positive value to the audience and try to fulfill their intrinsic needs. Of course, there are some psychological „hacks“ that can be used, such as „playing“ with fear, or narrowing down the options and telling people what to do, but people like „healthy“ emotions. Friendly relation and honest keen understanding of emotions that people want and like to feel are the right way of using emotions, without tricks.