Back when MySpace was the go-to social media site and Facebook was still in its early years, many questioned if social media was a trend with staying power. Fast forward a few decades and there are billions of daily users across too many social platforms to count. Despite multiple studies linking social media to depression, anxiety and low self-esteem, we still use it â€“ but why? Our brain chemistry may hold the answer. While your average influencer isn’t a neurological scientist, you don’t have to be to an expert to use what we know about our brains to up your social media game.
We’re all, â€˜like’, addicted
When it comes to social media, we can get hooked through one of the same addictive processes triggered by drugs and alcohol: dopamine released in your brain’s “reward centre”. It may sound a little far-fetched, but it makes sense when you know what happens in the brain when we log on. When the average person posts on a social platform, they almost instantaneously start receiving notifications about reactions, comments or shares. These notifications act as a reward, triggering dopamine release within the brain.
Back in primal times, early homo sapiens realised that when they worked as a co-operative group, they were more likely to survive. From pooling resources to sharing body heat, we survive better together. As a result of these historical conditions, our brains are now hard-wired to reward us with a hit of dopamine every time we do something which previously increased our chances of survival.
This rewards-based mechanism is ideal for habit forming, as it encourages us to repeat this behaviour time and again. Unfortunately, today’s world is very different to what it was when our brains were evolving, and now this primal urge has taught us to reach for the cookie jar time and again. The tendency to want to avoid being cast out of the proverbial tribe leads us to do some very strange things indeed. From keeping up with fashion trends to broadcasting personal achievements across the furthest reaches of the internet, it is apparent that old habits really do die hard.
Why dopamine is the social queen
Nowadays, the need to remain part of the tribe has us reaching for the post button. For businesses, this means that developing your social media strategy to increase the likelihood of a dopamine hit for your followers can make you king of the influencer castle.
Talk with me
Social media is progressively becoming a platform for conversation rather than self-promotion. By encouraging comments from social media followers and individually replying to each of them, you can get the dopamine flowing. Another option is setting up a poll for followers to vote on, this encourages interaction without forcing you to spend hours responding to keyboard warriors.
We’ve all felt a sense of fulfilment when we’ve stumbled upon a meme or opinion article that seems to just â€˜get’ us. Feeling understood doesn’t just make someone feel special, but also increases the chance of dopamine being released. Truly understanding your customer goes beyond just understanding their buying habits â€“ they are far more likely to connect with your brand if you deliver content which understands them on a deeper level.
Make me laugh
This one is universally understood â€“ we know that laughter makes us feel good. If it’s appropriate for your brand’s tone, be sure to include humour in social media posts. Whether it’s wit, sarcasm, puns or dad jokes, giving your customer a laugh will go a long way in winning them over.
Let’s play tag
Be sure to post content that prompts your followers to tag their friends, as this bonding over â€˜inside jokes’ leads to the release of dopamine. Whether it’s a meme about always running late or a vine of someone getting pranked, tagging a friend in a ridiculous post is quickly becoming one of the most popular social media interactions fuelled by dopamine.
Tit for tat
Why is it that when you follow someone on Instagram, they tend to follow you back? Once again, we can thank dopamine for this – our brain is telling us to connect with others. If you’re looking to increase your number of social media followers, you can capitalise on this by following people that you’d like to follow you. Before long, you’ll be experiencing a bit of what goes around comes around.
All in all, it’s hard to know if social media is making us better or sending us, â€˜like’, crazy. Regardless, it’s clear that social media in one form or another will be around for the long haul. Businesses should be adapting to this new way to connect with customers â€“ as they say, evolve or die. Start now and get that dopamine flowing by liking, commenting or sharing to let us know your thoughts!