5 Social Psychology Principles That Help You in Content Marketing

Psychology is everywhere, but it doesn't always work like you would think. And one of the most common misconceptions is about change. While we may think we change over time, the reality is that we don’t really change very much at all. So the same basic social psychology principles that applied 100 years ago apply equally today. And you can use these social psychological principles to improve your content marketing.

Whatever you create, some simple psychological principles can help you better target and serve your audience's needs, and convert them to customers. And after all, that’s what content marketing is all about. So here are 5 simple principles to help you convert your customers.

1. Well, everybody thinks that...

One of our basic needs is to belong – for instance a group of people who share some of our ideas and thoughts about life. Once we are members, we may change our opinion or even behaviour depending on what others think or do to remain in the group.

Social proof or conformity makes our life easier as it allows us a cognitive shortcut. We assume that others know more about the situation than we do, so we follow their actions, even if it makes no sense, like Solomon Asch revealed in his experiment in 1951.

Which means that the opinion of others, especially others in the same group as your target audience, is vital. So make what others think about your business front and center. Use reviews, testimonials, focus on the uniqueness of your brand and the positive experiences of the clients you worked with. Featured in press or worked with great brands? Use the logos or link to the relevant magazines. In other words, show off what you’ve got!

2. If they say so

While we're talking about the opinions of others, it's vital to use authority figures and thought leaders in your content.

According to the results of the famous experiment of Stanley Milgram in 1963, 65% of the participants did what authority figures told them to do. And this is very useful in content.

We tend to follow people who have power, expertise or influence thinking that they can’t be so wrong when choosing a particular product. As a result, we more likely choose those brands, too.

So use quotes from experts, link to them in social media, and piggyback on the fact they already have a following of people who listen to them. That can then rub off on you.

3. Returning that favour

Let's say there's an incredible conference coming up. All the most inspiring people from your field will be there. Of course, you want to be there too. The very next day, your colleague hands you a ticket he got through a friend, knowing how much you wanted to go and how great it could be for your career. He doesn’t accept anything in exchange, of course. But you feel you need to give something back. To reciprocate. Not doing so may lead to social disapproval or the feeling of guilt.

When we get something for free, we feel indebted. Giving away well designed wallpapers for smartphones every month for free? Putting a lot of energy into creating a pdf guide available on your website, gratis? There you go!

The best way to give this is to give people the information they're looking for immediately. Don't talk around the topic so you can save the big reveal until later, just give them what they want right at the beginning. If it gives them value, they will read on and they will subscribe, giving you a warm lead rather than a cold one.

4. Want to know more?

If we experience a gap between what we think we know and what we would like to know, there is a strong emotional response, a desire to find out more. This is the main idea of George Loewenstein’s information-gap theory.

What does it mean in content creation? Raise questions or give attention grabbing headlines. By creating a “mental itch”, curiosity appears, which allows us to lead the customer through our journey, providing more and more details. Pleasing their wish to fill the gap, at the end they are hooked up by this rewarding feeling, ready to convert.

fear of missing out illustration


5. Something important happened? And I missed it…?

Fear of missing out is the little sibling of information-gap theory and their mother is curiosity.

If you find yourself online all the time, endlessly scrolling through Facebook and Twitter, that's Fear of Missing Out. Do you wait for a live session on Instagram, checking every single minute? These might be the signs of this social angst. We don’t want to miss out on anything significant, we want to stay connected with others, be up-to-date and check every platform regularly.

“Don’t miss out” – by clearly vocalizing it, you get the feeling of scarcity. The concept of scarcity is hardly a new one in copywriting, especially Direct Response Copywriting, but it has its roots in the fear of missing out.

A study of Eventbrite reveals that experiences start to beat real things – especially among millenials. Even if we have a physical product, it’s worth setting up an event when the launching date is coming closer, or when a new product line is about to enter the online store. Giving the feeling of an experience doesn’t mean that it should be live. It can be a Facebook event or a live session involving your audience as a group. Being together with others and waiting for something that's about to happen is much more enjoyable than doing so alone.

Take Away

Although every business and strategy is different, they all target people with thoughts, feelings and cognitive shortcuts. Most of them behave according to the basic social psychology principles above.

Keeping these key principles in mind can help you better understand how to influence your audience’s behaviour and encourage them to takeaction.

Let us know which principles you find the most useful in the comments below.