Part 3 Introduction: If you’re in marketing, chances are your work has touched the massive realm of social media, and anyone who’s worked with social media knows how difficult it is to be heard in such a noisy environment.

Our third and final section of The Social Brain Series explains exactly why neuromarketing tactics go hand-in-hand with social media platforms.

You’ll learn about how to humanize your brand, make a stronger neurological and psychological impact on your consumers, and ultimately be more successful in motivating behavior that will make a positive impact on your business’ bottom line.



The Social Media Take-Over

Digital advertising has the potential for substantial impact, despite naysayers. With the rise of social media platforms comes the opportunity for advertisers to create more captivating and engaging content, tapping into our inherently social brains while they do what they do best—being social!

Social media platforms in particular have the potential to be powerful tools for advertisers. According to Pew, in 2005, just five percent of American adults used social media, but by late 2016, that had increased to nearly 69 percent of the broader American public and 77 percent of all online American adults[1]. Today, 86 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 29 use at least one social media platform compared to 64 percent of people between the ages of 50 and 64—and the generational gap continues to close. Over half of adults in the US use Facebook, whereas over a quarter use Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn or Twitter. Conservative estimates indicate that the average user spends nearly 50 minutes daily on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger (all Facebook owned platforms), which is an enormous amount of time. Social media has gone from being a mere novelty to an important facet of everyday life for a majority of people in less than a quarter-century.

Social Media Engrosses Our Social Brains

Many will note an inherently engaging quality in social media that has contributed to its rapid ascension. One study completed by University of Chicago Booth School researchers found that to the active user, social media can be as hard to resist as cigarettes[2], claiming that “desires for media may be comparatively harder to resist because of their high availability and also because… it does not 'cost much' to engage in these activities.” Social media is both highly available and highly engaging.

Research has also shown that our brains process virtual communication similarly to direct interpersonal engagement. For example, recent studies suggest that even short sessions of social media use can influence blood levels of neurotransmitters and neuropeptides. Tweeting and using Twitter alone has been shown to increase oxytocin levels by up to 14 percent and decrease levels of the stress hormones cortisol and ACTH by around 10 percent[3].

Apart from the soothing aspects of social media use, it also engages many of our innate social faculties. While scrolling through newsfeeds, a sort of competition is taking place for the attention of the viewer, who seeks content that is personally relevant, novel, and aesthetically and ideologically agreeable. In some ways, people seek the same qualities in social media content as they do in people—opting for the more interesting, relatable and aesthetically attractive[4]. Not only is content with these qualities more likely to gain a viewer’s attention, it’s also more likely to produce greater neurological activation and thus, greater impact.

Using Social Media to Its Fullest Potential

Given the way in which social media engages users, and the profound socioemotional effects it can have on individuals, there is great opportunity to apply social-psychological insights to social-media-based advertising campaigns. Simple branding efforts may not be enough in the social media marketplace to garner attention and interest.

Social media use can also stir a physiological emotional response similar to that observed for PSAs, indicating that emotionality should also be used in social media advertising for greater impact and memorability. Video may be especially useful in this regard. In addition, social media campaigns should be designed to maximize engagement with users because the capacity for engagement is often lacking in other advertising mediums. The conversations with brands that are possible on social media can humanize and familiarize otherwise abstract entities, leaving a greater neurological and psychological footprint. A mere brand logo isn’t enough; use stories, provide meaning and make your value known.

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Key Take-aways:

  • Most American adults are using or have used social media
  • Social media platforms are particularly engaging, with users often returning to the platforms looking for entertainment and reward
  • Social neuroscientific and social psychological insights can be especially useful when creating social media content, given the ease with which it can be shared and engaged

Actionable Tips:

  • For impactful social media campaigns, work toward active conversation and engagement
  • People seek in social media what they seek in people; interest, relatability and aesthetic attractiveness; advertising should provide all three
  • Amid the diversity of distractions and personalities on social media, having a distinctive brand presence is key to garnering attention

To learn how Gatesman’s approach to Hacking Human Behavior™ can be applied to your business, please contact Demar Anderson, VP, Director of Marketing at