The Psychology of Social Media.

Marketers have long known that it doesn’t work to contact a prospect or even an existing customer just once.

The average number of times it takes to really make an impression and get someone interested in doing business with you is between 10 and 12 times. The challenge has always been: how to maintain that level of contact without becoming a total nuisance – and what is the ideal frequency and number of contacts necessary to produce action?

Before the advent of the internet as a marketing vehicle, we relied upon ‘snail’ mail, phone calls and face to face meetings to build contact levels.  It was logistically difficult and expensive and required a huge amount of effort.

Fortunately we’re now able to maintain contact frequently in an easier, more effective and less expensive way using the various tools available to us. But we still have the challenge of knowing the exact number of times and the ideal frequency at which we should contact people in order to build enough momentum to tip the scale from inertia to action.

Frankly, it’s not something that can be completely accurately defined with one set of parameters.  (You wouldn’t want life to become too easy, now would you?)

The reality is that it depends on a number of factors. Some of those factors are controlled by your circumstances and some by your target audience.

The factors controlled by you are:

  • whether you are launching a product which can be sold to many people simultaneously or whether you’re looking for one or a few new clients
  • whether you are looking to upsell, add-on sell or re-sell to an existing customer or whether you’re making a sale to a brand new prospect
  • the price point of your product or service
  • the time of year, the season and even the time of day you make your contacts
  • the tools you decide to employ in your contact schedule

The factors controlled by your prospects / customers are:

  • their need or desire for what you are selling at this point in their lives.  Your customers and prospects are really a moving parade and just like you, their circumstances change and there will be times when they want and need what you’re selling more at one time than another.  You will never know what these times are with any degree of accuracy but by maintaining ongoing contact long term you are bound to be ‘in the right place at the right time’
  • their choice of preferred communication tools

Factors which are not controlled by either you or your prospect:

  • the economy
  • the stability of the communication tools being used

The fact is that you can control many of the factors that go into effective communication but you cannot control them all.

This why Social Media is such a powerful communication tool.  It addresses many of the pitfalls and can even help ‘cover’ some of the silly mistakes we all make from time to time.

The psychology of Social Media is interesting. In a world where economies are in flux and insecurity is growing, people have neither the time or the energy to pursue the same type of relaxed extended relationships our grandparents enjoyed with friends and neighbors.  But we still need them.  It’s part of the human experience.

Social Media fills that lack and allows us to indulge ourselves, albeit long distance, with more people that most of our grandparents would ever meet in a lifetime.

The growing pressure we face has also spawned the ‘life / work balance’ philosophy that promotes the ability to have ‘one personality’ as a whole person rather than splitting us into an 8 to 5 professional and a 5 – 8 person.  Many of us work far longer hours with far less structure, so by allowing ourselves to be ‘people’ as well as ‘professionals’, we’re able to maintain some modicum of sanity.

The upshot is that with Social Media, we’re free to involve our prospects and customers in as much of our personal and professional lives as we wish. Nothing builds trust and relationships quicker than giving others insights into who really are at a personal level.

The reason is that we can only feel as if we know someone if we know that they are the same person both at work and at home.  There’s nothing more off putting than admiring someone professionally only to find out that they treat their family badly.  It immediately destroys our good opinion no matter how excellent their professional behavior.

By feeling that we know someone personally and professionally it avoids possible  cognitive dissonance when we do come across personal information about a professional connection.

Social Media facilitates this extremely elegantly.  It also allows us to far exceed the 10 – 12 contacts we require to sell and it does so seamlessly and unobtrusively. It allows us to make contact at a variety of times of day, month, year and season for a variety of reasons: professional and personal.  So that no matter what and when we communicate, we have a qualified audience.

Our communications are part of life. And the real beauty of it is, it’s part of our customer’s and prospect’s lives when and where they choose to make it so. They hang out on Facebook – so do we.  They tweet, we tweet.  They watch video on YouTube, we’re there too.  They use LinkedIn and so do we.  The list goes on.  We’re like them.  They’re like us.  We relate.  We share interests.  We share our lives.  We help each other out.  They provide products and services we need and want, we provide those they need and want along with valuable information that educates them and teaches them how to buy the best product or service for their need.

Social Media is a marketer’s dream. And, as I mentioned before, when we mess up it’s not the same disaster it would’ve been if we messed up with a direct mail campaign or a print ad.  The costs are nowhere near the same. In additon, we’re continually communicating so we have an opportunity to quickly admit and apologize for any mistakes. Our ‘friends’ like us and they’re rooting for us, so provided we’re generally getting things right, they’re quick to forgive.  It allows them to relate to us even more and chuckle with us rather than at us as they see us stumble and then get right back up and do better next time.

If you are not using Social Media as an integral part of your marketing… I strongly suggest you begin today.