Article

Ben Hollom
Ben Hollom 3 August 2016

The Science Of Emotions And Social Engagement

It’s a common enough idea in sales and marketing that tapping into your audience’s emotions can inspire certain reactions, but what exactly is it that pushes people to interact with content?

The world of content marketing can be a tricky one. You think you’ve created a sparkling piece and are brimming with excitement at sharing it with the world… but then it drops like a lead balloon with little to no engagement from your audience, leaving you wondering how you could have got it oh-so wrong.

In the never-ending quest to score those (often elusive) likes, shares and comments, it’s important to dive into the emotional psyche of your audience in an attempt to understand what makes them tick. After all, it’s a common enough idea in sales and marketing that tapping into your audience’s emotions can inspire certain reactions, but what exactly is it that pushes people to interact with content?

The science of emotions

A recent Marketing Land article drew our attention to a new study that indicates it isn’t just single emotions such as anger or shock that can make a piece of content go viral. Instead, the research demonstrates that content with the highest numbers of social sharing were pieces that elicited emotions that fit into specific configurations on something called the Valence-Arousal-Dominance model. Here comes the science bit – concentrate.

  • The Valence-Arousal-Dominance scale is an emotional categorisation scale that measures the way that people react.

  • Valence refers to how positive or negative an emotion is.

  • Arousal refers to the level of excitement that comes as a result of the emotion.

  • Dominance refers to the feeling of control an emotion inspires.

The study found that content which generated the most comments and discussion were those which produced high-arousal emotions like anger, combined with low-dominance emotions like fear. Just take a look at discussion around many of the Brexit or politically-charged pieces we are seeing all over the Internet these days, and you might see my point.

When it came to boosting social sharing, it was the content that inspired emotions of high dominance which came out on top. It turns out that those old British Gas adverts were right – people really do love being in control.

Marketing Land then added their own research to the mix with a study that charted responses to viral images, based on a similar emotional categorisation model. Their results found that when it came to images, the top emotions elicited were positive ones – happiness, surprise and admiration. However, using the aforementioned model, they found that patterns emerged.

When arousal and dominance were both high, content could perform well even if it was light-hearted whilst when arousal was high but dominance rated low, there was a need for more emotionally complex content. In short, when people felt a lack of control they needed the content to pack a more powerful punch to be truly engaged.

So, what were the key takeaways from Marketing Land’s research?

  1. Encourage social sharing… by publishing positive content that elicits a combination of happiness and surprise from your audience and a feeling of being in control.
  2. Encourage discussion and comments… with content that inspires high-arousal emotions such as excitement or anger.
  3. Balance out low-arousal content…by incorporating the element of surprise such as an unexpected twist.

Why not test out a few of these emotional combinations with your next few pieces of content – who knows, you might just go viral.

For assistance in perfecting and executing your content marketing plan, contact us at M2 Bespoke today.

Original Article

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