Brands have been appealing to emotion for as long as there's been advertising. Provoking the consumer's emotions can trigger subconscious reactions that override their more logical and pragmatic responses and help to create affinity with a brand.
The purchase decision-making process was described by the 2013 Customer Loyalty Engagement Index as 70 percent emotional and 30 percent rational.
In social media marketing, the opportunities to create brand advocacy are more pronounced than ever before because of the ability to connect with consumers on a one-to-one level.
Now, thanks to a new study from the University of California, Yale, and Facebook, we know that emotional responses can be contagious across social networks.
Temporal and geographic variation in emotions expressed by Facebook users in 2011. Click for larger image.
The research, published in online scientific journal Plos One, analyzed over a billion Facebook status updates between January 2009 and March 2012. It found that emotional states can spread throughout social networks, crossing physical locations and affecting the moods of users all over the globe.
From UC San Diego:
"Our study suggests that people are not just choosing other people like themselves to associate with but actually causing their friends' emotional expressions to change," said lead author James Fowler, professor of political science in the Division of Social Sciences and of medical genetics in the School of Medicine at UC San Diego. "We have enough power in this data set to show that emotional expressions spread online and also that positive expressions spread more than negative."
These Facebook findings dovetail nicely with another study from 2011 that used data from millions of public Twitter posts to identify "seasonal mood rhythms in cultures across the globe."
If positive emotional expressions are more likely to spread across social networks then negative ones, then that's great news for brands that are currently engaging their fans online with emotional appeals. For brands that are using their social campaigns to create a deep emotional connection with the consumers, it's even better news. Companies with a social media monitoring solution in place will be able to track the spread of positive brand-related sentiment and report it back to the stakeholders.
This concept is more than simply having a great ad that moves the consumer. Think about the ripple effect of great customer service. When a brand talks directly to an angry customer, sometimes its just enough that the company has reached out. The customer will often do a 360 and post something extremely positive about the brand.
It's also great news for nonprofits. A recent public-goods experiment cited in the new research estimated that "each dollar given yielded two dollars in giving by others."
How can you take advantage of these new findings? Is your social media campaign focused on appealing to the emotions of your fans? If you are focused on fostering loyalty and driving brand advocacy, have you been able to track the spread of that goodwill across the web?