Let’s face it – as people, we are emotional. Whether we consider ourselves “sensitive” in the traditional sense or not, we all subconsciously react to the messages we hear and images we see (both on and offline). Our emotions are a triggered release of neurotransmitters in response to a stimulus, and they can get a bit confusing – or so we think. A study on the range of human emotion revealed that our reactions are rooted in four key emotions. As marketers, this means that it may be simpler than we think to convey our desired message, if we’re careful about how we do so.

Understanding the 4 Key Emotions that Impact Our Decision Making

Okay, so we know that the Pixar film Inside Out features five core emotions – joy, anger, sadness, disgust and fear – but this study bundles them in a slightly different way. If you take a peek at at Robert Plutchik’s famous “wheel of emotions” you’ll see that emotions can be layered in complex ways, but the study in reference states that the four “basic” emotions are: happy, sad, afraid/surprised and angry/disgusted.

How the Science of Emotion Impacts Social Media Marketing & What we Share

When executed effectively, marketing tactics should always evoke some kind of emotion that inspires you to make a decision. Social media marketing, however, rests on the pillars of sharing for success. If you can trigger one person’s emotional response and inspire their decision to share, your message can be elevated to a viral degree – which can be incredible, but isn’t always a good thing (especially in the event that you piss someone off). Check out this breakdown of our emotional responses:

  • Happiness – Inspires motivation to share
  • Sadness – Inspires connection and empathy
  • Fear/Surprise – Triggers “fight or flight” mode and inspires bonding with others
  • Anger/Disgust – Increases stubbornness and motivates action

How to Leverage the Science of Emotion for Social Media Marketing Success

We can’t speak for everyone, but it’s safe to say that most of us would rather scroll through our newsfeed and stumble upon a picture of an adorable puppy rather than an angry political rant. As you’re crafting your next social media message, consider the following tips to leverage your engagement for social media marketing success:

  • Rule #1: Positivity > Negativity – Share posts that inspire optimism, happiness and humor, so that others will be inspired to spread the joy and share it too (negative posts can have a lasting effect that turns your consumers off, so lure people in by focusing on the bright side even within darker subject matter)
  • Target Empathy Carefully – Empathy can make us more trusting and generous. Whether you’re trying to raise awareness or money, be sure to make a genuine effort to post content that is meaningful rather than overly pushy and sad. If you want to target sadness, think more along the lines of nostalgia.
  • Inspire Your Audience with Awe – When people see something fascinating, offbeat or even scary, they tend to share/bond with others about their awe-inspired response and feel more connected to the world, leaving them with a greater sense of emotional attachment to your brand
  • Focus on FOMO – If you want to instill fear in your audience, your best course of action is to focus on the “Fear Of Missing Out” (FOMO) – if you’re hosting an event or having a great happy hour, let the people know what they’re missing!

One study revealed that ad campaigns with purely emotional content performed about twice as well as those with mixed emotional and rational content. The point is – don’t be afraid to target people’s emotions via your social media marketing, just be mindful about what your goals are when evoking specific emotions.