Social Media With Behavioral Science
Social media and behavioral science form a powerful tool when used together. Without behavioral science, communication over social media will just add to the noise of the loud online world.
At its core, communication is an exchange of ideas and, sometimes, an exchange of emotions.
The key here is exchange. It’s a two-way street. For exchange to be effective, there must be feedback from the receiver and, ideally, input to build on and move forward from. It also requires empathy and understanding of where the other person is coming from.
Social media, while a powerful tool, is not based on true interaction. It’s based on one person or brand “shouting” and, at best, someone else reacting.
This is not an exchange of ideas. There is no empathy at play here. There is little to no understanding of intent or context of the other person. It is just a platform, where everyone seemingly has a voice and the audience is anyone and everyone else.
The nature of quick impulse reactions, “liking” or “commenting” simply because others have or sharing in hopes of having your own content liked and shared, further destroys the exchange of meaningful ideas.
Communication is much more than just words.
A significant portion of our communication is non-verbal. Body language, facial expression, tone of voice: all of these factors help provide context and emotion, which changes the entire meaning of our message.
The nature of social media has created a noisy world where people have learned to dump, rant, and react with little thought to what their reaction might actually do, oftentimes reacting without fully reading or thinking about what was posted.
If a person was holding a sign and ranting outside your local grocery store, most people would walk past shaking their heads, avoiding eye contact. Online, people feel the need to comment, react, or share. The internet has given us the illusion that everyone’s opinion matters equally. They don’t. More importantly, they shouldn’t. Sure, your tweet about climate change ‘just being a theory’ got an impressive amount of likes and retweets but that doesn’t mean I have to value your opinion equally to the 97% of climatologists that agree it’s happening all around us. Loudly saying your opinion doesn’t make it any more truthful.
Wouldn’t it be odd (and freaking annoying) if a coworker walked over to your desk every twenty minutes to shove some silly gif or news article or video in your face? And yet, this is exactly what we do in the world of social media. We’ve been trained to share things the instant they pop into our heads. Photos, articles, videos, gifs of otters playing with rocks (guilty), with little thought to how that distraction will affect ourselves or others.
All of this superficial communicating, shallow sharing, and fishing for attention is ironically further distancing us from each other.
It is the loss and dying art of real human connection. But it doesn’t have to be.
Behavioral science is the study of how humans behave with one another and with the world around them. Studying human habits is useful for learning why we make the decisions we do, even when we don’t know the reason ourselves. When paired with the power of behavioral science, social media can foster genuine communication and become a powerful tool for engaging with an audience.
When social media is used with concepts from behavioral science, it can bring together total strangers to a community filled with like-minded people. It can build awareness of issues. It can help us stay in touch with loved ones far away. We can learn new things directly from those who know them best. And social media can even build genuine relationships when we use it with thought!
The goal of social media should be to bring all of us together, not to rant, react, and defend but to communicate, learn, and engage. It should be about real dialogue, constructive feedback, and respectful community. We should be supporting one another instead of spreading hate and anger.
To be effective on social media, you must know your audience. Knowing your audience starts with behavioral science. When you know your audience, you can design a clear goal and reason for contributing your voice. You can tailor posts specifically for your audience to share ideas you know they will find interesting. You can start to build genuine connections when you know who you’re actually speaking with. If you’re just speaking to speak, you’re simply contributing to the noise.
No one can hear anything, even important things, when everything is noise.