Social media was built for human connection, that is why connecting with your followers is the best way to convert them into customers. You want to connect with your followers the same way you would connect with someone in person, gradually. There are psychological studies behind the way we connect with others, this is known as the social penetration theory. This theory is present in our personal lives as well as our social media interactions.
The social penetration theory states that there are different stages in building a relationship with someone. We begin to share information about ourselves when we are trying to build these relationships, in four stages, this is called self disclosure.
Four Stages of Self Disclosure
Stage #1 Cliche: Whenever you are first meeting someone your conversations will most likely be a little cliche. For example, whenever you first meet someone you usually talk about the weather, sports, ect. Although these topics can be a bit boring they help to lay the foundation of getting to know someone.
Stage #2 Facts: Once we begin to feel more comfortable with someone we begin to share a little more about ourselves. In this stage you begin to give more information about yourselves. For example, telling them where you are from, where you went to school, what your current job is.
Stage #3 Opinions: The third step in self disclosure is beginning to share your opinions on different topics. This helps to show your values and life experiences. Opinions help you to connect deeper with someone whether it is a friend or an online follower. Through sharing your opinions you are able to see what similarities you share.
Stage #4 Feelings: Feelings are obviously the most emotional aspect of the self disclosure journey. Most people will not discuss their feelings right away but when they do relationships are able to reach new levels of trust and closeness.
How to Use Emotional Social Media Content
It seems counterintuitive to not continuously speak to your products or services but in reality people do not make purchases based on logic, most people make decisions based on emotion. You will need to begin to build real relationships on your social media accounts with your followers if you want to convert them into customers. Many companies are stuck in the first stage of self disclosure by sticking with cliche captions and product descriptions.
Although you do need to make emotional connections with your followers you also don’t want to skip the cliche stage in self disclosure, since it is crucial in creating a relationship with new followers. Below are the four stages of self disclosure and how to use them in terms of social media content.
Stage #1 Cliche: Cliches are awesome, they became cliches for a reason. They are easy to think of, fill out a social content calendar, and are helpful for a quick post. But cliches just invite more cliches. They force conversations to be short or never started, which cuts out the reason you are using social media to create connections. All in all, cliches are good to help fill out your social media content calendar and may help to attract new followers if paired with the right images/tags, but they will not create relationships.
Stage #2 Facts: People need to know what they are buying. You should begin to share more information about yourself and your products, since it is essential to conversation. When you are informing people about product details it is likely that you are repeating yourself so that every follower understands the details clearly. To practice this stage in self disclosure on your social media, you want to reveal new information as well.
If you were building a relationship with someone and they continued to tell you the same thing about themselves every time you talk, you would not feel like your relationship is progressing. This thought process is the same when dealing with your social media followers. Help to build that relationship by showing them something new; whether it is a new team member, a behind the scenes shot, or a new product design. This will help to gain your followers interest as well as build your relationship with them.
Stage #3 Opinion: Currently everyone is posting their opinions on social media, whether it’s their new favorite restaurant or political views. On the other hand, many companies shy away from posting opinions because they have always been told that it will divide their audience and cause controversy.
If a company never expresses any opinions on their social media channels they miss out on important relationships. By stating your company’s opinion you allow your ideal customer to relate to and build a stronger connection to you through your shared values. There have even been studies that show consumers, especially Millennials and Gen Z, want brands to take a more active role on bigger issues.
When taking this approach you should focus more on reaching the right consumers rather than all consumers. And although stating controversial opinions may force you to have a smaller audience in the short term. It is more important to have truly loyal customers who are committed to your brand following you. Below are examples of different levels of risk associated with stating a company’s opinion online.
- Low Risk-Solicit Opinions: A very low risk way of sharing opinions is by sharing others opinions instead of your own. For example, you solicit others opinions on a post by asking your followers what they think and then interact with them through the comments. This allows you to have conversations but they are led by others.
- Medium Risk-Uncontroversial Opinions: Whenever you are just starting out sharing your opinions on your company’s social media outlets, you can begin with low-stakes opinions. This would include personal preferences on products. For example, if you own a coffee company, you could say you prefer vanilla lattes over hazelnut lattes. This allows for discussion amongst your followers and your company, with no serious controversy.
- High Risk-Controversial Opinions: Brands do have the ability to share more controversial opinions on their social media channels but before they do they must completely understand their audience, and how the company’s opinion will affect them. By taking a controversial stance you are bound to lose followers/customers, although your stance may also help you gain new customers. For this reason it is safer for larger brands to state their controversial opinions due to their large amount of customer feedback and market research. When stating a controversial opinion it should align with over half of your customer base to allow for a stronger connection between customers and your company.
Stage #4 Feelings: At this stage you have already gained your audience’s attention, shared information with them, and stated some opinions. When talking about feelings through the lens of social media think of all that may apply to your customer, not just happy or sad. You are able to share positive or negative emotions as long as your customers can relate and does not feel pressured to feel a certain way. Not only is social media an awesome way to share emotional content but you can also research it. By watching how people react to your content and what emotions they portray, you will be able to better understand what strategy to use.
How to Plan and Research Your Social Media Content
There is a lot of planning that goes on before adding to or changing your social media content strategy. Before you begin to post you should research your content type, especially when it comes to stages three and four in the self disclosure process. There a two main types of research that are helpful for these stages and they are:
- Social Listening: You want to be monitoring any keywords or hashtags that are relevant to your business. This will help you to see what people are saying/think about your brand, products, and industry.
- Tone of Voice: You want to focus on learning how your target audience speaks on social media. Once you know this you will be able to mirror their voices and build connections within that community.
Knowing how your customers talk and what they talk about allows your company to create more relatable and meaningful content. This will help your audience grow, convert followers into customers, and create customer loyalty.