Tailoring Conversations and the Role of Influencers

Every second around 6,000 tweets are tweeted on Twitter.

In fact, before I’d even typed the first letter of this article, the grand total for tweets that day stood in the region of 669 million tweets–upwards of what the average tweets per day statistic for 2015 suggests.

With so many people using social media every minute of every day, week in and week out, it should be a cinch to market and advertise on, right?

Anyone in advertising can (and will) tell you that it’s not that easy.

Despite the fact that everyone you want to reach is seemingly in one place–and, in theory, ready to consume your content–there’s the tiny issue of making your content stand out from the crowd.

A lot can be said about the role psychology plays in social media and how it can be used by brands to tailor their content or strategies. As content marketers, we need to use this knowledge to bring customers closer to the message and develop better relationships with them.

Here are some key insights into the psychology behind social media:


“We release dopamine when we communicate through social networks,” says Kristen Lindquist, professor of Psychology at the University of North Carolina. “Social information feels intrinsically rewarding to people. We get a jolt of dopamine when someone likes our Facebook post or retweets our Twitter link. Over time, the effect on the reward centre in the brain is similar to what makes drug addicts go back for another line of cocaine.”


“We also release oxytocin when we communicate on social media,” according to Neuroeconomist Paul Zak. “In 10 minutes of social media time, oxytocin levels can rise as much as 13%––a hormonal spike equivalent to some people on their wedding day! When we release oxytocin we experience lowered stress levels, feelings of love, trust, empathy.”

These findings suggest that communicating on social media could trigger favourable reactions to brands through the correct content used in the correct context. 

What it doesn’t do, is tell us why we share, post, like or comment on social networks the way we do.

A lot of research has been done on this front, and the most common finding is that people love talking about themselves (studies suggest that we spent around 80% of our time on social media talking about ourselves). We’re also able to prune how we appear on social media and construct personalities in a way psychologists term self-presentation, to seem less awkward or more intriguing. It’s something everyone does, whether they know it or not.

What this means, is that if a brand is able to represent what its consumers stand for, whatever message it shares will resonate with them. It is therefore important for brands to identify and hone in on who their target audience actually is. 

And then, there’s the influencers–basically, someone with a large social media following that can help get your message heard.

PR agency Burson Marsteller points out the enormous impact of influencers in their study, ‘E-fluentials’. During the study period, influencers had an effect on roughly 155 million consumers in the United States–both online and offline–in their buying decisions. Since the population of the US at that time was 285 million, this means that they influenced over half the population.

Today most opinions relating to buying a brand are made through a Google search, forums, product tests and tweets from satisfied or dissatisfied users. Furthermore, we are entering an age of affinity marketing where consumers form tribes who share unique interests and values. It is imperative that brands inspire confidence, respect and admiration within the influencers of these groups or tribes.

Here’s a broad overview of the different categories of influencers:

Celebrities: These influencers have a large following but they are often expensive, risky and don’t necessarily belong to niche tribes that have specific values and interests. They are better used for sponsorship than they are for aligning with values of the brand.

Experts and Opinion Leaders: These influencers could be journalists, bloggers and leaders in specific fields. These influencers share values and interests and they have more credibility within their community. 

Consumers: Consumers can organically become custodians and true ambassadors of your brands. A personal and emotional connection is best met with these groups of influencers. More consumers are reached through this group. However this is not easily achieved and can often not be bought.

In determining which group of influencers you are targeting, you need to determine what your goals are. Is it visibility, credibility or sales? 

Some factors to consider are:


Influencers can bring a brand reach, awareness or inspire action. However, the more we invest in influencers who don’t necessarily share the same values as the brand, the more reputational damage the brand does.


The more you align the brand with influencers that share the same values, the more awareness and action the brand will eventually get. 

When your values are aligned with your influencers, the costs involved become relatively low. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you needn’t invest in influencers at all. You have to strike a good balance between investment and shared value. As a bonus, the more aligned you and your influences are, the more natural the interactions become (and the more they will be willing to associate themselves with your brand).

Ultimately, context and content are the success factors in tailoring messages to your audience. We need to understand what our brand stands for and, of course, what makes people care.

We need to know which tribes we are talking to and how to connect with them. These messages need to integrate with the values and interests of the influencer. The more natural the conversation is with the influencer the more likely we can create relationships and naturally create organic custodians of our brand. 

At the end of the day, brands are still storytellers that relate to the consumer–it’s only the methods, mediums and mechanics that have changed.

C’mon, be human.

Nadia vd Merwe  was the Digital Account Manager of The Fort.