Know your audience. It’s sound advice for any successful outreach. In today’s social media landscape, it means knowing who your audience is and, just as importantly, understanding how they interact in a group setting.

There’s no question that social media can drive deeper engagement and increased brand loyalty., but it requires special considerations to anticipate social media’s groupthink mentality. One misguided post can sully a brand’s hard-won reputation almost instantly.

Luckily, there are hundreds of research studies, books and articles offering tips for applying behavioral economics and social norms to social media. Here are five of our favorite principles to get you started.

  • Groupthink: Social media allows everyone to be part of a larger group, allowing brand engagement and loyalty to grow quickly. Behaviors and decisions form differently at the group level than at the individual level. Groupthink pushes members to conform to the group’s identity, which can suppress and actually drive out alternative or dissenting viewpoints. This is especially true if a group features a select few vocal influencers.
  • Reference-Dependent Preferences: People judge their performances, possessions and wellbeing relative to a reference point. That reference point tends to align with the experiences and expectations of their social circle. Social media provides ample opportunities for audiences to reference experiences against a larger group, many of which are loyal to the specific brand they’re following and/or reviewing.
  • Feedback-Influenced Decisions: People change their behaviors, attitudes and opinions more when provided with timely, specific feedback. Social media allows brands to deliver timely and almost instant feedback on products, trends and more. This can be used to educate and influence decisions with information from brand representatives, advocates and users.
  • Lotteries and Certainty Effect: People overestimate small percentages, preferring a very small chance at a large reward to a larger chance at a small reward. This is compounded by low-cost entries. Social media can leverage this to grow likes, followers and retweets in social contests and promotions.
  • Commitment Increments: People fear large commitments but generally fail to notice smaller, incremental increases that lead up to the same large commitment. Begin small; make it easy to say yes and it is very likely the individual will follow through to a much larger request. With social media, start with a simple request (like, follow, share) and build advocates from there.

Behavioral economics is a deep, fascinating discipline. This list is by no means comprehensive. If you’re interested in learning more or talking about behavioral economics in social media, shoot us an email. It’s one of our favorite topics.