Addictive By Design: How Do We Utilise Social Media?

Social media has an undeniable grip on our lives. What began as a tool for connectivity has evolved into a multifaceted platform with opportunities for networking, marketing, and entertainment. We flock to it reflexively, our hands reaching towards our phones first thing in the morning and throughout the day for everything from news updates to family photos, messages from friends to updates from brands.

But what, exactly, is it about social media that keeps us coming back for more? 

The answer lies in persuasive design practices. Features such as likes, comments, and shares are designed to keep people engaged by gamifying social interactions into a reward system that offers users digital validation and keeps them coming back for the next dopamine hit. 

Another tactic keeping us hooked is the design of infinite scrolling — the term for a page that automatically loads more content as you scroll — as well as the use of algorithms that make it easier for people to see the content that interests them. Social media has a digital architecture that has been purposefully built to keep us engaged for a long time, so that the more we browse, the more personalised it becomes. 

Harness the potential of social media with persuasive design

It’s important to understand that social media is the beating heart of your brand’s digital presence. The biggest mistake brands can make is to only use it for marketing, and not as a platform to connect and engage with your global audience. With social media’s extensive reach to a diverse audience, brands with an excellent track record in content creation are successful in capturing and retaining their audience’s attention – eventually leading to increased brand visibility, which is a huge driver to boost interest and sales for your business.

As the algorithm works 24/7 to deliver the content users crave, how can brands capture their audience’s attention and cut through the noise? Whether you’re a professional working in social media or a brand seeing dips in your social presence, here are some ways you can use persuasive design to convert screen time into tangible business revenue.

  • Capitalise on the visual nature of social media

The introduction of infinite scrolling has undoubtedly encouraged user engagement by populating an endless stream of content – but it have also significantly impacted attention spans. To capture and retain the attention of your target audience as they scroll, it is essential to create a content plan with a good mix of formats: videos, interactive elements, images, and more. For example, brands can repurpose an existing report into a carousel post with bite-sized infographics for each image.

Use a content calendar to plan, organise, and strategise your content, then take a big-picture look to ensure that your formats are diversified. By experimenting with a variety of content that appeals to different consumption behaviours and checking performance by A/B testing, you can better understand your audience’s preferences and will have a better idea how to align your content with what grabs their attention.

  • Gamify brand interactions for community building

Engagement is gold in the social media space, so take a page from the way social media is built and gamify your own content. By implementing a “reward system” for user engagement, you can foster a relationship with your followers and create a brand that is built on collaboration and partnerships.

The key to this type of community building is user-generated content – the holy grail of social marketing. Not only is it considered credible brand amplification, it’s also an excellent source of relatable and fun content that helps you get to know your audience better. Start by regularly incorporating interactive elements such as polls and Q&As to encourage user participation. Over time, incentivise these interactions with reposts, giveaways or contests to make the experience rewarding for your community.

  • The dopamine effect

Associated with feelings of pleasure, dopamine is what drives our social media behaviour. The chemical is released when we have successful social interactions, such as scoring ‘likes’ from our online friends, and watching entertaining content. This surge of dopamine makes people want to come back to social media time and time again. Similarly, brands can employ a dopamine-inducing content plan to build brand loyalty.

Stay on the lookout for trending content and leverage the topics or formats by incorporating them into your brand’s narrative. For example, you could reference this week’s hot topic to stay relatable to your audience. Go the extra mile to delight your followers by responding to comments – a positive interaction will not only result in digital validation, it can also foster a sense of belonging.

Persuasive design is an effective call-to-action that guides your customers intuitively and influences behaviours by understanding human tendencies, especially from your target audience. It’s possible to dominate the digital landscape by creating a cohesive content plan with a focus on visual appeal, interaction, and relevancy.

And if all else fails, always remember to prioritise your users by tailoring content to their needs and preferences – after all, they hold the key to your brand’s success. Cultivating an engaged following is a long-term strategy with no shortcuts, but it is immensely gratifying.

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