3 Psychological Principles for Social Media Marketing

By looking at some basic psychological principles, we form insight into how to make social media work for marketing.

The German philosophers Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Kohler and Kurt Koffka founded Gestalt psychology, which argues that human behavior can’t be truly understood by only looking at a few components of behavior. Instead, one must look at the whole individual. This line of thinking created a series of laws that illustrate the way people perceive the world. What these laws conclude is that humanity generally views the world as meaningful and complete, not as series of individual parts.

The Gestalt principles, which break down human perception into 8 laws of receptivity, are called the Laws of Perceptual Organization. The 3 psychological principles that apply best to marketing in social media will help businesses connect with their audiences in a more direct and meaningful way.

3 Psychological Principles for Guiding Social Media Content


The Gestalt Law of Similarity:

We tend to perceive similar things as a group.

Use grouping in your material when posting to social media platforms to form likenesses between your company and the things that you want to be perceived as similar to. If you construct infographics, bar charts, or pie charts, use colors to group items together or to distinguish complementary information. Doing so will make the information easier to understand. 

Tpsychological principles simplicity quote Don Draperhe Gestalt Law of Pragnanz:

Our brains love simplicity.

Not only do our brains love simplicity, but they process and retain simple concepts more quickly than complex ones. Our brains gravitate towards simple patterns, simple ideas, and simple directional order. Take the U.S. Olympic logo for example. The image is of 5 interwoven circles, each a different color. Theoretically, these interwoven circles could form a new shape. Our brains don’t interpret a new shape, but see the logo as what it is: 5 interlocking circles.

Our brains are drawn to the most logical and simplistic conclusions. Use this psychological principle of perception by employing simple design and content for social media. The “less is more” idea is most certainly applicable in all aspects of communication, not just in visual imagery. Use less words and less complication. Henry David Thoreau said, “Simplify, simplify, simplify.” Simplicity is simply more effective.



The Gestalt Law of Continuity:

We perceive connections, even in disconnected figures.

The Law of Continuity explains how we can view separate lines as one continual line, rather than two separate or broken lines. We perceive continuity in this case because it is a smoother path than perceiving two or more separate paths.  This is a guiding principle for visual design, but it also is applicable to content: ideas that follow the smoothest path compute more effectively in our minds. Our minds prefer to see connections, even in disjointed objects or statements. A good example is how we listen to music: we hear melodies (the whole) more than individual notes (the parts). So this is why developing a strategy (the whole) for posting social media content (the parts), you’ll achieve a greater continuity and ease of perception in your audience than by just posting whatever comes to mind.


Bringing It All Together

In marketing, perception is reality, so using psychological principles helps us consider how our messages are perceived and how our messages can prompt customers to action.

It’s true that technology grows, advances, and revises over time. The way that people relate to each other, however, remains the same. So marketing strategies should evolve with technology, and grow as does our knowledge of how people function and relate to each other. These psychological principles point us back to our real goal in social media marketing: connection. Connect with people; connect with ideas; build relationships. 

David Pinkthe author of Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, sums it up best by reminding us that,

“Once we stop thinking of all that time spent on social media as individual minutes to be whiled away and start thinking of it as a social asset that can be harnessed, it all looks very different. The buildup of free time… is a new resource.”

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