2 In Digital Marketing/ Social Media

The Psychology of Social Media Channels

Don't know what to post on which social media channel? Follow this guide to understand the psychology behind each social media channel.

In case you didn’t already know this, I get to play on Facebook all day, every day.

I am totally kidding. I hate it when people say that. I might be on Facebook all day but I definitely wouldn’t consider it “playing”. It’s damn hard work, and I’ve learned a lot from working with it day in, day out for nearly 5 years now.

As a Social Media Manager, I work on developing strategies to promote brands via social channels and other engagement platforms. This includes building competitions and offers, content pieces to resonate with my target segments, advertising strategies, fan acquisition strategies and community engagement strategies.

Social media can change overnight. An algorithm update and suddenly you’re back at the drawing board trying to test and learn, test and learn until you start to get a feel “what works” and you A/B split test that with something just slightly different so you can continue to test and learn, test and learn. But I love it! I actually kind of “fell” into it after starting my marketing career in search engine marketing, a set of skills I am so happy to have learned first as it gave me a good handle on tracking the effectiveness of lots of different online marketing platforms. If you’re interested to know how I broke into the digital marketing and social media marketing industry you can read my career story here.

After all this time working in the social media space, the single most effective tip I can give is to help people to understand the psychology of each of the social media channels and by that I mean simply: who uses them, and how do they use them. Of course, when you’re building a community there can be slight differences in the way your community will use a channel to interact with your content specifically but generally speaking, there are some key differences that distinguish how people will use one channel verses another, and it’s these things I’ll share with you in this post.

To get the most out of your social media community, the key is to take these learnings and incorporate them into your content strategy.

I thought it would be fun to construct user personas to explain the psychology of social media channels, how they consume content on each channel and what content they’re looking for.

Remember that in addition to understanding how these personas use social media, it is important to consider things such as usage, frequency and demographics on the platforms you’re looking at too. In Australia, I find the yearly Sensis report helpful for finding most of this information.

I hope you find these user personas helpful.


Fran on Facebook:

When Fran is on Facebook she is constantly scanning and constantly scrolling. Her news feed is filled with content from pages, groups and of course ads and in amongst all of that she is scanning to find the one piece of content from her friends.

Fran uses Facebook because all of her friends are on Facebook. Widely used within her age group and not really skewed by gender, most of the time if Fran is searching to “friend” someone on Facebook, she will find them.

[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]TOP TIP: Remember the 3 E’s. Educate, engage, entertain.[/pullquote]

Fran is here for news mostly: Staying updated on everyone’s lives, brand announcements, the actual news on what’s happening in the world and other things that are important to her like when her friends get engaged or get a new puppy.

She checks in multiple times daily so she is always “in the know”.

If you’re trying to engage Fran, make sure you share engaging, entertaining or educational content with her. Surprise her. Be remarkable. Stand out or you won’t get her attention.


Iain on Instagram:

Iain, like Frank is in “constant scanning” mode. Flipping that finger up vertically along his smartphone screen. Iain primarily engages on Instagram with just one finger. To scroll and to “double tap” on content that appeals to him. If (and only if) he is really engaged by something, he will involve more fingers to type a comment (not as often though- it just isn’t as easy to have a discussion when you’re typing on a keyboard smaller than a credit card).

Iain wakes up in the morning and turns to Instagram to make sure he “gets out on the right side of the bed”. His stream is full of uplifting quotes inspiring breakfast recipes and motivational images of people working out. He’s pumped to take on the new day armed with this positive content in his mind.

So if you’re a blogger or small business owner trying to engage Iain, what do you do?

Talk to him in his language. Be positive. Be inspiring. Be uplifting. Be motivational. Be authentic.

Instagram is about capturing real moments. Overly produced images do not work well on this platform. Why? Because they stick out like a sore thumb. Because they don’t belong on Instagram. Instagram is about showing your authentic self, and Iain can smell inauthenticity from a mile away.

[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]TOP TIP: Whatever you do, be authentic. Instagrammers can smell inauthenticity from a mile away.[/pullquote]

Iain follows some of his friends on Instagram but doesn’t feel obliged to follow “old mate from kindergarten” like he sometimes does on Facebook. He is selective about which friends he follows. He’s likely to follow brands on Instagram. Particularly local restaurants, fashion brands he loves, food bloggers and other “social media influencers”. Instagram is most popular with his demographic (18 – 30 yrs) and has a pretty even split of male/female users.

What is it that you can offer the world to make them feel this way? Is it a quote? An image of great team work showing off your small business culture? An image of you being “human” having a great day and wanting to share something special with the world? Could you share a delicious recipe that might inspire Iain to check out your blog and make your recipe for dinner? Whatever you decide to share, make it feel as “real” as possible. Let Instagram be the window into your what you’re about. Be positive and work to make others “feel good” when they consume your content. Do that well and you’ll be engaging Iain.


Penny on Pinterest:

Penny is browsing now and saving for later. Her virtual “pin board” is full of things she wants, things that inspire her and things that motivate her. She wants to be able to find them later, when shs is ready to consume the content or buy the product (but a lot of the time, that isn’t “right now” when she is browsing, she likes to keep browsing. Like Iain, she will engage further and click through when something really resonates).

Penny uses Pinterest both to pass time, but also as a visual “search engine” that shows her only the good stuff (after all, who is going to “pin” bad content? She knows she can find only the highest quality content when she searches here over Google).

Penny uses Pinterest to look for design ideas, recipes, fashion inspiration, gifts, decorating and even valuable resources (printables and worksheets mainly – they’re just so useful). Penny doesn’t really use Pinterest to follow and engage with her friends. She might be interested in a friends pins, but only if she knows “offline” that her and that friend have quite a lot in common. Instead, Penny uses Pinterest to follow and connect with like-minded people from around the world. She doesn’t really use the “comments” system that’s available, but she will “follow” and “repin” images from users she connects with.

So how does a blogger or small business connect with Penny on Pinterest?

[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]TOP TIP: Remember to AIM to engage with your Pinterest content (keep it aspirational  inspirational,  motivational).[/pullquote]

If you’re selling a product: Know that Penny is way way way back at the beginning of the sales funnel (and most likely a long path to purchase exists). Whether it’s furniture, wedding gowns, carpet, that designer handbag of that perfect holiday;  Be prepared to do some of the hard work now with your content strategy to reap the rewards later.

If you’re a blogger, it’s all about creating really valuable content, optimising your images to be big, bold and beautiful (that convey what they’re in for when they click through ) and getting your “Pinterst SEO” on to make sure you’re in the running to appear when Penny’s searching for those resources.  Is it worth it? Hell yeah. It only takes one influential Pinner like Penny to “repin” your content and you’ll hit the traffic jackpot. Be prepared to put in the hard yards for it though, cracking Pinterest is no easy feat.


Tyrone on Twitter:

Tyrone is all about wanting to participate in the conversation and like Frank, stay up to date with what’s happening.

He might check Twitter once per day (sometimes only every couple of days) to see what’s happening in the world (news) or consume content form his carefully curated feed. He will “follow” people who are influential in industries he works in and will use Twitter as a sort of “RSS Feed” to stay updated with relevant blogs and articles about this industry.

When it comes to actually tweeting, Tyrone will almost always be the one phone in hand Tweeting notes at an event (if you didn’t know he was participating in the conversation digitally, you would think he was kind of rude!)

Tyrone will also use Twitter as a way to reach out to brands when he has some feedback. It’s so real-time that he expects a real-time response.

[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]TOP TIP: You’ve got only 140 characters. Be succinct. Get your point across. [/pullquote]

How do you reach Tyrone on Twitter? Know that he is probably searching for you. Whether he is looking for industry based hashtags that help to pull together relevant content or deliberately searching for you so he can Tweet you about a customer service issue, he will find you. Use Twitter to share articles, short facts and quotes with the relevant industry hashtags so Tyrone can find you. Use images (the long skinny ones) to help your content to stand out in an ever-changing feed. Finally, be sure to be active. If you’re a blogger or brand that’s thinking of opening a Twitter account, you have to look at it like it’s another phone line installed at the office – if it rings, you need to be there to pick it up.


Vanessa on Vine:

Vanassa is creative. She loves to share her world in a unique way. She was probably the class clown in high school. She loves to make other people laugh and Vine is a great way for her to reach a new audience, be silly and be herself in a space where creativity and individuality is celebrated.

She also loves to cook and sometimes shares simplified versions of her recipes on Vine.

[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]TOP TIP: Capture “moments” in time or carefully construct a sequence of events that show a “how to” like a handyman tip or recipe.[/pullquote]

If you’re a blogger or business trying to engage Vanessa, it’s not going to be easy. Six seconds isn’t a lot of time to convey what you’re about. It’s for this reason that Vine is best used to create short tips, recipe creations and light-hearted engaging content pieces built to entertain. Vine is about driving top of mind awareness more than using it as a platform to tell your brand story.


Greg on Google Plus:

Let’s face it, Greg is a bit of a geek. The majority of Google Plus users are. You’ll find Greg will check in on Google Plus around once per day. He will follow all of his favourite Geek idols who also have a Google Plus presence, will belong to a few communities and get really excited when he’s invited to a live hangout.

Greg follows some of his friends on Google Plus but it’s not why he’s on the platform. He feels comfortable following and engaging with his colleages because unlike Facebook, he can easily be really particular about “who he shares what with who”.

He also generally conducts himself more professionally on the platform. Not quite as professionally as LinkedIn, but more much more professionally than on Facebook. Somewhere in between.

[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]TOP TIP: Join communities and collaborate with other authors and brands. [/pullquote]

If you’re trying to engage Greg on Google Plus consider involving yourself in Communities that he might belong to. Create content that involves the brands he loves and post them to Google Plus while tagging all of the brands and individuals who are mentioned in/or who were part of developing the content. It will be more likely that those people/brands will share the content resulting in Greg being more likely to see it!


Lucy on LinkedIn:

Lucy first and foremost uses LinkedIn as a way to house her online resume. It’s a great place for her to showcase her past work experience, education and skill set to any potential employers. In addition, Lucy uses LinkedIn to keep abreast of news in the industry in which she operates, as a way to network and build relationships with her peers and find new job opportunities.

If you’re a B2B business trying to engage Lucy, your best bet is to create a LinkedIn Company Page and to post industry updates and news as content from this page. If you want to take it one step further, you could consider creating a LinkedIn group around a topic area that might interest Lucy and her peers to facilitate conversation.

[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]TOP TIP: Remember that people are in “professional mode” when using LinkedIn so any content that’s going to make them look “in the know” will increase engagement. [/pullquote]

If you’re a blogger trying to network with other bloggers and potential brands LinkedIn is a great tool for doing so. If you’re looking for some tips on getting your LinkedIn profile to appear at the top of search results pages for particular keywords and constructing great networking emails, check out my blog post on optimising your LinkedIn profile here.


Like this and want to remember it for later? I’m just going to leave this here…

Are you creating content for each of your social media channels in a way that will resonate with the people who use that channel? This article explains how each channel should be used and why.

Did you find this post useful? I would love it if you would “pin” it to your Pinterest board!

Want to see more from me?

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  • Jenn
    October 2, 2015 at 12:14 am

    This is so helpful!! I love the approach you took – identifying typical personas and helping us understand what they’re looking for. I’m always trying to figure out social media ;)

    • kate
      October 2, 2015 at 8:32 pm

      Hi Jen, thank you so much for the kind words! I am so glad you got something out of this :) K