Spreading Jam Blog / Post

The Psychology of Online Influence



Ever since the switch to Facebook Timeline there have been many debates around what type of content brands should be posting in order to inspire comments, likes and shares from their fans. This means that planning then becomes a lot more focused on human psychology, not just data and metrics. So the timing of the recent ‘Chinwag Insight: The Psychology of Online Influence’ event was perfect.

Speakers at the event included Nathalie Nahai (aka The Web Psychologist), William Higham from The Next Big Thing, Martin Talks from Draftfcb and Dr Barbie Clarke from Family, Kids and Youth and they covered a range of topics, from how to inspire action, to how to target specific demographics.

If you have ever been a community manager, then quite a lot of the insights shared at the event won’t come as a surprise but there were a few takeaways that will come in useful when planning your content strategy:

1. Know your target

Nathalie Nahai broke down the thought process by looking at the three core areas of the brain and how we can stimulate them:




Part of the brain





Brainstem ‘reptilian brain’

Basic functions, arousal, flight, fight or freeze

Sex, motion, contrast



Limbic system ‘emotional brain’

Emotions, senses

Empathy, story-telling



Neo-cortex ‘executive brain’

Analytical, innovative, personality

Rationalisation, authority





Using this basic guide, you can tailor your content strategy to first of all attract fans and then inspire an action. A very basic example would be:  include an image of a person in your status update, tell a story about that person and include a call to action/reasoning. This leads us onto the next point;

2. ‘Emotion leads to action, while reason leads to conclusion’ Donald B. Calne

Not necessarily news to anyone working in advertising, but worth reiterating none-the-less. 95% of us make purchase decisions based on our emotional responses and this rule is reflected when it comes to online interactions. Based on this, Martin Talks outlined in his presentation that we should be inspiring audiences to change their patterns of thinking from:

Think > Feel> Do


Feel> Do> Think

3. Target the adolescent in your consumer, even if they are no longer one themselves

William Higham’s presentation looked at how we develop throughout our lives, focusing on the fact that we develop a large part of our social and personal identity in our adolescence. He suggested that by tapping into people’s memories of their adolescence, it would encourage them to share with others who had also experienced these things. These memories aren’t limited to products, songs or politics either; it could simply be the general mood at the time, and the type of language used. Higham went on to suggest that you could group entire generations together based on the general mood of the decade. Some examples he gave were:



1960’s The Boomers- a time of prospects, when it was believed young people could change the future.  Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Oprah Winfrey were all adolescents during this time, so this generation may respond to optimistic, positive language.



Early 70’s The defeatists- violence around the World increased and the UK suffered with a large number of industrial strikes. This generation spawned alternative comedians like Ricky Gervais, Jo Brand  and French & Saunders, so a dark or sarcastic stance could resonate with this audience.



Late 70’s The escapists- these guys couldn’t remember the swinging 60s, so things had always been crap! (Higham’s words, not mine). People like Jarvis Cocker and Billy Bragg were growing up at this time, so helping this audience find a distraction could inspire some action.



There were many more speakers and outtakes from the day and you can find all of the presentations here.

Lisa Burprich is a Planner at Jam.

Join the discussion

Loading comments...