5 Psychological Principles to Power Your Social Media & Content Marketing


Content marketing doesn’t appear to make sense at times, but taking a closer look can reveal predictable patterns of human behavior. Using these established psychological principles, you can create better content for your web pages, emails and social media posts.

Content powered by psychological principles can help you drive more traffic, engagement and conversions, boosting your business favorably.

One of Apple’s first video ads, “The Crazy Ones”, is a great example of a psychological principle at play. People want to belong, and Apple’s ad creates a cool, empowered clique that people would long to belong to.

This is a list of 5 psychological principles that you can use to make your social media and content marketing more effective.

Social authority


In 1963, Stanley Milgram ran an experiment to prove the human predisposition to obey authority. In the experiment, subjects were asked to give unknown people the electric shock treatment because they believed they were giving the wrong answers to a series of questions. 65% participants administered the highest voltage, prompted by a “study coordinator” even when they knew the recipients had a heart condition or were screaming in pain.

This experiment, although unpleasant, proves a point. It’s in human nature to be influenced by authority.

  • Create an expert interview series for your blog.

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  • Ask industry experts for product reviews.
  • Share quotes, ideas and advice given by social media influencers.  



Attraction to the “new” is seen in humans right from infancy. Children forget old toys for new ones, and we upgrade our iPhones every year. The experience of novelty can increase the production of dopamine, according to research conducted by the University of London. Dopamine regulates levels of motivation and the brain’s ability to predict rewards.

Use novel ideas, concepts and references in your content marketing, to motivate people to interact.

  • Create content inspired by the latest news. Newsjacking isn’t shameful if you end up providing value. Google Trends will tell you if your content matter is being spoken about at any given moment.

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Beihang University analyzed 70 million tweets and categorized them based on emotion – anger, sadness, joy and disgust. Their researchers found that anger resulted in more exposure and reach for content. Angry tweets even got responses with as much as a third degree separation from the original post.

Media professionals are familiar with the fact that controversy sells, but this study proves that the phenomenon applies to social networks just the same.

  • Craft controversial titles that are bound to attract more attention. Use them to stand out in crowded social feeds.

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  • Use content that tests a person’s 3B’s: behavior, belief or belongings, and you will see the effect play out.
  • Steer clear of sensitive issues like politics, religion and race. Avoid anything you think might blow up in your face.



Dennis Regan proved the principle of reciprocity as early as 1971, with his partner Joe. Dennis and Joe would take the test subjects out to an art show and buy them a soda. Joe would then request the subjects to purchase tickets to the show. The subjects who received a soda almost always bought tickets, even when they didn’t appear to like or get along with Joe.

People typically return favors, and this principle is what content marketing is largely based on.

  • Create valuable content and offer it to your audience for free, no strings attached. The greater or more irreplaceable the value, the more indebted your audience is likely to be.
  • @mention bloggers and influencers when you share their content. That makes them more likely to share yours. Simple social media management tips like these can amount to large boosts in your results.
  • Offer value in exchange for contact information, so you can grow your database of prospects.

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The Fear Of Missing Out is synonymous with the theory of scarcity.  According to the theory of scarcity, people assign more value to items that are scarce, which is why brands use the “Limited stock remaining” ploy.

Smartphone brand OnePlus’ invite based system became viral because of this very principle. You could own a OnePlus phone only if a friend sent you an invite.

  • Create content that’s not accessible to everyone and is available only for a limited period of time. This is one of the reasons why webinars work well as lead generation tools – seats are numbered and access is limited.
  • Use the FOMO principle in your communication on emails, social media and blog posts where it makes sense.

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That’s a wrap. Now it’s over to you. Use these principles to make your content marketing more powerful and effective, and you will be surprised what it can achieve.


Author bio:


Disha Dinesh is Content Writer at Godot Media, a leading content agency. When she’s not writing or wrinkling her eyebrows in thought, she’s foot-tapping to the latest in progressive music.