Online social networks have inbuilt major weakness

Adele at Golden Globes - Daily TelegraphThe British songstress, Adele, was apparently only a new mum on a night out with her friend when she just happened to win a Golden Globe Award for the theme tune to Skyfall which she co-wrote with Paul Epworth. In her acceptance speech for the hardly unsurprising award she was ecstatic and said she was only having a night out with her mate. Some night out…!

Now, set aside your thoughts that she was confident of winning, ignore the plaudits from the critics who have already said the award was in the bag and forget your cynical view that if all she was doing was having a night out with friends, how come she managed to get tickets to The Golden Globes? What you will have witnessed is someone who was enthusiastic and pleased. Plus if you had been a young mum in that theatre, boy oh boy, would you have empathised. Indeed, young mums who may have seen the clip on TV will have warmed to her and had the same kind of feelings about a fun night out with your mates not long after giving birth.

That’s because when you are party to the emotion of another human being special brain cells get triggered, called “mirror neurons”. What happens is you start to feel the same emotional responses as the individual you are with, especially if there is some kind of bond, in Adele’s case being a new mum would have helped her connect with other new mothers, who would have empathised with her thanks to their mirror neurons firing into action.

New research on mirror neurons shows that they are active in spite of the cognitive load we face. In a study conducted at the University of California psychologists found that even if they gave people complex memory tasks, the activity of mirror neurons were unaffected in social situations. In other words, mirror neuron activity is automatic and subconscious and appears to occur even if your conscious brain is doing other things.

It is part of our brain’s way of ensuring we rub along together well and that we don’t have to think in order to be social. But here’s the problem – mirror neurons work best when we are actually with other people, when we can interpret body language, facial expressions tone of voice and so on. As I wrote almost four years ago, we can benefit from the triggering of mirror neurons online, however it is when we are with people that they really come into their own.

So, when we are using social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, we are dealing almost entirely with often emotionless text or images which bear no direct relevance to our present situation. The result is that our mirror neurons don’t get triggered and we don’t empathise with the people trying to communicate with us.

Indeed, because social media generally lacks body language, tone of voice, facial expressions and so on they also lack the ability to trigger those mirror neurons as much as they might – in spite of the system being automatic.

So, what can you do about it if you are running an online business and you need to get your customers emotionally hooked, automatically?

The answer is simple – stop being business-like, which is devoid of emotional language and the potential to trigger mirror neurons. Instead, be like Adele – be real, be full of emotion and produce your content “from the heart” rather than from your mind. Being business-like is actually what is holding back many businesses online.

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