Social networks could be the worst place to advertise

Young persons head looking with gesture at social type of icons and signsYou are already thinking negative things about advertising on social networks. How do I know? Well that’s because the headline above has “framed” your thinking. It uses negative wording and sets your “frame of mind”. I then further underlined that with an “instruction” in the first sentence, telling you what you are thinking and also associating the word “negative” with “social networks”.

Framing is a technique used by advertisers, teachers, motivational speakers and anyone who wants to persuade you of something. Your partner does it at home, no doubt. They want to achieve something, such as getting you to cut the grass, knowing you don’t really have the time to do it. So they start a conversation about the plans for the coming weekend and how your mother is looking forward to seeing the children and so on. Your partner paints a lovely picture of a glorious weekend with the family, in the sunshine, in the garden. You start to picture it and imagine what a lovely weekend it will be because the family hasn’t been together in ages. Then, just as you are feeling all warm and enthusiastic for the weekend ahead, your partner points out that the grass is rather long and with the weather forecast for the week ahead it is bound to grow even more. The chances are you will now find the time to cut the grass; that’s because the job of grass cutting is positively framed in the lovely family weekend. Prior to your partner chatting to you, the grass cutting was negatively framed in your time pressures.

Interesting new research has looked at one aspect of framing in terms of social networks. The research from Taiwan investigated the reaction of people to adverts on social networks and considered this in relation to whether the advertising messages were negatively or positively framed. The study also looked at whether the visitors to these social sites were people who exhibited a psychological factor of personality called “need for cognition”. Essentially, this means whether or not they were people who pay close attention to what is being said.

The research found that when people had a high “need for cognition” they were most likely to be attracted to positively framed messages.

This is the complete reverse of what advertisers are taught. They are told that they should focus on a problem that needs solving – a negative framing. But as the Taiwan study showed, this only has an impact on people with low knowledge of the topic and who are low in “need for cognition”. In other words, negative advertising only appears to work for people who don’t know much and don’t care much either. And they are in short supply on social networks, meaning that the traditional advertising mantra is probably not fit for use in the social media world.


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Graham Jones
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+
Graham Jones


Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist, professional speaker and author of 32 books who helps businesses understand the online behaviour of their customers
More evidence for the negative impact of social media. "Social Media’s Negative Impact on How We View Our Bodies"… - 15 hours ago
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