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Basic Primer on Psychology for Social Media Marketers (And a Bonus on Online Sharing)

‘All marketing is essentially psychology.’

A marketer at ContentNinja poetically and succinctly put it one day.

And it is true. All marketing- whether it is carried on the web or in-person- rests on the cues that people respond to and make them want to buy/ sign up/enrol. If you know what these cues are and how to use them, you can market to just about anyone and everyone- successfully.

So, today, we dive deep into a crash course on psychology for social media marketers. This knowledge is to be absorbed and branded into one’s brain even before any marketing term is remembered because psychology in marketing is akin to oxygen in the body. No-can-do without it.

Without further ado, here are the basic principles of psychology for social media marketers that will help them to attract, convince, and convert the right people easily:

Decoy Effect

Let’s start right away with an exciting psychology principle- the Decoy Effect. 

This principle is leveraged to make customers choose the most expensive option and uses the magical power of the number 3.

In his TED talk ‘Are we in control of our own decisions?’, Dan Airley talks about an ad that The Economist put out for their latest subscription packages. The prices ran something like this:

psychology for social media marketers


An oceanic difference between the prices of the 1st and the other 2 subscriptions. But then why would they offer the print subscription at the same rate as that of the combo subscription?

Dan Airley did not get an answer from The Economist, but he did find one in his research study carried out on 100 MIT students.

When he presented the students with the plans, most of them chose the combo subscription. Best offer out of the given prices, right?

Then he removed the ‘print subscription’ offer, and the game turned interesting. Now, most students opted for the online subscription. The combo deal was too expensive.

It turns out, the print subscription option was placed there to give people the notion that the combo deal was relatively better than the stand-alone deal. It was a decoy. If you can get 2 things at the same price that you get one, why wouldn’t you go for it? When there was no same price, however, students inevitably went with the cheapest option.

Another example of this is sometimes seen in cinema theatres. Have you ever noticed how the prices of popcorn are set apart by INR 10 only? So, if the smallest popcorn costs INR 210, the medium one will cost INR 220, and the largest one will cost INR 230.

When the person sees that there isn’t much price difference between the smallest and largest popcorn, they choose the latter without fail. For a slight price difference, you can eat more popcorn even if you share. Who wouldn’t want that?

This is one of the most powerful psychological tactics to influence consumers’ heads. If you have purchasing options for 2 products on your landing page, consider adding a third. It might just entice customers to choose the highest-priced one because they have a frame of reference for how great a deal they are getting.

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Go for the small yes first

A mistake most marketers are liable to make is asking right away for a big yes from the customer, whether it is in terms of money, time, or energy. Trust needs to be established with the customer, and you cannot take it for granted ever.

How to do this? Go for the small yes first. 

Begin by asking them to sign up to your newsletter (because there’s lots of insider information to be found that will genuinely benefit them). Deliver amazing newsletters that add value to their lives and help to solve a problem.

Next, send them an e-book and ask them to download it. If they do click on the download link, you’ve scored another yes. Delight them with the information in the e-book.

Next, invite them to a webinar. If they accept, congratulations! Another yes. Blow their mind away with the information you have to share. Remind them to keep an eye out on your Instagram stories this week because you’ll be going live with a real-time demonstration of all the principles you’ve discussed. If they show up and reply- you are doing great!

Finally, now that they’ve said yes to you a few times, had time to sample your offerings, and trust you more, you can come at them with your big offer- the hundred dollar program, the 7-week course, the mentorship program. You will have a much better chance of scoring a yes here, too, because, as science suggests, people make certain choices based on past decisions. They’ve said yes to you in the past; they are more likely to say it now, too.

Anchor down

This is one of the most crucial principles in psychology for social media marketers. Seemingly subtle, it has immense persuasive powers.

Think back to an online course that you’ve wanted to take for a long time. Its usual price is $999. For a small window of time, it is available for just $99 with payment plans. A good day or what?!

You go over to the website and see the price in big, bold font. $999 cut down and replaced by $99 with 3 payment plans below. The course is so near you can taste what it will be like to take it. ‘This might be my only chance,’ you think. So, you take it. Sign up for a payment plan and voila! It’s yours now. 

What happened here was anchoring- another psychological tactic to influence consumers’ heads. The psychology behind this tactic is that people base decisions on the first piece of information they have. In this case, you knew that the initial price of the course was $999. Now, you see it’s been reduced to $99. ‘It’s a crazy amazing deal!!!’ your mind says/ screams to you.

Another example:

When you are running a sale on your website, employ this approach. Mention the initial price (the anchor), cut it out, and write the reduced price next to it. To make customers even more happy about how great a deal they are getting, mention the percentage by which the amount is reduced.

psychology for social media marketers


Scarcity and FOMO

psychology for social media marketers


Thanks to the Internet, the emotion of FOMO has reached epidemic levels. It is not apparent outrightly, but you can detect it in people’s behaviour if you know what to look for. You can repurpose content and different versions over different platforms, gaining users for one with the help of others. 

This is a Cialdini effect (Robert Cialdini- author of the famous book on persuasion ‘Influence’) 

Simply put: the more rare, time-sensitive, and limited a product/ opportunity/ offer is, the more valuable it is. At least that’s how the mind thinks about it.   

How can you leverage this principle of psychology in marketing?

Create supply and demand. Leverage the potential of psychology in marketing. 

psychology for social media marketers


Position your product/ service this way: there was plenty of it available, but due to popular demand, the supply diminished. Now, due to increased demand, the product is back in stock but only for a limited time. Then go on to explain the benefits the buyer will derive from the purchase while leveraging another compelling psychological tactic to influence consumers’ heads…

Social proof

At the end of the day, humans want to belong. They want to feel accepted and that they are part of a tribe. Social proof is the theory that to do this, people will say yes to the beliefs, habits, and mannerisms of a group they like or trust.

Continuing with the above example, you can leverage social proof to showcase how many people have already purchased the said product/ service and benefited by it. Be as specific as possible. 

Instead of using ‘thousands’, use:

‘350,432 people bought this course and are now happily enjoying an ROI that, on an average, is 135% more than their previous one. The same success can be yours.’

An example using social proof and the scarcity principle at the same time:

psychology for social media marketers


If you have a blog, then utilize the powers of the social sharing buttons. Mention how many readers have already signed up to receive weekly updates about the blog. Include the number of people who’ve already tweeted this in Twitter-Ville. This will not only add credibility to your posts but also make it easier for a person to share further what you write because people have already done it before him.

However, if your follower and sharing numbers aren’t great, then spend some time building them up before you begin leveraging social proof. 

Bonus!: The Psychology of Online Sharing

Every marketer ever wants to inspire action as a result of the content they worked so to hard to create. Online sharing is one such action because deep down, we all know: nothing beats good ole mouth-of-word marketing. This is probably the best example of how effective psychology in marketing can be. 

Even in the digital age, people are liable to trust people’s word, opinion, and review, more than company numbers. If they are convinced, they’ll still ask other people how they found the company’s product or service. There’s no trumping word-of-mouth marketing.

How to leverage this powerful beast through online sharing then?

The secret: focus on creating content that betters the relationship of the sharer with their audience.

Take a look at the 5 reasons why people share online:

  • They want to better the lives of others (94%)
  • They want to spread the word about something they believe in (84%)
  • They like the feeling of receiving people’s comments and witnessing their engagement (81%)
  • They want to grow and nurture relationships (80%)
  • They feel the content supports their online identity (68%)

As a marketer, your main task would be to craft your posts and copy in a way that enhances the image of your audience and helps them to meet their goals.


Once you begin applying the above principles of psychology in marketing, you’ll see how that’s all marketing is- psychology. However, we do advise you to change approach and mix and match as per your audience and the current phase your business is in. Responsive and dynamic marketing over the cookie-cutter 10-step-formulas type.

At the end of the day, though, armed with these psychological tactics to influence consumers’ heads, attracting, convincing, and converting had never been so easy.

Author avatar
Pratyush Arya