Anthropology: A Brief Introduction to Social Media Marketing Techniques and Influence on Human Behavior

Don’t tell me I’m the only one that the following has happened to at least a dozen times. I’m innocently scrolling on Instagram when suddenly an ad pops up. Obviously, I love the product and hence, I clicked on it. This is when the Social Media Marketing cycle begins, and I end up on my phone way longer than I intended to.

Marketing has a lot of effective ways to influence us humans. Digitalization is rapidly growing, which is why the importance of digital marketing is doing the same. There are several forms, strategies, types, and purposes and it is important to know at least some of them. Please don’t get me wrong, marketing is important and definitely has its benefits, but there are also bad consequences that come with it. Hence, it is inevitable for everyone to educate themselves on this topic and always stay critical.

What is Social Media Marketing?

Social Media Marketing can be defined as different strategies with the help of which companies, political and non-profit organizations try to promote a product or service. Its importance is frequently growing for both parties – practitioners and researchers. Most of the used platforms already have built-in data analytics tools, which simplify the process of tracking reach, success, and engagement.

Of course, Social Media Marketing addresses current and potential customers, but that’s not the only focus. Moreover, it enables a company to spread their message to current and potential employees, journalists, bloggers, and the general public.

Picture of a phone with social media apps on it.
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Strategies in Social Media Marketing

Just because Social Media Marketing seems like an amazing and easily accessible tool for companies to avoid costly market research doesn’t mean there is no systematic thought process involved. There are many different approaches to this phenomenon, but they can (mostly) be categorized into the following three.

Passive approach

I feel like an example is the easiest way to start the explanation. Imagine walking around in the city and dying to visit your new favorite clothing boutique. Last time you were there, they told you that around this time of the year, they would have a giant sale. You arrive, and, to your disappointment, there’s no sale in sight.

They don’t pursue any type of marketing, which is why you never know when something special happens. To find out, you will have to visit, and there’s not always time and the emotional capacity for a possible disappointment. To keep their customers up to date, the owner decided to create a website. Whenever there’s news – a sale, a new drop, an event – they post it, and you know it.

That is passive marketing. The company informs their customers about what’s going on and you are always on top of the news-chain. This news can include topics such as sales, events, new products, organizational changes, and many more.

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Active approach

To stay within our example, imagine the store putting more and more work into their marketing strategies. They have started to expand to more interactive social media platforms, such as Instagram. With their new account, they make their store more accessible online. A customer doesn’t intentionally have to visit their website but can be informed while doing other stuff on Instagram.

To further their reach, they can actively (see what I did there) use digital tools like Google AdSense or Instagram Ads to target their advertisement to specific groups. For example, Instagram users, who like and comment on a lot of fashion posts will see the ads, since they might be potential customers, while people highly interested in political content most likely won’t.

Moreover, the company can benefit from using these communication channels to build a community and actively (I did it again) interact with its followers. To pursue this purpose, they can post stories, polls, and giveaways.

Picture of people sitting around a table with their laptops. They are creating a digital content strategy.
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Yes, we’re still staying within our example. Algorithms can heavily impact the outcome of every marketing strategy. They haven’t been around for too long but are becoming increasingly popular. Depending on the platform, they usually work with three things: interest, relevance, and interactions.

Interest summarizes the topics you would like to know more about. For example, fashion. The relevance factor ensures that you see current news on your topic. The last feature, interactions, provides you with content that you might like because of you following or liking your favorite clothing store. These could be pictures from another, similar clothing store which “your” store follows.

Nowadays, nearly every platform uses them. Think about it: Netflix recommends shows and movies, Facebook people you might know, TikTok and YouTube videos you would like.

Picture of a digital algorithm.
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Influencer Marketing

Influencer Marketing is quite a young category of marketing and can combine passive and active approaches. To dive deeper into this topic, we have to learn about the different categories involved.

What is an Influencer?

An influencer can be anyone. A politician, an athlete, a journalist, a YouTuber, a model, a celebrity, or an actor. They can be of any gender, sexual orientation, background, and social status. The “only” requirement is, that they are really active on social media platforms and have a big following and great reach.

There is nothing like “The Influencer” since all of them belong to different categories. Influencer, then, is the parent category to the following.

  • Incfluencer: People who commit themselves to the inclusion of the disabled
  • Key Influencer: Bloggers, journalists, or brand ambassadors with their own blog, online-magazine, or social media profile. They enjoy high recognition and appreciation and are seen as experts and idols.
  • Kidfluencer: Kids or young people with social media profiles
  • Peer influencers: People who have a connection to a company and take influence on the customer journey due to their personality and expertise
  • Petfluencer: People who post pictures and videos of and with their pet(s)
  • Sensefluencer: People who use their voice for socially relevant topics, such as social justice and sustainability
Picture of a girl putting on make-up.
Source: George Milton / Pexels

What is Influencer Marketing?

Social media marketing using influencers is pretty much exactly what you think it is. Brands, companies, and political groups pay a set person to promote their products or philosophies. This type of marketing makes it easier to reach an exact audience in a very genuine and authentic way. And it works.

Think about it: once you sympathize with a person, they seem to become more and more reliable in their opinions on things. For example, if a friend tells you about this new brand of blue jeans they bought, you automatically think about it. Whether you buy them is a different question, BUT you might research them. And once the idea of the brand is planted in your brain, you might even tell other people if the topic of jeans comes up.

It is the same thing with influencer marketing. Let’s say you follow Pamela Reif (you know, the one with the workout videos) and she posts a picture wearing, what seems to be, the perfect white sneakers, and talks about how much she loves them. If you’re on the hunt for new shoes, you might look them up and even buy them – that is called the conversion. And if you already have a pair, you can always buy a second pair – there is no such thing as too many shoes. But if you don’t want to buy them, but still think they look great, you might tell your best friend.

This is the idea: influencers can spread the word about a brand or company and either gather new customers or just create a broader reach.

Crazy Facts: Brands are estimated to spend up to $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022. And recent research shows that approximately 40% of respondents have purchased an item after seeing it used by an influencer on social media.

Picture of a man showing a product to the camera.
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Purpose of Social Media and Influencer Marketing

Just like there’s no such thing as “the influencer”, there is nothing like “the purpose”. In fact, there are seven. Or at least that’s what most experts state. They are all equally as important.

Communication, being the first one, might be one of the most obvious ones. When a brand creates content, it’s mostly on platforms where the user or customer can interact with them. They can leave likes, comments, or feedback. You, as the user, feel a stronger connection, empowerment, and understanding.

Collaboration allows several individuals to interact in the most personalized and result-driven manner. Many people can interact on one platform simultaneously and the outcome is expected in a well-synchronized manner.

Opinions and reviews are now easier to aggregate than ever. Anyone can review anything. If you look for a new restaurant and want to make sure it’s good, you can look up reviews on Google. And it works like this for pretty much everything.

Brand monitoring is probably less known, which is why I’m going to try to explain it in an easy-to-understand way. Tools make it easy for the brand to stay up to date. With virtually anything. Knowing what people really think of your brand, how good your image really is.

Entertainment, duh. Online games, movies, television – they are all promoted via social media. And nowadays, most big brands create entertaining videos to inform and engage their audience.

Media Sharing becomes most obvious when you think of the YouTube platform. Over 500 million people engage on this website and spread their message. Spotify, as well, makes it easy for you to share your favorite songs and podcasts with other people. Social Media make it more accessible than ever to down- and upload media content.

Paid Advertising can be found on nearly every social media platform. To be honest, I can’t think of one where it couldn’t be found. When you watch a YouTube video, scroll on Instagram, or look up something on Google, there’s always ads in whichever form.

Wrapping it up: social media marketing serves a lot of purposes and, on top, is a great tool to avoid costly market research. The consumer can be investigated at each and every step of the consumer decision journey.

Picture of people sitting around a table with their laptops.
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Force of Influencer Marketing

There has been a great amount of scientific research on social media and especially influencer marketing over the past few years. Researchers indicate that people, exposed to Instagram celebrity brand posts, as to traditional celebrity brand posts, view the source in a more positive way. They show greater positive attitude and trust toward the endorsed brand and perceive the social presence as bigger. As well, social media presence in general has an appealing effect on humans.

This is due to the “mere exposure-effect”, which indicates that the more often we recognize something, the more positive we perceive it. Fun Fact: this is also true for humans.

Furthermore, research shows, that the influencer’s trustworthiness and their attractiveness positively affect the viewers’ trust in branded posts. This inevitably influences brand awareness and the intention of purchases.

To learn more about the influence of social media marketing on human behavior, I recommend this article.

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Dangers of Influencer Marketing

Now that we’ve talked about the great things that are possible using social media marketing, let’s get to the downside. Research shows that an influencer’s attractiveness is one of the factors that positively affect the viewers’ trust in branded posts. This inevitably influences brand awareness and the intention of purchases. This indicates that it’s not always about the brand itself, but about the physical attraction to the influencer.

Meaning there is no tangible reason for you to actually purchase anything. You’re convinced you need to buy the product. You feel as though it might make you look, feel and be like your desired influencer. Some might say marketing always implies manipulation, but this is wrong on a different level. It can make the viewer feel less because they are not, or don’t have what their desired person is and has. This can be especially harmful for the mental health of younger people, with them being easier targets.

Picture of barrier tape saying "danger".
Source: Markus Spiske / Pexels

Bottom line on Social Media Marketing

Obviously, social media marketing has tremendous significance and is of great use to companies and brands. It is a way to engage with the customer, which creates a feeling of community and a sense of belonging. And who doesn’t like being in a community with people who share the same interests?

What I’m trying to tell you is, just because some influencers are sponsored by big brands does not equal, they are experts themselves. There are people out there who might spread wrong and possibly harmful messages. I’m not saying they intend to, but it happens. This is a great danger from social media marketing and platforms are starting to take precautions, but they still have a long way to go.

It is necessary to take everything with a grain of salt and to look at things in a critical way.

Feature image source: Merakist / Unsplash

One thought on “Anthropology: A Brief Introduction to Social Media Marketing Techniques and Influence on Human Behavior

  1. Amazing topic and informative knowledge here and keep it up and more give information about socia media plateform

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