We looked at your brain on search, now let’s contrast that with what we can learn about Facebook users’ brains on Facebook.
I have a lot of questions about Facebook and consumer purchasing decisions:
- Are people more likely to make impulse purchasing decisions on Facebook than Google?
- Are they more receptive to certain types of offers when on Facebook?
- Do the different reasons people use Facebook impact their purchasing behavior or journeys?
- Does newsfeed engagement mediate or moderate ad effectiveness?
- Do people who spend more time on Facebook react differently?
Unfortunately, we won’t be answering any of those questions today.
Very little direct research has been done to determine how use of Facebook and receptivity to advertising may be related. At least that I could find.
Lots on effects of Facebook on psychological health, lots on effectiveness of Facebook as an advertising platform, etc., but we’re left to speculate about your brain on Facebook and how it affects purchasing behavior.
Here are some neat findings though:
The more things you do on Facebook, the more Facebook really knows you
One terrifying study finds that what you “like” on Facebook predicts a lot of true things about you.
Using myPersonality app, 58k people volunteered to let their “likes” list and personality test results to be analyzed (Psychometrics Centre at Cambridge University, 2012).
“The most important thing that we found is that you can predict a very wide variety of individual traits and preferences based on seemingly simple and generic types of records of online behavior like Facebook ‘likes.’ “via Time.com
Using an unsupervised machine learning algorithm, here’s how accurately “likes” behavior predicted things about participants:
- 95% accuracy identifying white or African American
- 93% accuracy identifying gender
- 88% accuracy identifying gay men
- 85% accuracy identifying Democrat or Republican
- 75% accuracy identifying age
And some fun, less obvious patterns emerged:
liking “curly fries” or “thunderstorms,” for example, was strongly linked with high intelligence while being a fan of the make-up store Sephora, liking the “I love being a mom” page or the Harley Davidson brand were linked with low intelligence. Being a heterosexual male was oddly linked with liking “being confused after waking from naps.”via Time.com
Even some personality attributes were predicted with nearly the same accuracy of directly measuring with a psych test.
This wasn’t some mega project. This was a study throwing some data at a machine learning library and seeing what it spat out.
Facebook status updates accurately reflect a user’s subjective well-being
Another study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking shows Facebook status updates accurately reflect a user’s subjective well-being. In addition, it found that:
users’ negative (but not positive) emotional expressions in Facebook status updates from the past 9–10 months were negatively related to their life satisfaction”(Liu, et al., 2015)
So not only are personal characteristics, indications of intelligence, and interests readily accessible about a person, we can also discern psychological states.
What Facebook knows about you gets leveraged in targeting criteria for Facebook Ads Manager
If I can target based on personality criteria, likes, gender, life events, etc., then with a deep understanding of a target group, I can have highly relevant ads.
How people use Facebook is affected by AND affects their mindset
“Passive Facebook usage undermines affective well-being”
Two studies published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that passive Facebook usage (browsing newsfeeds without commenting or liking) undermined affective well-being (defined as frequency and intensity of positive and negative emotions and mood) as measured by pre and post experiment questionnaires.
What’s more interesting is that, “passive Facebook usage predicted declines in how good people felt over time, but active Facebook usage did not,” (Verduyn, et al., 2015).
And this is not just correlation – the second study’s experimental design had participants browse and instructed them to not engage. They also controlled for a series of variables to identify the root culprit: inspiring envy.
The takeaway? Passive browsing increases a sense of envy in Facebook users.
People that get more pleasure from reputation gains also spend more time on Facebook
Brain activity and function in the nucleus accumbens (Wikipedia link) is often associated with baser drives: sex, food, pleasure, essentially the key components for reinforcement learning.
A study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, found that people who associated more pleasure with “gains in reputation for the self relative to gains for others,” were more likely to use Facebook (Meshi, Morawetz, & Heekeren, 2013).
A follow up study published in Behavioural Brain Research showed that “higher daily frequency of checking Facebook on the smartphone was robustly linked with smaller gray matter volumes of the nucleus accumbens” (Montag, et al., 2017). But it’s only correlation at this point.
Informal posts get remembered more
A study published in Memory & Cognition found that Facebook posts are 50% more memorable than book sentences and 100% more memorable than faces, and more memorable than CNN new headlines or anything else they ran test comparisons against (Mickes, et al., 2013).
The reason? It’s suspected that the simpler the content is, the easier it is to process and get the message.
The takeaway? Those informal more colloquial ads with misspellings and lingo probably work better than the polished copy big companies use.
And what I learned
What I did learn about Facebook ads is that the flexibility of targeting and messaging really does allow for a lot more impact than I originally thought.
I have a search background. I think ads are annoying. But if I’m looking for a roofer and I see a roofer ad (which is what happens in search) I’m less annoyed.
So it’s complex. Getting the targeting right on Google is going to be easier and cleaner. But you’re going to be fighting apples to apples on bid adjustments in a highly saturated highly competitive landscape for that reason.
It’s probably easier to communicate value, prod pain points, earn attention, generate interest, and stir desire with Facebook ads.