Consumer Psychology for a Digital Age

The Psychology of Facebook: Implications for Social Commerce

Thinking of using Facebook as a social commerce platform?  Then it can help understand the social psychology of the Facebook user.  Here are 7 evidence-based insights from recent psychology research into why we do what we do on Facebook (to learn more, check out Jeremy Dean’s wondrous PysBlog – an Aladdin’s Cave of practical insight)

  • It’s all about ‘Social Capital’, baby:  Facebook is used to manage social capital – the power, privilege and possibilities we have by virtue of the social networks we are part of.  Ellison et al. (2008) found that Facebook users had higher levels of ‘social capital’ – in other words, they can profit more from ‘friends with benefits’. Social Capital is a BIG concept in understanding social media – more in upcoming posts.  How could social commerce help improve the social capital of Facebookers (whilst also helping them shop smart with their social intelligence?)
  • The Facebook 7s. Tap into one or more of the 7 core Facebook activities (‘uses and gratifications‘) identified by Joinson (2008). Note: connecting with, or buying from, brands and businesses is not one of them)
    1. Connecting (with People)
    2. Participating (in Group Behaviour)
    3. Sharing (Media)
    4. Using (Apps)
    5. Updating (Status Updates Sharing/Learning)
    6. Surfing (People – Virtual People Watching)
    7. Investigating (People – ‘Social Surveillance’)
  • The Disinhibition Effect: Facebook disinhibits people – insofar as people say, share and do things on Facebook that they wouldn’t share, say or do in face-to-face situations. Nosko et al. (2010) found that young, single people were particularly likely to disclose sensitive information about themselves. How could you use the ‘disinhibition effect’ to build  a revealing social commerce strategy (think blippy)
  • Beautiful PeopleWalther et al. (2008) found that attractive friends boosted the perceived attractiveness of participants’ profiles (nb. unlike the contrast effect in real life).  Boost the attractiveness of Facebookers by helping them mix with beautiful people.
  • The magic number of 150: People can manage relationships with up to 150 people – and Tong et al. (2008) found Facebooker’s social attractiveness peaked at around this number.  Help people manage relationships – not too many, not too few.
  • Jealousy: Compulsive Facebook usage is a sign that your partner may be a jealous type (see ‘social surveillance’ above in the Facebook 7s): Muise et al. (2009) found that participants who spent more time on Facebook were more jealous of their partner.  Opportunity to build apps that play on partner paranoia?
  • The Truth is Out There: Strangely, people tend to be honest about themselves on Facebook: Back et al., (2010) found that Facebook profiles generally reflected their owner’s actual selves rather than their idealised selves. How could you harness honesty in social commerce?

Comments (9):

  1. Stefan

    February 14, 2011 at 04:31

    Great article Paul…

    Looking forward to see the impact of Facebook on commerce in the next years. If Facebook really wants to get in this game, they might need to change their approach a bit, since an over-commercialization of the feed will possible lead to users loosing interest.
    The trick for marketers will be to integrate the messages into peoples personal habits.

    Hope to read more great blog posts from you.

    • Paul Marsden

      February 24, 2011 at 10:24

      Hi Stefan, smart point – completely agree – ‘personal’ relevance will be key to success

  2. Theresa B. Clarke

    February 14, 2011 at 13:57

    I enjoyed the insights presented in The Psychology of Facebook post.


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