According to a BBC article published today, a University of Michigan study finds that Facebook use makes people feel worse about themselves. Interesting. But what does that mean?
The research seems to raise more questions than answers. If it’s true, why do people spend so much time on Facebook? But the study does not mean a death knell for Facebook. Other research shows that Facebook satisfies an innate psychological need for social connection.
That said, the findings have important implications for brands trying to connect with users on the social network. Marketers need to understand first and foremost that one-on-one social connections are the only way, in the long run, to build relationships with users. That is a hard grind, requiring time, effort, a minimum level of competency and authenticity. Sorry, no shortcuts.
Another important implication is that brands can work to ensure that users feel better rather than worse about themselves. The report cites the Fear Of Missing Out theory as one reason people feel bad after using Facebook. This concept suggests bad feelings arise as “a side effect of seeing friends and family sitting on beaches or having fun at parties while you are on a computer.”
Marketers could counter this perception of social isolation in several ways. For example, brands can reward engagement with increased interaction or incentives such as sweepstakes. These might help the user feel as though they belong to an in-group who are granted special privileges. Another possibility is to organize online (or even in-person) meet ups or clubs where users can share stories, products, special deals and so forth.
These approaches may not be easy to implement in practice. But brands must understand that Facebook usage does have negative consequences and they must be prepared to deal with that. Marketers must also understand that there are no easy fixes for creating an effective presence in social media. It’s a hard slog, and providing value and keeping commitments are not cheap, so your brand shouldn’t be either.