OPINION9 March 2010

Social Media – An Emotional View

Spotlight on some new social media research

There has been a lot of debate about the practical applications of social media, the core needs in terms of speed of accessing information, quality of information obtained and so forth. Yet I’ve read very little on how people feel about it all. If emotions are fundamental to how we make decisions (Damasio) and “managing the total customer experience” requires recognising clues of experience related to functionality and clues of experience related to emotions” (MIT Sloan Management Review, Berry, Carbone and Haeckel, Spring 2002 ), then it would be nice to get the emotional lowdown.


Here I highlight some recent research on how typical (not just Facebook) Social Media experiences feel:


Figure 1: the Social Media Emotional Profile



Emotions in Social Media


Using a scale called Emotional Signature this demonstrates some interesting and perhaps counter-intuitive themes (n=360 ).

Firstly, negative emotions are ‘as expected’ (BP index is an index of typical emotional feelings) – after all if negative emotions aren’t controlled you wouldn’t be in business.

However, the kind of emotions you would expect in a ‘humanic type organisation’ (feeling valued and cared for) or when you achieve total satisfaction (or close to it) – happy and pleased – are just not hitting the mark.  Instead, some fairly unusual emotions to do with grabbing attention (stimulated, interested, and exploratory) are most resonant. 

This is the kind of sense you get from a business focused on acquisition, not retention. Grabbing subscribers in some kind of land grab. All of this is reminiscent of the dot.com period of boom followed by bust.The lesson: perhaps we are coming up to the end of wave 1 (land grab) and entering phase 2, with the consequent industry shakeout. The survivors may well be those who demonstrate a stronger pleasure-based/cared for and valued-based emotional profile rather than one based on just grabbing attention.