December 1, 2021

Be Emotional About Social Content

It doesn't matter what time of day you post something if it gets a positive emotional response.

Photo by <a href="">Aaron Weiss</a> on <a href="">Unsplash</a>

"The nature of marketing is changing. Brands are no longer looking to get their message out, they're looking to do more than sell a product. They want to create an emotional connection with their customers and make them feel like part of the family."

- Perez

On average, people spend five hours per day on social media in order to connect with others in some way or another. If brands hope that these people will purchase something from them then they have to give consumers a reason why they should invest in their company's product over somebody else's. Brands aren't just selling products anymore; they're selling experiences, lifestyles, and personalities too. This is where emotion comes into play- it creates an actual human connection between customer and brand.

Five years ago now, Facebook gave us the opportunity to do more than just "like" a post. Based on customer feedback, they added additional reactions such as "love" and "sad." During the pandemic in 2020, "care" was also added to the optional reactions.

In the midst of multiple revelations about Facebook recently, thanks to the "Facebook Whistleblower," one thing we have learned is the importance of those reactions in the Newsfeed algorithm. According to leaked documents, a like reaction, for example, gave the content 1 point in the ranking. A "love" or even "angry" reaction gave the content 5 points. The way this shift in the algorithm has given priority to disinformation and emotionally charged content has brought the company under scrutiny. It's not hard to argue that our news feeds are the most divisive they have ever been, and many believe this algorithm change should take some of the blame.

As intelligent marketers though, the takeaway for us is the need to create and publish content that has an emotional connection to the reader. Getting "likes" is nice, but getting a laugh or a share is much more valuable, even if it doesn't score an engagement for your algorithm ranking.

1. Emotion can help your content marketing strategy

Oftentimes when creating a piece of social media content our minds start asking questions like:

- How long is the video going to be? 

- What are we linking to? 

- What hashtags will we use? 

- What channel is this for? 

These can be important questions to ask for sure. I'm all about answering every question and being as detailed as you can be. However, what if we started with questions like: 

- What do we want our audience to feel with this piece of content? 

- What kind of comment or reaction do we want them to leave? 

- What do we need to add to this post to get our audience to smile?

If you're able to get the desired emotional reaction out of your audience that you want, then the other technical questions become less relevant. It doesn't matter what time of day you post something if it gets a positive emotional response from your followers, they will react to it and share it with their audience as well.

2. Understand the emotional state of your audience

In Build Your Digital Strategy, I dedicate a small section to the art and science of creating personas for the targets you hope to reach with your brand and its channels. Overall, the goal of developing personas is to create a 360-degree picture of who the people are that you're selling to, so that they become more than just a demographic.

One of the layers to consider adding to your personas is Emotional Intelligence (EQ). EQ depends on a persons ability to perceive emotions, reason with them, understand them and ultimately manage emotions. Try taking the following free test from to understand your own EQ better. When you're done, try and take the test from the POV of your primary audience. What can you learn about their typical emotional state and how they respond to content on social media? 

3. Ways to get an emotional response

If you're looking for ways to get an emotional response from your audience, here are three proven methods to get your wheels turning.


It's hard to say it better than Don Draper usually in the ad business, so here it goes: 

Nostalgia – its delicate, but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek nostalgia literally means ‘the pain from an old wound.’ It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone.

What is the history of your brand or product? Are there ways to bring back cherished memories for your audience of their first experience with your brand? If you have a relatively new brand or product, you can still tap into nostalgia. Think about the ache or want that your brand is solving for your audience, and take them back to the first time they experienced that desire. Remind them of the fun and purity that came from wanting what you've got for them.


Storytelling is another tactic that I touch on briefly in Build Your Digital Strategy. While we probably spend more time writing "copy," story has a scientifically proven ability to build an emotional connection and memory with the reader.

The most basic storytelling format is Normal --> Explosion --> New Normal. What is the new normal that your brand can provide? What is the explosion that is creating a new normal for the reader? Answer these questions and you'll have a relevant piece of connecting content for your audience.


This is mostly for American readers out there. There's nothing that we love more in comedy than self-deprecation. Find ways to poke fun at yourself and your brand throughout the year. Your audience will love you for it.

4. Be Responsible

This hopefully goes without saying, but please be responsible when it comes to tapping into the power of emotions with your audience. Don't mislead them. Don't unnecessarily make them angry. Don't make them feel bad about themselves.

There are so many positive things to be done with social media that there's no time to mess around with negative content.

Ryan Sawrie

Digital Leader, Author

Ryan Sawrie is the author of Build Your Digital Strategy and a veteran digital marketer. Ryan shares his insights to creating digital strategies in BYDS and at the website.

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