New research about possible hormonal reactions to social networking has big repercussions for small businesses. In a preliminary study (chronicled here), Dr. Paul J. Zak, aka “Dr. Love,” has found that levels of oxytocin, which creates feelings of trust, spike during Facebook, Twitter, and blog use. Businesses can capitalize on this finding to enhance customer satisfaction and expand their customer base.
Dr. Zak’s previous studies isolated oxytocin as the hormone that stimulates empathy, trust, and generosity. Humans typically release more oxytocin during positive social interactions, such as when hanging out with friends. The oxytocin they release increases their sense of trust, further cementing relationships.
Now, by taking blood samples before and after subjects’ social media use, Dr. Zak has shown that oxytocin floods the blood of social media users. His findings connote that feeling of connectedness and trust are equal in virtual relationships and actual relationships.
How can businesses utilize this research to communicate with customers?
1. Build up trust with existing customers. Businesses can use social media to interact with customers. Because people are more likely to trust those business that make information available online (thanks to oxytocin), businesses that communicate through Twitter and Facebook seem more trustworthy.
Frequent Facebook and Twitter posts to a customer base increase trust in your business, increasing the likelihood that existing customers will recommend your business to others.
2. Build a fan base. Satisfied customers can spread word of their approval to hundreds of friends at a time via social media. Use Foursquare promotions to bolster customers to publicize your business. Campaign to have existing customers click “like” on your Facebook page. Creatively pursue venues, such as interesting blogs, that encourage customers to spread information about your business to their friends.
3. Monitor online image. Nowadays, disgruntled customers don’t just write letters of complaint to the CEO. They quickly and efficiently broadcast their discontent to all their Facebook and Twitter followers, and in some cases, their blog readers.
Companies, recognizing the extent to which clients trust social media communications, have to be on the alert for negative posts. Once they notice online badmouthing, they have to act quickly to resolve dissatisfied customers’ grievances in order to save their image.