Avoid Social Media Marketing Disasters by Leveraging these 5 Cognitive Biases

The fast  pace of communication on Social Media makes brands vulnerable to small slip ups that can spiral into disaster.

Remember IHOP’s embarrassing tweet earlier this month? It tried to make a joke about women’s breast.

It was disastrous especially because October is the designated breast cancer awareness month.

Social Media disasters like this happen because people make quick judgements based on cognitive biases. These biases are also why social media slips are made quickly (albeit unintentionally) and are quicker to spread. But not to worry! Instead of being a victim to these biases, you can leverage them to your advantage.

Learn 5 common cognitive biases that you should know to prevent social media marketing disasters.

1. Belief Bias

An effect where someone’s evaluation of the logical strength of an argument is biased by the believability of the conclusion.

Exaggerative ad by POM. A pomegranate juice isn't an Elixir.
Exaggerative ad by POM. A pomegranate juice isn’t an Elixir.

How you can use it for social media marketing:

  • Don’t over-exaggerate copies for your social media content. Sure, driving lots of clicks is great but driving engaged visitors who turn into brand advocates is better. Over-claiming will  deter your audience from clicking on your posts in the future.
    • Bad copy: 100% Guarantee to Increase Follower by 700% in less than 4 days!
    • Good copy: Twitter optimization tricks to increase qualified followers in less than 30 days
  • Instead of only using logic to lure Target Audience on social media, try appealing to their emotions. Emotional copies get more shares.

2. Confirmation Bias

The tendency to search for, interpret, focus on and remember information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions.

Confirmation Bias - Marketing Campaign

How you can use it for social media marketing:

  • Reading tons of research on what worked for other companies may blind you to believe that a success factor for a particular social media initiative was because of the previously learned cause, say visuals. But what if it was because of the timing? Don’t let Confirmation Bias blind you. Test it for your own brand.
  • Pitch your message by confirming their beliefs or presenting your idea in a familiar way. Use Social Listening to learn what type of content & keywords click with your Target Audience and leverage it for your social content.

READ: Social Media Listening isn’t just for Marketers: From HR to R&D, Listening is Key to Success

3. Curse of Knowledge

When better-informed people find it extremely difficult to think about problems from the perspective of lesser-informed people.

Curse of Knowledge - Marketing Campaign

How you can use it for social media marketing:

  • You know the ins-and-outs of your campaign, so what may seem “obvious” to you are not for your audience. Make sure your social media campaign is really easy to follow for outsiders as it is for insiders. Test run it with your co-workers in a different department.
  • Get rid of the jargons you use in your social content.  
    • Bad copy: Increase ROAS through GA analysis
    • Good copy: Increase Online Ad Revenue by Analyzing Traffic Data

4. False Consensus Effect

The tendency for people to overestimate the degree to which others agree with them.

False Consensus Effect - Marketing Campaign

How you can use it for social media marketing:

  • Just because you like the design of the blog header, doesn’t mean others do.  Create an A/B testing and go with the variation that wins.
  • Avoid copies that force-feeds opinions. For instance: Everyone knows Facebook is the best platform for social media marketing. Because, really? Instead, show it to them.

5.  Essentialism

Categorizing people and things according to their essential nature, in spite of variations.

How you can use it for social media marketing:

    • Are you grouping your customer segments too broadly? Don’t post mass-targeted tweets or posts. Make sure your posts are customized to resonate to specific target audience.
      • Mass copy: Marketing guides for Professional Marketers
      • Customized copy: Marketing Guides for Social Media Marketers on Budget

  • Re-examine what you believe are essential traits of your target audience through social media listening to ensure none of your customers feel like Riley, a toddler frustrated that all “girl toys” were pink.

Social Media is a great marketing platform to create buzz, but always remember that it’s also a great place for viral-gone-wrong. Make sure there’s someone in your social media team that you’re bouncing off ideas before launching any campaign.


Keyhole is a real-time conversation tracker that provides keyword and hashtag analytics for Twitter and Instagram. Get started for free and search your brand!

Leave a Comment

Life is short and the internet is vast.