Social Media and Love have one thing in common – they both stimulate oxytocin

Man head heart

The next time you tell someone that you love Social Media this might be a much truer statement than you realise. Oxytocin is the so called ‘cuddle hormone’ credited with forming the unshakable bond between mother and daughter and in stimulating empathy, trust and generosity. A recent nine year study by Paul Zak, Professor at Claremont Graduate University, has shown oxytocin to be the “social glue” that adheres families, communities and societies and his most recent study would suggest that oxytocin is key to stimulating our increasing need for constant connectivity to our friends and increasingly business contacts via Twitter, Facebook, email, text and phone. Essentially our brain reacts to tweeting in the same way as it does to physical face-to-face engagement with people we trust and company we enjoy.

The implication of this research for business is that it may be possible to manipulate our biochemistry into persuading us to buy more or establish a greater degree of trust in a brand. While this may sound far-fetched, to some extent this occurs already. Have you ever wondered why the fresh bread counter in a supermarket is always at the back? Or why the fresh fruit and veg is always at the front? It is because the smell of fresh bread and appetizing fruit and veg stimulate hunger and research shows people will buy more food if they feel hungry.

This is all very well but there is little point in stimulating my oxytocin unless your product or service has some value to me. It is important to support the stimulation with some degree of evidence. Essentially Professor Zak’s research confirms what we already know – understanding the emotional context in which you are selling to the customer is vital. For example, if the customer has had a bad experience with your product in the past, your approach and message getting them to buy from you again should be very different from the approach and message you would use to someone who is very brand-loyal. In both cases you are trying to establish desire for, and trust in, what makes your brand ‘special’; what is its value (both rational and emotional) to the customer. Oxytocin is stimulated by emotion not, it would seem, by rational thought so you may wish to place more emphasis on what the product or service might prevent the customer from losing rather than what the customer might gain. We tend to be more motivated by ensuring we keep what we already have rather than what we might be able to gain (see previous post How To Quantify Value which is all about Loss Aversion).

So when thinking about value, the basics still hold true: you’ve got to deliver a good product or service and a good overall customer experience. However, what this research shows is the relative importance of what channels you use to deliver your customer experience. You can’t afford to ignore social media anymore, as much as some of us might like to!

Now please Tweet this article, become a fan on our Facebook page, connect with me on LinkedIn….now you know it’ll make you feel better:-)


Fast Company: “Social Networking Affects Brain Like Falling in Love”