In February 2016, Facebook finally got the message users have been telling them for years: social media posts provoke more emotions than the simple ‘Like’ button can do justice.

The arrival of “reactions” on Facebook, which gave users the ability to hit ‘love’, ‘haha’, ‘wow’, ‘sad’ and ‘angry’ buttons on a post, in addition to ‘like’, meant people can now respond to posts more accurately.

Posts on social media have the capacity to make people laugh, cry, angry, even more compassionate. The emotions experienced on social networks are vast and varied. We don’t view social media in a vacuum – it’s a central part of our lives which has the power to consume us, for good and for bad.

As marketers, it’s our job to harness the power of emotion on social media with posts and campaigns that dare to make customers feel something.

With that, we thought it would be helpful to offer up three easy ways you can trigger an emotional response with your social media marketing:

1. Choose a stirring image

One of the reasons that visual content has grown in prominence on social media in the past few years is that it engages people’s emotions without it having to really try. That’s probably because the human brain processes visual data at a rate of tens of thousands of times faster than written text.

There is plenty of visual content out there now, of course, but if you can come up with an image that provokes a strong reaction, users will not only want to find out more about the image, but more about the brand behind it, too.

2. Educate your followers

We all feel better when we have achieved or learned something. When people feel educated, they feel strong, empowered and confident. It’s also human nature to want to share your newfound knowledge with people – if it’s piqued your interests, surely it will have the same impact on others, right? Not always, but people’s tendency to want to share knowledge is something that can play into a firm’s hands. If you can create something that gets people thinking, they’ll give you the credit for the content and return to your profile in the hope of finding similar posts.

3. Be yourself

Brands sometimes feel that they need to adopt the same professional tone on social media as they would, say, on a customer service call. There will inevitably be moments when a more professional tone is most appropriate on social media, but in the main, you would be better off adopting a voice that is truly your own. Users want to see the human side of a brand, as this is the personality they can connect with. Loosen up a bit and your posts will not only be more engaging but more interesting, therefore more likely to provoke an emotion.

The emotions you should try to stir up depends on your brand. For example, if you’re a business coach, you would be best served by creating motivational content that promotes a sense of achievement, adventure and encourages people to perform at their best in their business and their life. Just look at how successful Tony Robbins has been on social media with this approach.

If you’re a charity, however, your social posts will probably affect people in a deeper fashion, perhaps using sadness as a means to engage them and prompt them to take action. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) showed how this could work with its #LastSelfie campaign, in which users were shown images of endangered animals, with the option of sharing the message, adopting the animal, or donating to the charity.

First things first, however, you should create a clear plan of action to decide upon what emotions you want to try to evoke with your social posts and what sort of content can help you achieve that. If you’re not sure where to start or are too emotionally invested in the business to make a reasoned decision, we’re here for you