When you meet someone for the first time, one question gets asked more than any other.

What do you do?

A typical response you get is the title of their position and the company they work for.  But is this really the answer?

When you say it like that, it’s like saying your identity belongs to a company. That you are a part of that business.

In reality we are in the business of ourselves.  You might not have an official incorporation or business license, but don’t let that make you think you aren’t your own brand.

Businesses are LICENSING you. They pay you over a period of time to help them with a problem you can solve.  When that problem is solved, or other opportunities arrive, you start a new license with the next company.

Our Branded Web

Instead of store front windows or billboard advertisements, for most of us our brands are on the web. Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and now Google+ are all avenues people use to investigate whether your brand is right for the job, remarkable, or engaging.

Branding yourself is not just a matter of having business skills and then promoting how great you are at sales, customer service, or IT.  That’s boring, thousands of others are great at those things too.  You have to be remarkable.

The greatest invention of all time, sliced bread, was a failure for 15 years before it became popular and a house hold staple. The problem wasn’t the fact that no one needed sliced bread.  It wasn’t until a marketer by the name of W.E. Long started promoting “Wonder Bread” that sliced bread began to take off as a household staple.

Social Media Psychology

Our online brands are the same way.  We each have remarkable talents and abilities, but maybe feel our skills are left sitting on a shelf, waiting to be sold.

I recently came across some interesting connections between psychology and social media.  I thought I might share them here to help us build our brands more effectively.

The 7%-38%-55% Rule

Dr. Albert Mehrabian in the 60’s further developed the study of communication by measuring how much we like and accept a message based on words, tone of voice, and body language.

He found that we absorb meaning at the following intervals for each of the three forms; 7% from words, 38% from tone of voice, and 55% from body language.

This was interesting to me for a number of reasons.

First, unless you are using video heavily, you are only going to have 45% of the capabilities to get people to like your content, since body language is absent. At the same time you can risk people not liking your content if you do use video but your body language is poor.

Second, since the majority of your branding will most likely be written, it is important to have personality in the writing. Personality is what gives your writing its tone of voice.  If you’ve read Tim’s A Daring Adventure or Srinivas’s Skool of Life, you know what I mean by tone.

I have this problem.  Sometimes I write like a reporter instead of a person.  Sorry guys and gals.

The Vividness Effect

This was a new one to me, although I see it everyday.

Remember when the iPhone came out and it was riddled with problems? You had to hold it a certain way to get calls, the battery died quickly, even Jobs’ demo failedIf it had been any other brand the phone would have never succeeded.  So what happened?

The vividness effect is what happened.  The effect occurs when people trump evidence with testimony or other subjective reasoning. Despite all the evidence and facts that the phone had problems, people still wanted the phone because of other’s experiences with Apple and a large belief that their particular phone wouldn’t have the same issues.

So how can we take advantage of this?  By using testimonies.

LinkedIn is perfect for this.  Making sure you have at least 2-3 testimonies publicly shared on your profile can help convince people that your brand is strong.   If you have a site, you can do the same there.  We all know the power of social proof.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

We’ve all seen this triangle before in our Psychology 101 classes.  Yet it still serves as one of the key foundations for understanding human motivation.

Two of the “needs” stood out to me in particular with regards to building our brands online.  Belonging and Esteem.

Belonging:  The need to fit in and have a sense of being missed.

I recently helped my dad sell his Ford Explorer.  Although I hadn’t ridden in it for several years, I actually missed the car and was sad to see it go. There had been so many memories in that car that it was weird to know someone else would now be using it.  Keep in mind this was a Ford Explorer, one of the most picked on cars in history.

Wouldn’t it be great if clients or our bosses felt the same way about us as brands? We do this by fostering relationships.

The biggest mistake people make when it comes to promoting their brand through social media is to make it all about themselves.  You help others love and feel a part of “You” as a brand by including them.  Comment on their sites when they come to yours.  Tweet other’s excellent articles or videos.  Get to know those in your online circles.

Esteem:  The need to be respected and to have self-esteem and self-respect.

When I think of the most respected online personaes Guy Kawasaki, Robert Scoble, and Chris Brogan come to mind.

Their audiences adore them.  Every article, photo, and video they post is reshared by thousands.  They’ve mastered the art of gaining their audiences’ respect.

I think our own brands grow from what we share as well.  Experts are seen as experts because they can consistently provide engaging content on their area of mastery.

The 6 Personas of Online Sharers

The New York Times created an incredible document showcasing The Psychology of Sharing.  Inside they outlined 6 personaes of online sharers.

Studying these different types may help you see what kind of information you can be sharing to help build your brand the way that fits your personality the best.

1.  Altruists:  These are the people who share helpful information through being thoughtful and connected.

You send a couple articles on nutrition and wellness to a friend with health issues because you know she was looking for help.

2.  Careerists:  These personaes share things related to business and are interested in exchanging ideas on how to solve problems in the work field.

These are your friends who like to keep you posted on the latest trends in the workplace, business news, and productivity tools.

3.  Hipsters:  Sharing is a part of them.

Mostly the younger generation, they are less likely to email but will share lots of creative content such as pictures, movies, and media.

4.  Boomerangs:  Post to get a reaction.

These types aren’t afraid to post something controversial or provacative.  If they don’t get a comment or feedback they feel they missed their mark.  They want validation and to feel empowered.

5.  Connectors:  Always passing the deals and opportunities to their friends.

You see a great deal on a hotel package so you send it to your friends and then schedule a vacation together.

6.  Selectives:  Only share things with someone specific.  If it isn’t relevant to them their is no point in sending it.

Less likely to be on Twitter or to share public posts.  More likely to use email only.

What Say You?

Most of the time this blog is my journal of discovery.  Everyone’s comments have been so valuable to me and my learning.

What have you found works well when it comes to building your brand online?  How do you get more engagement?  How do you grow your audience?

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49 thoughts on “How to Build Your Brand Using Social Media Psychology

  1. Hi Bryce,

    Alas–I usually write like a reporter also. I think it is because I oftentimes go about writing too methodically. Thanks for the reminder to be personable.

    There is so much clutter to break through online that I crashed and burned last year and never recovered. But I do need to activate a system again to build my brand. My persona is connector and altruist.

  2. Bryce Christiansen

    Thanks Rachel,

    It feels better to know that I’m not the only one. I put a lot of research into the writing I do, so sometimes it’s hard to take off my reporter hat and speak as a person.

    When I ask questions and work through the post as a conversation it seems to flow better. I’ll continue working on it I promise ;)

    Your personaes are great! Thanks for sharing.


  3. Hello Bryce,

    Followed you here from MediaCrayon. This is a well written list of points a blogger or any person for that matter should keep in mind before blurting out his credentials. I particularly like the point where you emphasize on how we tend to promote company or firm we work for, that is really true.
    I do use linkedin but not for promoting my website, other social sites are proving to be very useful, lately G+ has been giving me a lot of visitors.
    I also like the 6 pesonas you hv listed, i think i fall under the first couple of them, though I tend to share most of the good stuff with everyone. Getting a reaction back is always welcome of course, but not intended.

  4. Bryce Christiansen

    Hey Praveen,

    Welcome to the site. I really appreciate you taking the time to leave a thoughtful comment.

    I’m liking G+ too. Most of my real life friends still don’t understand the point of it. I like the hangouts ability and the way pictures show up. Really great features. Also it’s been fun meeting other bloggers and learning more about what they do and enjoy.

    I look forward to getting to know you better Praveen. Have a good day :)


  5. Hi Bryce, Great article, It was fascinating seeing all the different personalities of people who share on the internet.

    I think your analogy to the iPhone is interesting as well. The incident you discussed was the problem with antenna interference with the iPhone 4. Steve Jobs responded with an insensitive comment, “You’re holding it wrong,” insulting customers. Then Consumer Reports stated that they couldn’t recommend the iPhone due to these issues. That could have been the death knell for the phone.

    But the iPhone and Apple had a stellar reputation. Apple gave free bumpers to its customers and the iPhone 4 became a best seller.

    So it’s important to develop a stellar reputation online apart from trying to promote your business. As you wisely point out, your brand is different from your company’s. They are just licensing you. So make sure you enhance your reputation every time you post online, no matter what the forum.

    Thanks, Bryce, for a fascinating article!

  6. One thing that has helped me not sound like a reporter (at least, I don’t think I do) is imagine that your “audience” is a close friend. Helps to give you a more casual tone :D

    I guess I need to work on taking more advantage of video. I actually had started doing videos, but I backed off while I was trying to find a solution that gave me the flexibility and capabilities i wanted that would fit in the budget I could afford. Still haven’t found a perfect solution for me yet,but I’m going to get back into it while I work with what I have while I find something better.

    Thanks for the post!

  7. Bryce Christiansen

    Thanks for filling in the gaps with the iPhone story. There was a whole bunch behind everything that happened there and Apple stood true to their reputation by making everything right for their customers.

    It definitely shows the power of a reputation and I’m glad you agree with the brand concept. It’s a big one for me.

    You always have great comments.


  8. Bryce Christiansen

    Thanks Grady,

    Video is something that I could do more as well. I’ve been using it in our products, but not as much on the blog.

    It takes a bit more time but can be super effective.

    I’ve used Vimeo mostly for our videos since we can keep our content on products private. Hope you find what you need.


  9. Hi Bryce,
    “What do you do?”…..I love this question because I enjoy seeing people’s responses when I say…”I am enjoying every moment”.
    Almost without exception, the asker wants to know what your job is. Often it’s an ‘icebreaker’ in a conversational environ. More the reason to be original. I’m more interested in the person, their interests etc rather than their day job. Thanks Bryce, keep smiling.
    be good to yourself

  10. Hey Bryce,
    I like the majority of bloggers out there. I prefer that a blogger be authentic when writing and commenting for that matter so I can enjoy their own unique perspective and personality.

  11. Dia

    Hi Bryce,

    To grow our audience, we have to present ideas in our own way. Personally, I like to write my articles as I’m talking to someone. This helps create a connection between me and the reader. Another things that I personally use is simple language, that the average person would understand. Being authentic is the key. Thanks for sharing

  12. Bryce, You are surprising me every time i visit your blog. Just love the information that you are sharing. I liked the part where you talk about The 6 Personas of Online Sharers. You rock dude.

  13. Bryce Christiansen

    I love that you answer that way. It’s hard to not give the standard response. That’s probably why it’s such a nice icebreaker when you respond with something so original.

    How frustrated do some people get? Do they follow up with questions to get you to come out with your day job?

    I like it David.

    Please come by whenever you can. I appreciate comments like this.


  14. Bryce Christiansen

    I agree. I’m so happy that the people commenting here are so genuine and true to themselves. It helps me get to know them better.

    Too often I see comments that are just say something along the lines of “great post.”

    Excellent point Justin. Thanks for the comment.


  15. Bryce Christiansen

    That’s a great point. I’ll have to steal/borrow that ;)

    Writing like you are talking to someone is a great way to make a post sound and feel more natural and conversational. Trying to teach someone makes you sound arrogant and superior. That’s the challenge I’m trying to avoid.

    Do you have good work arounds for that. How to be a teacher as well as a conversationist?


  16. Bryce Christiansen

    Thanks Eddie.

    Truthfully, I was lucky to find all the great support for this topic. Most of the brilliant information comes from minds much greater than mine. I just try to harness it and share it in an interesting way.

    I appreciate your kind words as always.

    Have a good weekend Eddie,


  17. Hi Bryce,

    Guess maybe i should do more videos, My only problem is when I talk I do like to move around to express myself. Haven’t figured out how to do that with my video stationary.

    Great article and I do agree when someone comments on my post I will go to there’s a comment. Have meant some wonderful people this way.

    When it comes to the writing, I am like Dia, like to keep it simple. and easy to follow.

    It does take practice when writing to bring out the real person, but hey I think I am getting there. No one is telling me any different, Yet. LOL

    Thank again and blessing to you, Bryce.

  18. Bryce Christiansen

    Don’t feel bad Debbie,

    I don’t make for good video. Whenever we need a video done I get Carol, one of our pretty Behavior Analysts to stand in front of the camera.

    You are a great commenter. I certainly commend you for that and wish others were so reciprocating as you are. It really makes me feel good when someone shows interest back.

    I think you have a wonderful personality in your writing as well. I can’t picture anyone else speaking to me when I read your blog. I guess that’s the true test of whether your writing has personality or not.

    Thanks again for stopping by. I love when we get to have great conversations here like this.


  19. I admit it, I’m a careerist. If I didn’t use social media to spread the word and connect with others around my coaching business I might be very happy just hanging out in a cave and flying solo.

    I don’t think our reasons for sharing as as important as the match of info. As long as folks find what they need when they need it – to each is own.

  20. Bryce Christiansen

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for stopping by. I really appreciate intelligent and useful comments like yours. Also enjoy your site.

    That’s a good point though. I don’t think you need to be one type of sharer or another. They each have their purposes. Do what makes you happy and works for those you share with.

    Glad you brought that up Tom.

    Hope to see you here in the future.


  21. Really interesting article Bryce, there’s a lot of good information here.

    The thing that most piqued my interest was your mention of testimonials on LinkedIn. While I technically have a LinkedIn, I don’t really use it. I suppose I just don’t understand what the point is or how it works.

    Could you describe how I might use it to further my efforts as a personal development blogger?

    And I never thought about the crucial lack of body language that we all have if we aren’t using video. Perhaps I could start doing a video or two… hmm.

    Great post – very thought-provoking. :-)

  22. Thank you Bryce, but i shall stay humble, still have a lot to learn.

    I really appreciate your feedback on how I am coming across. You made my day, so guess i’ll go do some more writing.
    Blessing to you and thanks again.

  23. Bryce Christiansen

    Anytime Debbie, I always love how I feel after visiting your site. That guy in the pink shirt was hilarious and an excellent example of confidence.

    Have a good weekend.

  24. Bryce Christiansen

    Sure Fred,

    Glad you asked. As a personal development blogger you are mastering some valuable skills in Internet Marketing. You know how to build traffic, engagement, and network with other bloggers.

    I’d go with some of those qualities for your LinkedIn. Talk about how you’ve grown your site from x to x, how many subscribers you’ve gained, your accomplishments on Twitter or Facebook.

    I’d seek out regular commenters to ask for a testimonial. I’d be happy to be your first one.

    LinkedIn comes up fairly high when someone searches your name so having some testimonials about the work you are doing on your site will act as more social proof that you are someone they need to know in the Personal Development world.

    Who knows, having that LinkedIn profile can open up opportunities for you to grow your career. I’ve shared an article on how I’ve gotten opportunities through LinkedIn.


    Let me know where you want your career to go and that will help me better share some things you can do with LinkedIn.

    As for video I’m the same way. Video has to either be done well or not done at all.

    I’m hoping to do more as well.

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment, hope I can help.


  25. Bryce
    Wonderful article. Indeed, It took me more time to understand where you are driving :) since each section you had provided enough information in very detail.

    Specifically I like the “6 Personas” category since couple of practices currently I apply at my life path and blog as well :) . Thanks for sharing the terrific article.

  26. Great write up Bryce.

    I thought the 7%-38&-55& rule was very interesting. Just goes to show how vital it is to have some type of personality in your writing unless you utilize video (which I recommend from time to time).

    That’s where experimentation comes in. For me personally when I first started out I experimented with literally a bajillion ways of writing simply because I didn’t know what my writing style was.

    Can’t be afraid of experimenting a little though.

  27. Hi Debbi,

    I love when people express themselves in videos! It shows genuine human passion for what they are talking about. Shouldn’t let that stop you from making more videos.

    Since you do like to move around, just experiment with the camera a bit to come up with some fresh angles and such.

    I personally believe videos that have movement do way better than stationery videos.

  28. Hi Bryce

    Great post! I’m very intrigued by the various ways people are using social media. I’d fit into a variety of categories, and then some. I Love the universal community component; what a powerful medium for bridging the gap between cultures. Also, very appreciate of the gift of connecting with like-minded individuals, such as yourself. Always appreciative of your perspectives. Thanks for sharing!

  29. Thanks Manickam,

    I was impressed with the New York Time’s work as well with the 6 Personas of Online Sharers.

    Did any of them in particular align with your own sharing style? I was impressed because I saw myself and my friends in several of their personas.

    I appreciate your comments. Thanks for sticking around.


  30. Hi Jeremy,

    Great comment! I like that you experimented with your writing. It pays off to try new things. You never know what others may like, plus if their like me, we get bored of the same old stuff day after day.

    I’m glad you added to the post with this great point.


  31. Hi Antonia,

    It’s good to see you again. I thought that was interesting too. I saw my friends in many of the styles the New York Times reported.

    I appreciate your perspective as well. You always add excellent insights to the blogs I write.


  32. Thanks for helping out Jeremy,

    I agree, sometimes those strange quirks about us are actually enduring when on video.

    I remember a youtube podcaster I watch. Other people who did a similar program usually just captured the screen and used their voice to commentate on what they were doing, but this guy often switched back from the screen to his webcam.

    At first I was like, “This guy must love himself, he keeps making us watch him instead of the screen.” But after a few videos I started to really enjoy the personality he added by sharing his presence online.

    Great addition Jeremy.

  33. Very, very good article Bryce packed full of insight, info and instruction. I believe wherever we are present online is our branding profile building. The more places, the greater the audience, the stronger the leverage. Be consistent in your message and approach and leave good will where you go and soon your brand experience voice will find a customer interaction and carve a specific niche. It’s about being who we are as well as what we are. You here are top notch I must say!

  34. It’s great to see you here John,

    What an excellent comment. I especially like the part about leaving good will. I’m a strong believer in reciprocation, and leaving good will wherever you go is sure to come back to you.

    Thanks for stopping by John, I hope to see you again.


  35. Bryce Christiansen

    Hey Fred,

    I tried finding you on LinkedIn, but nothing came up. Maybe your profile is set to private?

    Anyways let me know if you would like any help with LinkedIn, I’d still be happy to at least get you started with a recommendation.


  36. Bryce,

    I think it is easy to get away from sounding like a reporter if you write as if to close friends. I like peoples post who write like this because they put part of themselves into the post and it is personal. This way the reader gets to know the writer and a relationship is built more easily.

    I like the 6 personas of online sharers. I think as a blogger I need to be a combination of 2 or 3 of these. If I am just sharing on Facebook
    to personal friends I can see where I might be just 1 of the personas.

    In order to build a relationship with our readers and brand ourselves we have to show more than just one side of our face on our blog or in social networks. Our blog and social networks need to be our whole face and personality.

    Great post.

    Dee Ann Rice

  37. Bryce Christiansen

    Welcome Dee Ann Rice,

    I’m glad to see you here, and thrilled to read your comments.. How did you find us, so I can thank them?

    You are right about personas. Our audiences are unique just as we are. They may respond to different approaches to sharing than what we typically do.

    Like you said, having an open mind is a great way to make a variety of connections.

    I’ll have to check out your site and comment on what you are doing there as well.

    Hope to have you back,


  38. Hmm, that’s strange. I’ll send you an e-mail and we’ll see if we can get it figured out.

  39. Scratch that, I found it.

  40. Hi Bryce thought i’d return the courtesy of your visit to my blog. I’m really pleased i have. Wht a great post. I have found that the key to successsful blogging is to create your brand and reputation before you try and sell your services. I admit i came to blogging, not to make money, but to find a stage for my personal development knowledge. I came on line to make the difference. Once i had established myself, i found opportunities coming my way to indeed make money. Facebook and twittter have been key to my development, but linkedin struggle with that. I will try to do better

  41. Bryce Christiansen

    Hi Larry,

    Thanks for stopping by. That’s the way to do it. Offer great advice and help so people can come to know what your strengths are as a person first.

    Then when they have problems they will already know a great source for solving that problem.

    I look forward to seeing you again,


  42. Wowee! This was an information-packed post, Bryce! =) First off, I loved your reasoning for videos. I am definitely one of those video-shy bloggers, but I hadn’t even thought of how important it would be for others to see my body language. I also love your evidence explaining why testimonies and building relationships are so key to our personal brand!

    The personas of online sharers you list remind me so much of the different Klout categories, describing the way we influence others. You bring up a good point about how it’s important for us to know ourselves, so that we can market ourselves properly. I think it’s also important to know what our values are to help take us in the direction that makes us happiest and most fulfilled. =)

  43. Bryce Christiansen

    Thanks for reading it Samantha,

    There were quite a few things I was able to learn from writing this and you summarized them perfectly.

    That was the first time I saw those personas and still they stood out to me quite clearly. I have quite a few Boomerangs and Careerists in my circles.

    Great comment Samantha.


  44. Anyone looking for a way to brand better should start here at this post. You have crystalized some great concepts of developing your on brand. Personally, I buy the 7%-38%-55% Rule. If we only rely on words, than we are only 7% effective. I am definitely one of the culprits who still writes the majority of the time despite knowing the power of visuals.

    Building a brand takes time. Like most commenters here, I believe that been authentic and honest about what you are saying and presenting will be helpful in the long run. Be patient and keep building truthfully.

  45. Bryce Christiansen

    Thanks Jimmy,

    You truly understand the importance and benefits of branding. It’s not easy to use video every time you want to do a new post. Sometimes, it won’t fit. However, it’s much easier to establish a relationship and trust with someone we can see and hear, vs someone we can only read.

    Looking forward to your ongoing journey.


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