Happiness spreads: Stimulate it to grow customer tribes

According to the British Medical Journal (BMJ) article: Dynamic Spread of Happiness in a Large Social Network, happiness is a fundamental object of human existence.

The intent of the study was to go beyond the well known contagion of emotions between people in close proximity and over short periods of time (such as mirroring a smiling when another person smile).

Researchers were interested in “how happiness might spread by a diverse set of mechanisms, over longer periods or more widely in social networks. Researchers were particularly interested in whether the spread of happiness pertains not just to direct relationships (such as friends) but also to indirect relationships (such as friends of friends) and whether there are geographical or temporal constraints on the spread of happiness through a social network.”

This type of research is intriguing, although difficult to measure and quantify. For example, the study doesn’t attempt to account for the effects of digital social media, which I believe dramatically expand social networks and deepen interpersonal connections.

That said, this clinical study offers some insights for planning the social dimensions of marketing programs, and reasons to look for ways to stimulate stronger positive connections with customer tribes. Here are some starting points:

• Tap the positive impact of happiness in your tribal marketing. Humor has long been understood by advertising professionals as the most effective way to communicate messages, and is the reason for so much humor being used in consumer advertising. It’s a lesson that could well be applied to business marketing as well. Happiness stimulates behavior leading to favorable interaction with a business, brand, product or communities where such organizations are investing to connect to their customer tribes.

• Make your content appealing by considering the context of the environment. In today’s economy, weighted down by anxiety, marketing scare tactics are unlikely to elicit much response. Organizations with positive, actionable content and messages will be much better received.

• Use messages that are clear, focused and easy to talk about. Positive, vivid and otherwise easy-to-remember messages become “contagious” and more likely to be shared.

• Use the best media to communicate positive emotions. Written text is informative. Visuals are illustrative. Web-based video can create the sense of actually of being with other people.

• Use media that enables conversations in the context of your product or business. This includes platforms that allow social interaction and easy sharing. Web-based content moves quickly with RSS links, comments enabled, favorites and other sharing tools. Easily accessed and detailed online content also magnifies the effectiveness of speaking events, panels, press coverage or other offline marketing.

• Enable social community. Facebook, MySpace and other communities are ready platforms for marketing campaigns that allow the transfer of ideas and the addition of user content. Or your business may have critical mass or a substantial captive audience to warrant investments in building your own social media community or private network.

Doubtless more such studies on the spreading of emotions will add to these concepts. In the meantime, developers of social media marketing platforms will continue to lead informal research initiatives using the solid marketing practices of testing, measurement and refinement.