Parasocial Interaction is it important to the sustainability of your business?
If you are like many, you look at certain celebrities and Politicians and wonder why are they so popular?
Has society gone mad or is there a reason for their popularity? I mean in terms of their ability to create perceived intimate relationships with their fans, rather than actually being successful at their chosen careers.
This is Parasocial interaction in action. Now what is Parasocial Interaction and more importantly how can it help provide sustainability for a business.
The theory was first developed by Horton and Wohl in 1956, in its simplest terms it is the refers to the psychological perceived closeness and friendship people feel with a celebrity of fictional figure, despite having no physical interactions.
In the study that coined Parasocial interaction by Horton and Wohl, they describe what is known as the “Persona”, or the person who creates that intimate connection – in today’s world, that’s likely to be a celebrity or an influencer who we admire or look up to or it can be a business or brand (Apple adopted this principle when they first started with their branding).
The persona can create a sense intimacy with millions of strangers all at the same time. Above all, they offer a continuing relationship with fans, in that they’re dependable and integrated into the routines of daily life.
The new age of social media gives audiences the illusion of a face-to-face relationship with the person.
Of course, the relationship is one-sided. Take radio DJ’s, we can’t just respond to questions they asks, however how often have you answered the question in your head or out loud, this is because it feels like a real-life, face-to-face relationship because they’re speaking to us like we’re a friend in the same room as them.
Why is Parasocial Interaction important for your business.
Advertising is everywhere, if you look at some of the stats, now the average person gets hit 20-40 a day with an advert of some description. Humans have become the dominant species because they are excellent at learning and adapting, therefor we have become excellent at what I call marketing blindness and tuning out adverts and looking behind the advert, hence why Facebook offers recommendations and Google offers reviews.
With the popular figures of the community, they have intentionally (with help) created a story that makes them feel like a friend to their fans, so when they share a product with us (that they’re inevitably getting paid to promote), we don’t see it as an advert; we see it as a recommendation.
Horton and Wohl researched and created the term “personality” programs, which are basically the celeb-driven, authentic marketing campaigns of today. During these campaigns (or programs), the Persona is required to create an illusion of intimacy with their audience.
How a business can make the most Parasocial Interaction
The part that really interests you, however for this interaction to really work, you must read and understand the introduction to the theory above.
How can you advertise your own products and run intimate campaigns that connect with your audience – because, at its very core, that’s precisely what Parasocial interaction does.
It creates a community where the audience feel a part of something, like they are connected to the brand or business who is advertising. There are numerous studies by brands and independent agencies that show there is a direct correlation between brand love and loyalty and Parasocial interaction with that brand.
So, to that effect, the intimate relationship can be tied to a brand as a whole.
Create the Illusion of Face-to-Face
You hopefully know by now that talking at your audience won’t do you any favours, nor will creating fictional stories that are highly polished by your marketing team.
Instead, you want to be creating campaigns that feel like they’re raw and connective, kind of like a face-to-face conversation.
In Horton and Wohl’s report, they suggested this could be achieved by maintaining a flow of small talk which gives the impression that the Persona (or brand) is responding to a conversation.
How does this transfer to marketing?
1. Speak Directly To Your Audience
Speak to your audience, like you are talking to them directly. In your copy, use words like “you” and “us” to create a sense of belonging, and in your social campaigns, tell real stories and chat as if someone was on the other end.
2. Use Real Stories
Creating a connection and a relationship with your audience is all about storytelling (why do you think Facebook and Instagram developed stories?). People connect with stories and are more likely to feel a bond with someone or a brand if they resonate with the story they’re telling.
User Generated Content (UGC) is perfect for sharing connective stories from people who are just like your audience. You’re creating a “brand persona” via your customers who can create an intimate relationship with your audience by sharing their first-hand stories and experiences, almost like an extended family member.
3. Mingle With Your Audience
This makes your business more real to the audience and makes them appear on the same level – you are just like me and I am just like you.
Find out where your audience hangs out and hang out there with them. Create connections by becoming part of the group instead of essentially shouting at them from afar.
4. Create an Idealized Version of What Your Audience Want
This means the Brand becomes a kind of magic mirror that reflects back to the audience what they want to see, does drinking a coke really make you that happy, being part of the apple community make you more connected?
In marketing you can use your brand to reflect the Persona your audience want to be or, at least, want to have in their lives. Consider the emotive benefits why your customers want to be associated with you rather than physical solution.
5. Become a Part of Everyday Life
This is content marketing at its finest. You want your audience to become blind to the fact that your brand is not a part of their “real life”.
In order to recreate this with your marketing, you need to be consistent and show up in your audience’s’ lives every single day, whether that’s through social sharing, interacting with them via photographic platforms, or by hanging out where they are. By becoming a part of their everyday, you become an important fixture. You become less of a brand that’s selling them something, and more like a figural part of their lives.
The switch might go unnoticed, but once it happens, you’ll find you have a raving community of loyal followers who treat you like one of their own.