Our personal fulfillment at home is inversely proportional to the amount of time we spend consuming stuff on social media that is in opposition to our own beliefs.
Political gaps in industrialized economies like the United States have become so wide in recent years that even the reaction to a pandemic has become a flashpoint. Masking, lockdowns, and vaccinations are just some of the scientifically supported mitigation and preventative methods that have become dangerously ideological.
How did we reach a place where medical advice from a doctor may spark political debate? It’s probably related to the gap that opens up between the safety and comfort provided by our immediate social circle — our neighbors, friends, and family — and the daily deluge of material provided by social media, which gives us a taste of the global mood. Whether they’re in the suburbs of a staunchly Republican state in the United States or the dazzlingly liberal enclave of New York City, it’s simple for citizen-consumers to fool themselves into thinking they’re part of the political center. People’s anxiety about the world may be exacerbated by the cognitive dissonance they experience while scrolling through social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.
This contradiction produces a sort of hydraulic connection, as I demonstrate in my new study in Social Psychological and Personality Science*. People feel exposed and threatened when exposed to conflicting viewpoints on social media. As a result, they are more likely to seek refuge close to home, putting an emphasis on strengthening the relationships within their own families. Using a new mix of social-media sentiment analysis and longitudinal questionnaires, my co-authors and I were able to track this event in real-time.
Changing the way we find happiness
In this research, we analyze the first three weeks of the Covid-19 epidemic and the eight weeks leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, both of which were tumultuous times in the United States.
We utilized a hybrid approach, integrating big data analytics with consumer surveys, throughout both time windows of our study. As the situation intensified and subsided, we also monitored the general tone of social media conversations regarding President Trump. We anticipated that the cognitive dissonance between the two groups of partisans would decrease as Election Day approached and advance polls and projections became more trustworthy. We hypothesized that the emotional stakes for Covid’s partisans would shift on a daily basis as new cases were reported.
Over the course of the study, we conducted surveys asking U.S. residents about their political leanings and the quality of their relationships with their children and spouse on various days.
The three measures – social media attitude, psychological stakes and home satisfaction – established patterns in line with partisanship. How well individual consumers’ political views align with the political climate in their nation determines the strength of family ties on any particular day. On days when President Trump took a social media beating and worries were high, maybe due to election uncertainty or an increase in Covid cases, conservatives reported much higher levels of home satisfaction. The liberals’ behavior was the exact reverse. On days of heightened tension, when the conversation about the president on social media was most favorable, they felt the most love for their families.
We put these findings through their paces by trying out a number of potential interpretations. It’s possible, for instance, that the public’s reaction to President Trump on social media was more of a reflection of the current national mood than an immediate reaction to the administration’s statements and policies. The amount of criticism on the 45th president’s Twitter account was matched in the social media sentiment of the country the next week, which we discovered by looking at his social media activity. That is to say, the American people responded to Trump in his own register.
Resulting implications for enterprise
Knowing whether customers are turning toward or away from their neighborhood in the face of political inconsistency has important consequences for marketers at a time when both consumer well-being and local production are more key to brand marketing. Insecure supporters might get affirmation elsewhere except the nuclear family. They also often receive backing from other companies that share their values (and their associated online communities).
Nevertheless, brands are not insulated from the cultural and political polarization. How we vote, for example, may have a significant impact on the luxury goods we choose to buy. Based on our research, we conclude that it is crucial to deepen customer connections, create more intimacy, and increase customer loyalty by closely monitoring the psychological gap between one’s client base and the dominant ideological momentum, as assessed by social media sentiment.
Companies like Hobby Lobby (a favorite among Trump supporters) and Nike (with its controversial advertisements featuring BLM protester-athlete Colin Kaepernick) who have a strong partisan following may increase their customer base by taking a more outspoken stance in the cultural wars.
We conclude that our research has implications for companies that are looking for guidance on making the most of consumer insights gleaned from digital data. Big data has value on its own, but it really shines when it’s paired with offline, more local indicators, like the polls we conducted of consumers’ happiness in their immediate area. That is to say, company leaders and politicians may fully harness customer-citizen insights by connecting both types of data, namely, population-wide measures like national social media sentiment and more ground-level data like the family-satisfaction surveys in our studies. Local search results might provide insight into what people are thinking about in a certain area.
When dealing with such information, scale is important since global and local are not interchangeable. When viewed as a whole, they may present a tale that is unexpected or even contradictory. Thus, the “glocal” strategy appears to be the most efficient method of web analytics.