Creating a Stimulus Through Social Media

A stimulus creates a response in an organism, ranging from pain to pleasure. There are 2 types of stimuli, an unconditioned stimulus and a conditioned one. An unconditioned stimulus is a natural event that produces a natural response, like smelling delicious food and then becoming hungry, or in a more famous example, Pavlov’s dogs salivating in the presence of food. A conditioned stimulus is an artificial event where the test subject forms a habit over time and repetition and that creates the response, and an example of this in Pavlov’s experiment is the ringing bell signifying the presence of food, which over time the dogs associated the bell with food and began salivating after hearing the bell.

In the eyes of a marketer, creating the right stimulus whether natural or artificial can result in great success or just as easily in epic failure. For every time you see a great commercial that makes you want to buy something, you then see something that makes you say “I don’t like that message and don’t want any part of that.”

Effective social media marketers have the ability to create the right stimuli to evoke the best response possible. There are 2 types of responses, unconditioned and conditioned.  An unconditioned response is a natural reaction to a natural event and an unconditioned response is a response learned through training, repetition or conditioning. Ultimately the goal of your marketing team is to understand your target audience and envision the type of response you want them to have through your social media marketing campaigns.

In social media, people are often doing the same thing over and over and there is too much noise resulting in your message never being heard. Almost like when you are at a small restaurant that seemingly gets louder as people begin talking over each other until ultimately it is difficult to hear anything.  How do you turn up the volume on your message and get everyone to listen? Simple; stimulate your audience to have the desired response to your product, services, or even to yourself. Below are some examples of different types of effective stimuli that evoked different responses, both good and bad, but ultimately pierced the blaringly loud, never-ending conversation that is social media and the internet.


HBO’s Bill Maher recently created an uproar over his controversial tweet about Tim Tebow, Jesus, Hitler and Satan (4 pretty polarizing subjects, obviously Tebow in a much smaller scale than the others). Here is the screen shot of the Tweet:

What do you think his motive was here? In my opinion this was a glaringly easy way to be controversial, strum up conversation and ultimately turn the focus back to himself. Maher could have easily said something referring to Tim Tebow not having God on his side, despite it being the Christmas holiday, but instead he harps on Jesus, Satan and Hitler. Religion is a hot button topic, and should often be avoided, but Bill Maher knows that this will stimulate all types of emotions and responses and ultimately will send shock waves that will reverberate back to him in boosting his voice over the internet. His name is probably known by far more now than it was before by people who read this and sided with him or loathed him. Using shock can be an effective way to rattle someone’s core values and give them no choice but to have emotions revolving around what you say or stand for. PETA also uses this type of shock marketing to evoke responses about the killing of animals.


Everyone likes to laugh and more importantly everyone likes to laugh with others. This means that if you make something funny people will share it. This can be a good way to boost your company’s identity if you have a lot of competitors. Car insurance companies do this all the time (think Geico or Allstate) Why do they do this? Car insurance is boring, very boring and if their commercials were all about different premiums and coverages and other stuff included in the fine print, you probably would tune out instantly. Instead they couple their message in a funny video like this one:

This commercial featured on YouTube has over 1.3 million views. It evokes laughter and humor, you then share it with a friend and by doing so you implicitly like Allstate because it made you laugh and most likely are more willing to become a customer of theirs. If this video showed a person sitting behind a desk telling you about different rates and what not, I guarantee it would not have 1.3 million views. You can make a video that is funny, even if it has nothing to do with your company. Humor is a great way to get people to relax and ultimately to like you. I like my friends because they make me laugh, and I like certain movies because they make me laugh, and I have probably bought a product because the company’s commercial made me laugh.  Make something funny and people will laugh and smile and will associate your company with positive emotions. Do this over time and you can condition your audience to have a positively conditioned response.


It is easy to toss around generalizations to conveniently fill in the blanks and spread our message. “We are the best company around!” That means nothing and is almost so ridiculous that it makes me take nothing  seriously after that. Headlines like “Google+ Now Up to 62 Million Users, Adding 625,000 A Day” ( ) are much more eye-catching than “Google+ Is Growing Fast”. The saying is “Numbers Don’t Lie” and seeing numbers helps people validate facts. After seeing that 625,000 people are joining everyday, I am way more likely to join Google+ to get in with everyone else, or at least see what the hype is about. Use poignant facts to catch people’s attention and prove to them why your company is necessary or good at what it does or how it saves money. Over time you will build an authority, and people will inherently go to you for facts and believe in what you say; you are conditioning them to believe in you. Bold statements really are not that bold on the internet, because frankly anyone can say anything. Numbers come from research and data, so we trust them. A poignant blog, tweet or Facebook post backed by hard numbers of growth, savings, or other relevant data is more likely to be highly regarded and shared in other articles or blogs. Do your research and use hard facts in an internet world lacking in legitimate information.

Those are just 3 stimuli you can use to evoke unconditioned and conditioned responses. Be creative in your strategies and be careful too. The wrong message can have catastrophic effects. Tailor a strategy that fits your company and your customer. Put yourself in their shoes and understand how they will receive your message and what other feelings it will evoke, and keep in mind all people are different. Condition your audience to feel the way you want them to feel. If you want them to laugh, then be funny. If you want them to be revolted yet interested, then shock them. If you want them to trust you then give consistently right hard data. Social media can use stimuli to create response, use the right strategy to help your company benefit.

Simple Strategies LLC is a social media consulting and strategy firm out of the greater New York City Area.

About Simple Strategies LLC

Simple Strategies LLC is a market-focused, process-centered organization that develops and implements innovative online marketing solutions for our clients. We use all the resources of the internet to meet your marketing needs and always bring a "customer first" approach to everything we do.

3 Responses to “Creating a Stimulus Through Social Media”

  1. Great article. Many good points in there. Cant wait to hear more


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