By adaptive - January 21st, 2015

New research suggests that today communications technologies have an impact on the stress levels of consumers that all marketers need to be aware of.

How stressed are Facebook users? Do your corporation’s customers relish their use of Twitter, or find it a chore? Is the propensity to share a positive experience, or a forced activity that today’s always-connected consumer feels they have to engage with? 
These are some of the questions new research from Pew has attempted to answer. For marketers, the state of mind of their potential customers is vital to understand if their marketing messages are to receive a positive response.
“For generations, commentators have worried about the impact of technology on people’s stress,” says Pew. “Inevitably, the critics have shifted their focus onto digital technology. There has been considerable commentary about whether Internet use in general and social media use in particular are related to higher levels of stress. Such analysts often suggest that it is the heaviest users of these technologies that are most at risk. Critics fear that these technologies take over people’s lives, creating time pressures that put people at risk for the negative physical and psychological health effects that can result from stress.”
There is little doubt that the state of mind your corporation’s customers are in when they receive your marketing messages is critical to their positive reception. No one that feels stressed is going to react, as your business would like in these situations.
Technology Usage Stress Levels
Pew continued: “Overall, frequent Internet and social media users do not have higher levels of stress. In fact, for women, the opposite is true for at least some digital technologies. Holding other factors constant, women who use Twitter, email and cell-phone picture sharing report lower levels of stress.
“At the same time, the data show that there are circumstances under which the social use of digital technology increases awareness of stressful events in the lives of others. Especially for women, this greater awareness is tied to higher levels of stress, and it has been called ‘the cost of caring.’”
“Stress is not associated with the frequency of people’s technology use, or even how many friends users have on social media platforms. But there is one way that people’s use of digital technology can be linked to stress: Those users who feel more stress are those whose use of digital tech is tied to higher levels of awareness of stressful events in others’ lives. This finding about ‘the cost of caring’ adds to the evidence that stress is contagious.”
Take Facebook:
  • A woman with an average-size network of Facebook friends is aware of 13% more stressful events in the lives of her closest social ties, compared with an equivalent woman who does not use Facebook. And that average woman user is aware of 14% more stressful events in the lives of her more-distant acquaintances.
  • A typical male Facebook user who comments regularly on others’ posts is aware of 8% more stressful events amongst his closest social ties. A man with an average-size network of Facebook friends is aware of 6% more major events in the lives of his acquaintances, compared with an equivalent male who does not use Facebook.
Last year we looked at how mood could influence how receptive your business’ marketing message could be. YuMe and IPG Media Lab concluded: “YuMe and IPG Media Lab's research shows the valuable impact high consumer attention has on brand metrics. If we could reach audiences when they are most attentive, those impressions would be of greater value."
Rutgers University scholar Keith Hampton, a main author of the Pew report, said: “There is a complex relationship between social media use and stress. There is no evidence in our data that social media users feel more stress than people who use digital technologies less or not at all. There is a great deal of speculation that social media users feel extra pressure to participate and keep up on social media to avoid the “fear of missing out” in activities that others share, and that they feel anxious after viewing the successful images that friends project on Facebook. 
“But it turns out social media users don’t feel any more stress in everyday life than non-users or those who only lightly use digital technologies. However, for some, the use of these technologies can be indirectly related to stress. The social aspect of these technologies makes people more aware of stressful events in other’s lives. Learning about and being reminded of undesirable events in other people’s lives makes people feel more stress themselves. This finding about the cost of caring adds to the evidence that stress can be contagious.”
Marketers that want to ensure their messages are well received clearly need to understand how their target groups in particular are using technology and social media. There is a gender difference, but also major differences across the different social media channels that are perceived quite differently when mood and sentiment are considered. Aligning marketing messages that relieves stress – but more importantly – supports a customer’s own perception of the benefit that technology and social media networks offers, will reinforce your corporation’ connections.
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