Understanding the mind leads to marketing impact #TheNewNow

01 April 2016 / Jaywing

Every day, millions of people use Twitter to engage, be entertained and discover information about their passions. But exactly what is happening inside the minds of users when they are engaging with Twitter? The research team at Twitter wanted to find out.


While traditional research methods such as customer surveys are useful, they do not necessarily provide true insights into behaviour because the responses derive from the rational, conscious part of the brain. Twitter wanted to find out more about the subconscious effects at play, and so research methods blended sentiment data and neuroscience techniques to measure accurately brain response and physical response to Twitter engagement. In addition, by linking publically available Twitter sentiment data with neuroscience methods, they were able to gain an extra layer of insight into people’s minds.


During the study, participants alternated between normal web surfing activities and using Twitter, such as reading their timelines passively and more active engagement such as tweeting. Twitter hoped to be able to demonstrate the difference between Twitter use and more static web use, but they didn’t know what the results would show.


Oleysa Moosman, Head of Research, Twitter UK, told us there were three key outcomes that they wanted to discover from the research: When brands create content, is it memorable, is it relevant to the right audiences and does it trigger an emotional response?


The tests revealed three key insights (compared with normal website use):


1. Content on Twitter feels more relevant

The first study measured a neural signature that tends to correlate with information relating to you – a ‘sense of personal relevance’. It did this by comparing how participants’ brains activated when either using Twitter, be that scrolling passively or tweeting and retweeting actively, or engaging in normal online activity. The neuroscience data suggested that passive Twitter use increased a sense of personal relevance by 27%. With active use, that figure jumped to 51%.


2. Twitter engagement increases emotion

The most dramatic results were seen in the measurement of emotional intensity. Reading a Twitter timeline generates 64% more activity in the parts of the brain relating to emotion than during normal web use. Tweeting and retweeting increases this figure to 75% more than normal web usage.


3. Content on Twitter is more memorable

In relation to memory, the research revealed that passive Twitter use indicated 34% more activity in areas linked with memory formation than normal web use. With active Twitter use, it rose to 56%.


What’s next for neuroscience and marketing?

Combining existing data with neuroscience techniques has provided a greater level of understanding of Twitter usage and is starting to help brands to layer additional levels of insight into their audience’s behaviour. Although relatively untapped, this example demonstrates the power of data science and how big data and advanced analytics can create new insight to drive business strategy.

What could it do for your brand?