Building psychological hooks and then exploiting them
Welcome to the click-bait economy aka attention economy.
Over past years, lot of highly skilled talent has gone into creating and establishing the ads-industry, and they have come up with amazing heuristics, ML models, research, refined UX and what not! To me it looks like one of the finest master pieces our world could have produced.
While there have been a lot of products and by-products of this exercise carried over for years, now. My favorite one is the one that resides right in your pocket and shows you ads.
Think about it, you literally carry an ads screen with you all the time!
Just imagine the benefits (and **impact**) it would have generated for the ones in ads industry. The bill boards are limited, newspapers are limited, big screens and your time with them are limited, but guess what's not so limited => the time you spend with your cellphone. It's literally the max duration they can get out of a human life.
And that's exactly why, of late, our mobile phones have turned into nothing but ads screens.
It's a device which keeps dinging day in and out with notifications, text messages, promo emails, spam calls and chats on what are you missing out on and what you should buy!
I hate it when someone else dictates what one should be doing in one's life.
Here, this is exactly what's happening, these ads tend to dictate our actions in real life but often times we fail to realize it or confess it.
"No I am not affected by ads" - If everyone on earth says that than how on earth is ads industry making so much money and supporting tech giants to run their highly lucrative businesses?
The catch is that these ads don't hit your conscious brain. You cannot process all the information and ads thrown up on your screen.
This information overload bypasses your algorithms and logics put up by your conscious brain to defend you from influence and instead, directly attack your subconscious.
Particularly, social medias have led to creation of a lot of psychological hooks! Wondering what those are? Well, some example include:
- Alya mentioned you in a post
- Jason tagged you
- You've got a notification
- Mohit last seen at
These lines are nothing but psychological hooks. You have been clicking on them for several years now, to see the updates, get that social connection or information or response or validation you have been looking for.
These have become habits now, responses permanently stored in your neurological circuitry.
A lot of ads these days are exploiting these hooks!
I can pull out bunch of notifications and promo emails from my inbox with the exact same language. Why? Because advertisers know it'd make me click it and see it.
Once I see it, it gets converted into 'View' and gets monetized!
I remember title of Neil Postman's book, "Amusing ourselves to death". Well, it's time for us to have a sequel of that, maybe "Generating content and views till death".
It's an unfortunate state.
The irony doesn't end here.
Not only have we seen an exponential boom in ads, we have also seen an exponential boom in advertisers! Thanks to social medias, every other person has started a business.
So, not only has the industry succeeded in creating consumers, it has also succeeded in creating producers. May be the ads space through notifications was running short, so now we have an entire social media dedicated to it.
Social media supports creating a Creators profile or a Business page and then prompts you to run ads for it so that your content can be seen.
Create noise and then sell a loudspeaker
That is exactly what they have done.
And yes, there are multiple loudspeakers, with varied amplification gains and expiry dates.
A survey should be done on number of business pages created over Facebook/Instagram over last some years and how many of them are businesses creating profit.
It is a business skillfully created and placed right on top of a very basic human need.
Human desire to be happy and doing the thing they love. They have sold hopes to people.
I'm not saying that this model hasn't benefitted anyone. There are vast no of people who have hugely benefitted from it. They have gone viral, amassed followers, even became successful setting up their businesses. But the fraction of those in comparison to all the people who have onboarded is tragically low. Also, the fame is not long lasting.
Most of the times, it's only a temporary success.
So, is it not right to say, this industry has just created a digital lottery system! People put in money and time and a few get lucky to experience the short-lasting glamor.
There is a mad game for increasing followers. There is an entire job profile dedicated to just increasing followers and views. I have seen brilliant people wasting their days, only chasing followers, they believe more followers will be better for their business.
But, it's time to stop and think, is that chase truly worth it?
While there are numerous flows of how interaction of small business owners goes with social media. This is a brief view of one of the flows:
You create a page on the idea you want to start a business for, social media prompts you to run ads, you get connected to other people who are kind of doing the same thing. You start comparing, your profile to theirs. You start comparing your follower count to theirs. You start generating content. You start putting up the content on the social media page. You start paying for ads and promotions. Your followers are increasing. You feel like you are achieving something. You put in more time, efforts and may be start making some money out of it. Starting your own startup hustle.
Now let's address some questions:
- Do you get satisfaction?
No, but might get anxiety for sure.
- Do you get time for yourself and your loved ones?
No, I'm too busy doing that live.
- Do you get enough money?
No, but I hope one day I will, when my followers increase.
While throughout the process, all the bold phrases above show a profit for the social media you are on. You are creating content for the media, you are trying hard to generate interest which you think helps you but helps the social media more. Imagine the millions of people who are there doing just this. It's because of you that social media can sustain at all.
The follower count is only a number, but so is your extra bank balance, humans are totally capable of chasing numbers.
Now all of this is wrapped into a cover of beautiful phrases and sold to humanity.
Am I too skeptical? May be.
But if the lifetime of so many people is purely wasted into creating content and looking at ads, instead of leading a happy, relaxed and satisfied life, I think we do have a very big problem at hand.
I have stopped calling my mobile phone, a mobile phone, I call it an Ads-Screen, where people are busy selling ads or creating ads out of their own personal lives.
What a sham.