In 2018, Dr. Jeffrey Hall published a paper on how long it takes to make a friend (you can read it here if you are interested). I’m going to spoil the ending here, it’s 50 hrs.
Dr. Hall also mentions that we also have only so much room for those proper friendships in our life, because well, it's hard to learn a whole person.
As Dunbar puts it in his book Grooming, gossip, and the evolution of language ‘The volume of the neocortex constrains the cognitive ability to recognize another person as a unique individual, recall information and prior interactions with that person, and to comprehend that person’s association with others within a social network.’
Basically, it takes a lot of mental effort to get to know someone.
For those of us who have spent a good amount of time roaming the ghetto of good ol’ planet Earth, we have learnt to be a bit more frugal about where we place those friendship hours. It still doesn’t change the fact that we are fundamentally a community-based life-form.
We need some social time somewhere in our life. It is a hugely relevant learning mechanism we need in order to function successfully in society.
Even the modern introvert must stock up on social time, even if it is living vicariously through books, music and movies. As a long-time supporter of the arts and creative entity in my own right I am going to tout a fundamental belief here; we develop a lot of our identity, emotional knowledge, vernacular and social cues from books, music and movies.
Movies and cinema have a profound impact on helping us simulate the thoughts and emotions of characters. It is through this make-believe experience of emotion and behaviour that many people develop a good chunk of their social persona and value system.
Art is a huge developer of empathy and human connection, even despite not directly engaging with another human being. You are just a voyeur into someone else’s world. You develop a connection with a character or artist, even despite never talking to them.
When you finish reading a book you may feel a loss after spending so much time with the thoughts of the protagonist. Art enables us to learn the human condition and achieve social connection without that ‘face-to-face’ interaction.
There is a power here, that if you are a business owner, will allow you to spend time with your customers, create that pseudo-friendship and develop that connection with people (aka potential customers) without even being in the same room as them.
This is why Social Media personalities are called ‘influencers’. They can change hearts and minds by just looking down the barrel of a camera and stating their opinion. The number of people that will tune in just to watch some person talk to a camera can be astounding.
Admittedly, watching a video doesn’t quite have the same intimacy as the two-way, face-to-face conversation, but you can get pretty close (although with video comments in TikTok and live-streaming in Facebook and Instagram nowadays that gap is getting closer).
You might have heard of the 55/38/7 rule coined by Albert Mehrabian in 1967. The general gist is that Communication is 55% nonverbal, 38% vocal, and 7% words. The information you gain from talking to another person is predominantly through body language and vocal delivery.
If you are unsure what I mean about vocal delivery, try to make a sarcastic comment over text to someone you don’t know very well. Sarcasm relies mostly on your tone of voice and when you take that out it loses a lot of its meaning. The voice contains so many nuances in emotion that text simply can’t replicate.
As a business person or entrepreneur getting a face (doesn’t have to be your own) out there on social media to represent your business is a valuable mechanism in growing connection and trust with your audience. The more someone sees you or the face of your business the more they are going to get to know your business and build a connection with it.
Have you ever seen some celebrity in an interview, resonated with what they said and ended up plunging down a rabbit hole of watching interview after interview with them? Why do you think that is?
Perhaps they are funny, perhaps they are knowledgeable with great nuggets of insight, or perhaps they are just such a strange personality that you become curious about. What it does do is build a stronger familiarity with that actor or artist and makes you more likely to watch them in a film.
The more someone resonates with your content, your face, your words, and your personality the more they will feel like they are getting to know you. Influencers thrive off being a personality people want to watch, but they also thrive off the volume of time people have engaged with their content.
You do not need to become this charismatic alpha human who everyone wants to look at. The important takeaway from this concept is that when people see you, they hear you, they will develop that familiarity with you.
As they see more of you, they will inevitably feel like they know you. If you are a good communicator, have a genuine personality and have something to share, then social media really is a place you can blossom.
Now, not everybody is going to be into what you do, but here is the beauty of it; not everyone wants to watch super-attractive, charismatic, funny people all the time. If I am a quiet introverted person, it's nice to get insight into the mind of another quiet, introverted person via social platforms. You will naturally attract like-minded people just by getting your face out there.
If TikTok has taught the social media world anything, it’s that high-production value video isn’t always what people want (although it does have its place), and that sincerity, education and weirdness can go a long way.
Making videos can be super awkward at first and yes, if you are just starting out, there is a good chance you will make some cringe worthy videos. It does however give you a chance to showcase your product as a business and your passion for it.
Think of platforms like Instagram and TikTok as a collection of repertoire. If someone sees you and likes you, they just might dive into the back catalogue of your profile.
Every video is an opportunity to ‘nurture’ that potential customer. It might take 5 videos, it might take 30, but eventually, they are going to start to learn you, and decide whether you are someone they want to exist on their feed, and someone they want to buy from.
If we go by Dr. Hall’s 50 hours to make a friend, that’s a lot of content, and creating that amount of content and staying interesting is a feat. The principle however, still stands.
The more people see you, the more they get accustomed to whatever content you put out and the more they are going to develop that relationship with you. This isn’t a numbers game though. If you throw a lot of content out there that doesn’t provide any value to your audience, then you are just going to come off as annoying. It may also burn you out.
Consistency is key but that can mean something different for everyone. For some it is every day, for others, it is once a week or a couple times a month. Just remember to show your face from time to time and talk to your audience.
If you haven’t grown your audience just yet, remember that the people who convert to following your social media accounts or engaging with your business will be those who see a video they like and click on through to learn more about you. As you build that back catalogue of engaging content so does the opportunity for your audience to become familiar with your brand, your product, and most importantly…
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