The 5 Neurotransmitters That Improve the Stickiness of Your Social Media

Social Media Brain Hacking

What is Brain Hacking? 

Social Media Networks and Businesses Are Using Brain Chemistry to Increase the Time Users Spend Viewing Their Ads and Posts  

As a tribal mammal, your DNA has evolved and survived because of how brain chemistry rewards you when you do things that promote your well being and reinforce your social position within the tribe. This brain chemistry also warns you when the tribe or you are at risk and immediate action is required.

Realizing this, social media networks (in fact, all digital media networks) are hiring "Attention Engineers" that understand user experiences that hack your brain chemistry and increase the amount of time spent on social media networks. Pretty smart since they make most of their money on advertising.

The good news is anyone can improve their digital communication being cognizant of these neurotransmitters and employing them on their social media profiles and in their posts. 

Here are the top 5 neurotransmitters involved:

1. Dopamine: is the motivation neurotransmitter. Whenever you do something that promotes the tribe's or your well being, like completing a commitment to the tribe or accomplishing an item on your to-do list, the brain gives you a shot of reinforcing pleasure.

On social media, you get a shot of dopamine when you share things and events like finding a new clothing store, eatery, or upcoming entertainment gig (found either on your own or through one of your tribal buddies) with your tribe. On the other end, members of the tribe get a shot when what you shared is a great fit to one of their needs.

This cycle of finding and sharing becomes a reinforcing loop of behavior. You do it because it feels good. Eventually, you get a shot of dopamine when you see there are new posts waiting to be seen... you click or swipe the screen filled with anticipation of the good things to come.

** Improve your social media reputation by sharing good things you have found with your tribe. Remember the objective is not self-promotion, your motivation is being of service to the tribe.

2. Serotonin: is the social glue neurotransmitter. When you sense you are socially significant or important, your brain gives you a shot of serotonin... meaning you are properly aligned with the tribe, keep up the good work! But beware: it can also spur you on to improve your social position and challenge one of the alpha leaders, when you become full of yourself.

On the social network, members of the tribe get a squirt of serotonin when they receive a large number of birthday wishes or positive comments/responses to a post/share.

** Improve your social media engagement by reinforcing the positive vibes your tribal buddies receive for their content; recognize the kudos you receive with likes and comments.

3. Endorphins: is the natural opioid neurotransmitter. This is the chemical responsible for 'runner's high,' it is normally released when you experience pain or stress, but it is also released when we have a good belly laugh.

On social media, seeing a funny meme is an instant shot of endorphin.

** Improve your social media engagement by sharing funny content that gives your tribe a good belly laugh.

4. Oxytocin: is the intimacy neurotransmitter. Our first experience with oxytocin is cuddling with Mom as a newborn.

Oxytocin is released when you are touched, moved, or inspired by others. When you're feeling loved by someone that likes or shares your tweets... ahhh bonding... By the same token, you (yourself) have learned to build trust and solidify social bonds with oxytocin by using reciprocal types of behavior.

Oxytocin is also triggered when you see posts, memes, or other material that match our beliefs and feelings. It comes from the sense we are not alone and there are people out there we can trust to have our back.

** Improve your social media reputation by posting facts/figures/stories that highly align with views of tribe, especially if the author of the content is someone who has positive juice with your tribe -- doing this aligns you more completely with the tribal's movement/voice; you're building trust. Question: why would follow someone whose views piss you off.

5. Cortisol: is the fight-or-flight neurotransmitter. It is activated when you sense a challenge or danger requiring immediate action. Like when someone puts up a political view on social media you do not like; you have a couple of choices: (i) you can add your comment; or, (ii) mute or block the sender of the meme.

Cortisol is triggered when bullies/trolls attack a member of your tribe... or you. You are instantly called to action to support your tribal member or solicit help from the tribe when you're attacked.

Disappointment also triggers this neurotransmitter. The major disappointment experienced when Hillary Clinton lost her bid for the presidency sent several people to the desert to collect themselves and triggered the resistance movement.

Caution: triggering cortisol can be used to manipulate the behavior of your tribe and you. Ensure the source of bad news is trustworthy... don't be drawn to clickbait.

** Improve your social media reputation by posting/sharing content that moves your tribe to action, such as register a protest. However, you don't want to be known as a negative voice or rebel rouser. As a rule of thumb, you should share at least 10 positive posts to every one that is activating and/or depressing.


Nature has given us brain chemistry elements that reinforce our cooperation within the tribe. Being mindful of these neurotransmitters and their effects will improve your ability to communicate and grow tribal reputation.

Although, there are many different types of neurotransmitters in the brain, this post has exposed five that are useful to improve your stakeholders' engagement with your social media presence. These are the same neurotransmitters used by the major social networking platforms (e.g., Facebook).


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