Becoming More Social: The Impact of Habits

Social is working in the central part of your organization. You have a solid strategy, consistently engaging content, and are tracking towards your goals. You have momentum and you’re getting results, a promotion is on the horizon. Right? Or maybe that’s only part of the story. After building a strong foundation, you might, like many social media managers in your shoes, be tasked with taking social to the rest of the company. You’ll be asked to replicate this success with your stores/franchisees/dealers. Yes, all 5, or 50, or 500 of them. You get the point. 

We see over and over, brands with a distributed model of social face this same challenge: How do you activate your local representatives in social? While technology is part of the answer in driving efficiency and scale, I believe this is also a behavior opportunity. And specifically a habit-building exercise. 

Over the last 6 months, I have talked with many organizations that are trying to figure out how to change behavior and honestly, I didn’t have a lot of answers. So, I started reading about habits, including The Power of Habit  by Charles Duhigg. If you haven’t picked it up, it’s about the science of how habits are formed and how individuals and organizations are changing them. 

One of the key ideas in the book is the habit loop. It is a pattern that starts with a cue. It tells the brain to go into automatic mode. Think about checking Facebook or exercise and how you just do them. Then comes the routine, which is the behavior itself. The third step is the reward. It is something that helps your brain remember the loop. That might be a seeing 10 likes on your cat photo or the euphoria you experience after your run. Our jobs and lives are filled with habits.

So, what does the habit loop have to do with your boss asking you to bring social to the field? What he or she is really asking you to do is change people’s daily habits. Here are three ideas to help:


Many distributed organizations are asking employees to add social marketing to their day-to-day tasks. However, these people in the field are not community managers and sometimes they are beginners to social media entirely. So, what other behaviors can you attach a social habit to? Maybe you add social tasks to the store opening or closing checklist, “Check Facebook and respond to customers before you shut the lights off.” Or add 5 minutes to the morning coffee break. Identify existing actions your team is taking and build on them. 


As Duhigg describes, the habit loop starts with a cue or trigger. What triggers could you introduce to the local office? How about a social call-to-action when employees log in to the intranet? Or a poster in the break room encouraging staff to share positive customer experiences on social? This is internal advertising!  


Do you see a few franchisees getting social? Call them out. Reinforce the behaviors you want team members to repeat. In your monthly reporting or internal newsletters, add a section that highlights social habits and the results. Think beyond good content and get into the change management mindset. How am I going to change behavior without authority? 

Social marketers know this field is much more than technology and viral content—it’s also about human nature and how we change. The good news is it’s possible. If you’d like to learn more about habits, pick up Duhigg’s book, or better yet, join me at the Spredfast Summit and hear him speak.

Tim Bursch's picture

Tim Bursch

Tim Bursch is the Minneapolis Market Director at Spredfast. When he’s not tweeting, blogging, or strategizing, Tim spends time with his wife and 3 kids, all of whom enjoy cooking great food or scoping out the next great restaurant in Minneapolis. He’s also really good at drinking coffee and reading lots of books.