Warning: Facebook Has You by the Balls with Friends Day
Social Media Marketing

Warning: Facebook Has You by the Balls with Friends Day

4th February 2016

They say you can’t create a viral. Well, Facebook proved that wrong, again. With their ‘Friends Day’ videos. People can’t stop sharing. And it’s not the first time either. Let’s look at why this is a success and what we can learn from it. And how we are subliminally persuaded.

Today is ‘Friends Day’ on Facebook. If you are on Facebook, you will have spotted it. If not, something is wrong, or you might not be on Facebook. Facebook is making us share a video about our friends. They say because they want to celebrate their 12th birthday.

It’s much like they do with the overview of the year. It’s being widespread and people are complimenting Facebook on it. What is happening though is that Facebook has us by our balls. Our psychological balls. They are playing with us and we like it. And I must admit, it’s pretty clever.


Why can’t we stop ourselves from sharing this?

One of Facebook’s biggest secrets to success is that it understands its users. It understands what triggers them not just to share and like, but to come back.

As said, the stories are already widespread and will spread much further during the day. Especially considering the fact that the US hasn’t even woken up for the most part when writing this. It will be one of the most successful viral campaigns this year. That has a lot to do with the psychology of sharing.

The Facebook Friends stories are shared because of psychological reasons. We (almost) can’t stop ourselves from sharing. Here’s why. It’s in our brains. It’s subliminal persuasion. Here are the subliminal tricks Facebook plays with us.

Facebook strikes an emotional chord

The biggest reason why we share this video might just be emotion. People love sharing emotions, more than anything in the world actually. If we talk to each other we rave, we complain, we cry and we laugh. Face it, that’s what we do. If we don’t do any of these things we will soon find it boring.

It’s a lesson every marketer should know. If you evoke emotion, people will react. This is why clickbait works. This is why articles that go against the establishment are usually popular. Those articles are often evoking the ‘angry’ emotion.

The Facebook Friends videos are all emotion. In this case, it’s a different emotion that is triggered: the happy one, where we like our friends. Emotions drive people to action. This definitely will drive people to action because we see something we like.

The more emotional the content, the more likely the message will be spread.


Facebook plays on our ego

ego2The second big reason why we can’t stop sharing these videos is simple: it’s our ego. What people care about is themselves. That is the most important for everyone.

We actually saw an article not too long ago that our friends on Facebook actually don’t care about us. At first it might seem that ‘Friends Day’ contradicts that. We share about our friends after all, right? Wrong. We share about ourselves. This actually proves the article right.

Think about these three things:

1. People love to get noticed
2. People love to talk about themselves
3. People want to look good in the eyes of others

Research shows that about 50 percent of what people talk about on Social Media is “me” focused. (source: Content Code). People most of the time talk about is their personal experiences or personal relationships. What we do when we share these updates is not talking about our friends but talking about ourselves. We act on all three human behaviors mentioned above. We live on social status. Hell, social media exists because of social status. And these videos provide just that: social status.

There is an interesting thing about these videos that prove this. Go do a search on Friends Day or look at the videos your friends shared. They might get a lot of likes and even comments. They aren’t shared more after that. Only a few. And even then it’s mostly friends that feature in those videos.


The same emotion is played upon with the ‘This was your year’ videos Facebook releases at the end of each year. The videos make us look good. Look at the awesome friends I have, look at the great things I’ve done with them. It shows an ‘achievement’. We made great friends and we did great things with them. People love sharing what they achieved.

Facebook uses nostalgia

It’s the oldest trick in the book when it comes to marketing: nostalgia. People love to reminisce about the past. Whether it’s our childhood, songs from the 80s or what we did last year. Important to know is that our brains are programmed to make bad memories go away and remember the good times. Looking at the past will make us happy.

Looking at the video with our friends in it and the things we did with them will make everyone happy. And because it makes us happy we will share it. It is the same emotion the play on with the ‘On this Day’ feature you see an update from every day.

It’s storytelling!

Another great way of making sure people will act on your content is storytelling. Preferably a personal, timely story with a lot of images. That will make the receiver love every second of it. This is exactly what Facebook does. The video is a visual story. A story of our friends, what we’ve done. It’s the perfect story (and not too long either).

What’s in it for Facebook?

Ok, so Facebook plays with our emotions. Facebook makes us want to share this. But hey, Facebook makes us happy with it so everyone is happy right?

Yep. So it seems. But there is more to it…

There is a reason why Facebook does this. And again it’s psychological. And it’s not about making us happy. It’s about making Facebook happy.

Facebook created something that makes us feel good. It created something that helps us look good. It created something emotional. The result is that we thank Facebook for it. Actually, we love Facebook for it. Facebook just made us feel good about ourselves and about… Facebook!

This means people will come back. We will think about Facebook in a (more) pleasant way and will spend more time on Facebook. That is what they want to achieve with Facebook Friends Day. Make people feel good about their best friend: Facebook.

After all, the more people on Facebook, the more money they can make.

Lessons learned

The lessons we can learn as a marketer? Pretty simple:
– Emotions will make people share
– People’s ego’s will make them share
– Make your audience feel good about themselves and they will love you for it
– Use nostalgia, images and storytelling to evoke emotions

And to all my friends I just want to say: yes, I love you all, with or without the video, on any day, not just today 😉

Did you share your video? Tell us why in the comments or on Twitter:

[Tweet “#stateofdigital I shared my Facebook Friends Day video because…”]


Written By
Bas van den Beld is an award winning Digital Marketing consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the founder of State of Digital and helps companies develop solid marketing strategies.
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