Thomas Z. Ramsøy

A Third Visual Pathway in Social Media Marketing

Ever pondered how our brains navigate the complex world of social media marketing?

Scientists have recently discovered a brain circuit responsible for your responses to yet another influencer post

For years, scientists have mapped the human visual system with two main pathways: the dorsal and ventral streams. But what if there’s a third pathway, one that could revolutionize social media marketing?

The Classic Duo: Dorsal and Ventral Streams Unveiled

The story starts with the dorsal stream, the brain’s ‘action pathway.’ Running from the primary visual cortex to the parietal lobe, it’s a route outlined by researchers Milner and Goodale in their groundbreaking research. This pathway helps us determine the ‘where’ and ‘how’ of our visual environment, playing a crucial role in spatial awareness and guiding our movements.

In my forthcoming book “Why You Buy” I dig into this much more, and the figure below is from the book:

When we use social media, we use both the ventral and dorsal stream of visual processing

Parallel to this is the ventral stream, the ‘perception pathway,’ stretching to the temporal lobe. This route is integral for recognizing ‘what’ we see, and identifying objects and faces. It’s a fundamental component in understanding and interpreting the visual information that bombards us daily.

The Game-Changer: A Third Visual Pathway

Recent discoveries have unveiled a third visual pathway, potentially a game-changer for consumer neuroscience, especially in the realm of social media marketing. 

Running laterally from the primary visual cortex to the anterior temporal lobe along the superior temporal sulcus, this pathway specializes in processing social stimuli—faces, voices, gestures, and emotions.

From the original article: The third pathway begins in primary visual cortex (V1) and projects into the posterior banks of the superior temporal sulcus (STS) via the motion-selective area V5/MT. The cortico-cortical connections of the third pathway are independent of the ventral pathway (shown in green) and the dorsal pathway (shown in blue).

Yes, this means that we seem to have a third path of visual processing — one that is dedicated to decoding people’s intentions and movements. For a long time, we have seen the brain networks related to this, but now it seems we can consider this a whole brain information stream in itself.

But what does this mean?

Redefining Social Media Marketing?

In the vibrant and ever-evolving realm of social media, the emergence of this third visual pathway opens up new frontiers. It transcends the mere recognition of images or faces; it dives into the intricate social context and the emotional undercurrents that ripple through online interactions. This revelation could usher in a transformative phase in the way we strategize social media marketing.

It’s not just about the visual appeal of an Instagram post or the cleverness of a tweet; it’s about tapping into the nuances of social dynamics and emotional resonance. This pathway helps us decode the subtle, often unspoken, aspects of social communication – the gestures, expressions, and tones that convey more than words alone.

Consider the impact of this on content creation and audience engagement. When crafting a social media post, we’re no longer just targeting the eyes; we’re speaking to a part of the brain finely tuned to social nuances. This means that a post’s success could hinge on its ability to engage this social cognition pathway. Are the people and emotions portrayed in a manner that aligns with the audience’s intuitive understanding of social cues?

The New Frontier in Influencer Marketing

Moreover, this pathway might explain why certain content, particularly that which involves real human experiences and emotions, tends to have a deeper impact and wider reach. It suggests that social media marketing strategies should prioritize content that resonates on a human level – stories that evoke empathy, foster connections, and authentically reflect human experiences.

This third visual pathway might also offer insights into the effectiveness of influencer marketing. Influencers, by their very nature, engage followers on a social level. Their content often includes direct eye contact, personal stories, and emotional expressions – elements that likely activate this social processing pathway in the brain. Understanding this could refine how we select and collaborate with influencers, focusing on those who genuinely connect with their audience on this deeper, more instinctive level.

A Third Path for Social Media

In the dynamic world of social media marketing, embracing the third visual pathway opens up a new dimension of consumer engagement. This pathway’s unique role in processing social stimuli like facial expressions, gestures, and emotions offers marketers a deeper understanding of audience responses.

  • Harnessing the Third Pathway for Enhanced Engagement Utilizing this pathway in marketing strategies can revolutionize how brands interact with their audience on social media platforms. It allows for the creation of content that resonates more profoundly on a social and emotional level, potentially leading to higher engagement and stronger brand loyalty.
  • Practical Applications in Social Media Campaigns — Incorporating insights from this pathway means that marketers can design campaigns that are more aligned with the natural ways in which people process social information. This could include more effective use of influencer marketing, where the authentic portrayal of emotions and social cues can have a greater impact, or tailoring content that better captures and holds the audience’s social attention.
  • A New Frontier in Social Media Analytics — Beyond content creation, this pathway’s discovery offers exciting opportunities in analytics. By understanding how different types of social stimuli are processed, marketers can gain more nuanced insights into consumer behavior, aiding in the development of more targeted and effective marketing strategies.

Conclusion: Embracing a New Era in Social Media Marketing

As we forge ahead, the integration of this third visual pathway into social media marketing represents a significant advancement. It’s not just about seeing – it’s about connecting, understanding, and engaging with audiences in a way that aligns with our innate social nature. This is more than a scientific breakthrough; it’s a new era in marketing, promising deeper connections and more impactful communication in the digital space.