Facebook: Why You Really Watched All Those ‘Look Back’ Videos

by Colin Shaw on February 24, 2014

My Facebook feed was stacked over the last few weeks with all the ‘Look Back’ videos that celebrated Facebook’s 10-year anniversary. One thing all these videos had in common is that they created stories from unrelated posts and photos that tell the story of people’s lives, set to a soundtrack of stirring music.

But instead of fictional characters, they are real people that I used to work with or went to primary school alongside. I can’t tell you how many of these things I watched. What I can tell you is the reason I watched them was scientific—and certainly not a form of procrastination from my rather lengthy list of “to-dos”.

John Berlin, the bereaved father whose son, Jesse Berlin passed away on January 28, 2012, didn’t know his son’s Facebook password and really wanted to see his Look Back video. His plea went viral and Facebook heard about it. Facebook decided to make the video for the father. Mark Zuckerberg called him personally to let him know that they would develop a policy that allows family to access an account after they lose a loved one. The video was not public, but John posted it later on You Tube.


In this case, the story behind the story makes this Look Back video even more compelling.

Storytelling, when it is done well, can create a new chemistry in your brain and that chemistry changes the way you feel. In this case, I feel sentimental and connected to my family and friends. And my primary school chums, I suppose. In other cases it helps you form empathy. This is particularly useful for fundraising for charity.

In a recent study, researchers learned that the emotional reaction and resulting brain chemistry from watching a story could actually cause the viewer to spend more money. Here is a fascinating animation of the concept in a video from Dr. Paul Zak, PhD, the founding director for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University and author of “The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity”:

What this video demonstrates is an important fact about your customer experience. Stories will help you connect with your customers and create and emotional reaction that will build a relationship. This relationship is only created when your stories are told well and contains emotion-provoking themes. These emotions create a reaction in your customer’s bodies that will help them decide to spend money on your products and services.

Before you get nervous about all this mind-controlling-wallet theory, remember that this is not an entirely new concept. Since the first charity appeared, and the first child with round hungry eyes ever asked the orphanage, “please, sir, can I have some more?” we have had this reaction. This was not developed on Madison Avenue in the 1960s by a bunch of morally questionable men who smoke too much. From the beginning of social interaction, stories have been the basis for learning, communicating and connecting between human beings.

Emotions are the biggest driving factor in most customer interactions, both rationally and subconsciously. What we learned in our research for our third book, based on responses from 4.5 Million survey questions is that 20 emotions basically drive and destroy value.  What emotional response you create with your customer experience directly effects whether that customer is coming back, coming back always, and recommending your company to his or her friends.

It also drives whether they decide to leave without buying anything, never come back, and post a scathing review of you on social media. Basically, emotions are the thing that make or break your customer experience.

Many times, when I am consulting with a client, particularly when they accept this concept, they ask, “How? How do I create emotions with my customers?” This is a great question that shows me that they are ready to make the kind of changes necessary to compete in today’s highly competitive, globally commoditized economy. The answer is not as simple as this, as there are a multitude of factors that go into the emotional arc of a customer experience, but in a very general sense it can be boiled down to creating stories that evoke emotions.

Whether the story is in the branding that drives your customers to your channels in the first place or in the interaction between your employees and the customer on a specific transaction, connections through stories are the best way to create the positive emotions that drive value for your organization. Unfortunately, these same stories, can create the negative emotions as well, but that’s another post…

So now you know. The reason you are clicking on all those Look Back Videos is scientific. Stories help you feel. Your feelings create chemicals in your body. These chemicals can feel good, scary, sad, or happy. Sometimes these feeling will drive you to give more money to charity.

So tell your boss/client/wife that you are not procrastinating and fooling around on Facebook. It’s scientific research on what stories do to create emotions. At least that’s going to be my excuse.


Facebook: Why You Really Watched All Those ‘Look Back’ Videos by Colin Shaw

Colin Shaw is founder & CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin has been recognized by LinkedIn as one of the top 150 Business Influencers in the world.  He is an international author of four best-selling books on Customer Experience. Colin’s company, Beyond Philosophy provide consulting, specialised research & training from our Global Headquarters in Tampa, Florida, USA.

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