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Spotlight on social triggers: Gratitude

by Molly Flatt on 28 January 2013

Any positive psychologist worth their smile will tell you that an attitude of gratitude is one of the prime factors in a happy and fulfilling life. Good earnest Gen Yer that I am, I’ve been filling in my own daily gratitude journal every night for the past two years – featuring everything from ‘thank you for my divine new heels‘ to ‘thank you for my friend Marian’s mammogram remaining clear.’ And it works. Acknowledging the colossal wealth you already have is a sure-fire way to make you shine.

The billion threads of the social web are spun from the silk of reciprocity. There are thousands of subtle as well as overt ways to thank people in social media, and thereby bind them closer to your network. Sidebar link love and comments on blogs; kudos rewards on forums; retweets, lists, favourites and hat-tips on Twitter; likes and shares on Facebook; likes and repins on Pinterest; Klout and Kred points… the list goes on. Active social users probably say ‘thank you’ hundreds more times in a week online than they do in real life.

Several brands are getting the hang of the thank-you thing. Just giving the nod to a customer for their advocacy can be as effective as an elaborate ‘engagement campaign’ – oftentimes, simply feeling heard gives us the biggest buzz. Remember what a stir Sainsbury’s made with their tiger bread letter?

Realising the impact that a simple personal acknowledgement can have, other brands have created more elaborate ways to scale their gratitude. Consider AT&T’s 500 customised YouTube thank-you notes

Or Febreeze’s epic ‘million thank yous‘ livestream from last year…

However, there are only so many ways and times a brands can say thank you. The bigger picture here involves businesses nurturing a larger, thoroughgoing culture of gratitude.

Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis and the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, has spent decades promoting its behaviour-changing potential, and he is careful to distinguish between short-term thankfulness and a deeper orientation towards seeing everything that is thrown at you as a potential gift.

This is a challenging and important message for brands. Rather than panicking when you find some negative word of mouth, why not celebrate it as invaluable organic feedback and a chance to collaborate with and convert those detractors into advocates? Here’s an example of FedEx doing just that, after a courier chucked a computer over a fence. The video is rather earnest, but it also represents an impressively quick response – and most importantly, it offers tangible solutions for a better future, not just sentiment.

This ‘gratitude culture’ is essential in other ways too. Think about innovation – as Meg discussed last week, the freedom to try and make mistakes and try again comes from a willingness to weed the value out of even bad experiences and turn them into gold. And a recent company-wide survey here at 1000heads revealed that feeling acknowledged and valued really is our prime motivator in maintaining morale and producing excellent work. As a result, we’re finding lots of new ways, big and small, to make that happen more (guys, you rock).

So, yes, make sure you’re saying your thank yous, but also look at how you can make gratitude a daily keynote for your employees, your partners and your customers. After all, Emmons’ studies show that grateful people really do act differently, becoming are more forgiving, more outgoing and more ‘pro-social’. And those are the kinds of people who make up a social business.

N.B. A word of warning: if you send me an auto-DMs thanking me for following you, your lazy spam-faced brand will drop off my Twitter feed as quickly as it appeared. As with everything in social, authenticity and effort are key. Oh, and thanks for reading…

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