Colors have a huge generally consistent impact on the emotions we feel. For example, rare is the country where a stop sign is green and in few places will they paint a room meant for relaxation in shades of red.
As we come to understand more about how emotions work, it has become possible to use them to send signals about a message’s intentions and emotional load simply by focusing on the color that we use in it. This can be an incredibly effective and powerful method to draw attention where it’s necessary.
It does not end there, however, as it has also been discovered that some colors are preferred by some kinds of people. Of course, this isn’t true of all of the people of that group, but as long as it’s true of more people than it’s not, you can use the right color pallets to draw the right audiences to your messages.
So that’s the general gist of it. Let’s look now at how that all works in practice.
The colors and their effect
Red. This color creates urgency in people. That’s why it’s often used in sales signs and clearance sales. It says ‘buy this now or it will be gone’. It is also a color that encourages people’s appetites, which means its well suited to some kinds of restaurants – particularly ones where there is a throughflow of many customers.
Do note, red also has certain physiological effects, pushing up the heartrate and making people more action oriented. So bear this in mind. Do you want people to take action? Then red is a good choice? Is it more about contemplation and thought? Then you might want to look elsewhere.
Blue. Did you know blue is the preferred color for men? No, not red. Possibly that most of us believe this is down to the natural stereotyping we tend to do. Blue is associated with tranquil feelings as well as reliability. It makes us feel secure and also boost security.
It’s not exactly an exciting color, however. For that reason it’s more suitable for conservative brands who want to inspire trust rather than create a strong emotional reaction.
Green. The color of nature has some serious impacts on our physiology. It makes us feel more at ease and relaxed. Of course, as it’s associated with nature it is often an implicit signal for environmental concerns and can’t be left out of any attempt to burnish green credentials. There is a connection with harmony as well. Note that green in plant form can be even more effective.
Purple. The color of royalty and wisdom, purple can make us more creative, better at solving problems and creates a certain element of desirability. This is why we so often see it beauty products as well as in anti-aging. It can also be used to create a certain amount of sophistication in your brand if used correctly.
Orange and Yellow. These are optimistic colors which are often seen as cheerful and happy. Do note, they do have undertones that you need to be careful of. They can be too bright, for example and too present which can make a space that incorporates these colors unpleasant to stay in for long periods of time.
As these colors have an element of happy go lucky, they can be effectively used to draw in people who are meant to impulse buy products. In that case it naturally works better for smaller purchases as the more money people are likely to spend, the harder it becomes to get them to buy on a whim.
Black. Power, authority and – of course – also associated with depression, black is best used in small amounts to highlight other colors. If used too much it can push people away as it becomes overbearing. Still, it should not be ignored entirely as it has been associated with intelligence, which can be a useful undertone to have to your brand.
Grey. Associated with growing older, this color is often associated both with practicality and solidary. Of course, it’s also a ‘meh’ color, in that it doesn’t evoke much than that. It’s neither lively, nor very present. It’s kind of in between and can therefore leave your audience in a similar state of mind if used overly much.
For that reason, it’s often better used as s support color with something more lively taking poll position. For example, if used with yellows, oranges and red it can signal excitement and dependability.
White. On its own, white can signal both purity and innocence as well as cleanliness and safety. Used with other colors, its role changes slightly, with it often taking on the role of the absence of color or negative space. What that means is that instead of drawing attention to itself, it can often be used to emphasize other elements.
So, for example, words with white space around them naturally draw more attention than ones without them. In this way, white is often best implemented as a way of making other colors pop more.
How to use Color Theory on social media
Though it is certainly possible to use one color on its own, generally it is advisable to use a few more in combination. After all, some colors – at outlined above – can be eyesores if overused, but can work exceedingly well if only used to accent or draw attention.
What’s more, by using colors and also positioning to best effect, it becomes possible to tell a complicated message with the colors of your brand slipping a certain idea about your brand into their minds without them objecting to it as they might if it was written in words or presented as an argument. This type of signaling is known as a peripheral route to persuasion.
Even better, as we are naturally drawn to colors which emphasize what we feel is important to the world, by using the right types of color on your website you can make sure people pay attention that are more likely to actually be interested in what you’ve got to say.
So how do you do that?
Well, obviously it starts with the images that you use on your social media. If you can find ways to actually include the colors that signal the moods and ideas you want to, this will naturally tell a story. But that’s hardly the only way to introduce certain colors into your posts.
For example, by creating a border that has certain colors that best represent your brand and putting those around the edges of images, you can both create a sense of ownership with readers automatically knowing this this content is yours, as well as signal the intended audience that this is meant for them. Similarly, by watermarking your pictures with a certain color and symbol you can do very much the same thing.
Even better, it’s often possible now to color your posts in certain ways to draw attention. This can both help you create a more effective messages, as well as allowing you to experiment. It should is relatively simple to create an A/B test using different colors on your audience while holding all other aspects the same.
In this way, you will quickly be able to figure out what colors actually work best for your audience.
Study the competition
Another important facet of deciding what colors you are going to use is knowing what the competition is up to. Through the colors they use they are signaling to which audiences they wish to appeal. This can be hugely informative. What’s more, it should also give you some ideas what parts of the market they have decided not to focus on and which are therefore still available for you to move into.
Remember, choosing colors isn’t just about creating your own contrast, but also about creating contrast between yourself and your competition. If your color pallet is often the same as theirs, then this will not offer them an opportunity to differentiate easily between you and everybody else.
For that reason, don’t be afraid to experiment. Dare to use a splash of color that your competition is less inclined to use. Particularly if that color stands in strong contrast to what they’re doing, this can create an easy way for audiences to know who you are almost instantly.
We’re visual creatures. Color is incredibly important to us and has all kinds of effects on our minds. It is therefore incredibly important that you understand what your colors are saying about your brand. Otherwise, it’s entirely possible you’ll end up signaling things that you never meant to.
And sure, your audience might not be consciously picking up on them, but most of our decisions aren’t actually made consciously. We often rely on auto pilot to make decisions about what we will buy and who we will buy it from. That means that many of your arguments have to be made at the level of those systems which make those decisions. Choosing the right colors can help you do exactly that.