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Playing to Your Audience's Need for Self-Monitoring

Remember in grade school passing notes asking if someone likes you back? A simple binary question—yes or no. 

Did you notice you’d try to impress that classmate of your childhood affliction? Something you probably do to this day when you’re interested in someone.

Well, we also do that when it comes to other matters beyond the romantic. We want people to like us. And, in some way, validate us (looking at all of us on the socials). So we adjust our behavior to aid our desire for likes.

We self monitor our own behavior in social situations. And it’s a psychological trigger that you can leverage to boost your conversion rates.

What is the Psychology of Self-Monitoring? 

Self-monitoring is where we modify our behaviors so others receive us more positively. We all do it at some point. It’s something that’s second nature, requiring an awareness of how our actions affect others.

Depending on the social situation, we become chameleons. We change to match the social or professional situation. We adapt. Or conform. 

In some cases, we might remain who we are regardless of the social situation. More free spirit, less chameleon.

There are two-types of self-monitors: 

  • High Self-Monitors. Our chameleons, who watch others’ social cues closely. Adapting to match. These folks can work the room. They’re self-conscious, hyper aware of their behavior. Can easily modify themselves to impress others. Either do this to protect themselves from disapproval or to seek outside validation and approval.
  • Low Self-Monitors. This type marches to the beat of their own drum. Maybe oblivious to how others perceive them, or they just might not care. Unabashedly themselves in all social situations. And may not have much need for outside validation.

A research study shows this in action. 80% of high self-monitors were more likely to help an impaired person if they got a social reward. However, 68% of low self-monitors offered help even without a reward, whereas only 40% of high self-monitors were willing to assist.

How to Optimize for High vs. Low Self-Monitors 

A great brand and user experience comes from knowing your target audience. Understanding whether they’re high or low self-monitors can help you craft stronger messaging, content, and product. 

You want them to understand how your product can make them look good. Or how it aligns with their own values.

First Thing’s First, Survey Your Target Audience 

Psychologist Mark Synder originated the concept of self-monitoring back in the 70s. He also came up with a scale that determines if you’re high or low.

You can survey your audience to determine where they fall on that scale. Of course, we prefer using Helio as our survey tool of choice, especially since we can hit a highly targeted audience.

Communicating with High Self-Monitors 

Typically, high self-monitors respond to promises that a product will make them look good. You know, the old “we don’t look good until you look good.”

Appeal to this target audience’s ego. Make activities or achievements more tangible and shareable. is a good example of this.


Change makes it easy to sign a petition and share it with others.

High self-monitors will find this site appealing since they can easily sign a petition for a cause they believe in then share it with the world. 

Another way to appeal to them is through gamification. Use of badges and rewards for completing tasks. 

Also, let them form teams or groups, depending on their interest. This will appeal to their social desire to fit in depending on the situation.

Communicating With Low Self-Monitors 

Since low self-monitors aren’t relent on what others think, they respond better to product-based ads and quality-focused marketing messages. The Vidal Sasson look good ads are wasted on them. 

In fact, a 1985 study found that low self-monitors were more likely to use a shampoo based on its cleaning abilities, not how it fluffed your hair.

This Pantene commercial is perfect for this targeted audience.

Seeing If Your Messaging Appeals to Either Group

Of course, once you’ve surveyed your target audience, you can test your messaging with Helio and pages to see which one appeals to either group.  We even have a test template prepped and ready for you to take your message testing into hyperdrive! 

Message Testing

Put your messaging to the test and gather quick feedback before you go live with your carefully crafted copy.

Use this template for:

  • Concept Testing
  • See what messaging appeals more to your audience
  • Quickly iterate on copy by making key changes based on direct user feedback
Use Template