What is Parasocial Interaction (PSI) and how does it work? What effect does it have upon the consumers in a particular media market? It’s a very interesting phenomenon where someone develops a one-sided relationship with someone who doesn’t know them. It can happen with sports figures, celebrities and others. It’s when a person sees someone so often on TV (or hears them on the radio) that they actually begin to consider them part of their circle of friends.
It can happen with an automobile dealer through the use of the aforementioned radio or TV advertising. When the people in your area consume your messages in these media forms, over time these audiences begin to subconsciously believe the auto dealer/spokesperson is a friend who is welcome at their home. Recent studies (one of which was done at Howard University) have actually shown that these parasocial relationships “are voluntary, provide companionship and are influenced by social attraction.” And before you say that only lonely people have these relationships (because we know that’s what you were thinking) … the study also showed there was no correlation between loneliness and the intensity of the audience’s parasocial relationships.
Since we’ve now established that these relationships are vital to the audience members … it isn’t a stretch to believe they can be of great value to an automobile dealer, too! Think about the amount of notoriety and support your dealership can get when you have the right amount of reach and frequency in your market. So while these parasocial interactions might start out as a one-way thing, it could very well turn out as a two-way relationship when that customer shows up at your dealership and buys a car from you.
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