RBM: Weapons of Influence - Vincent Ma

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We live in a very complex world where we are bombarded by thousands of messages (welcomed and unwelcomed) from friends, family, strangers, and companies. To borrow one of my colleagues often used terms, 'we are experiencing the world in a state of constant partial attention'. This concept of 'always-on' world of constant stimulation reminded me of a great book I recently read titled Influence: Science and Practice by Robert Cialdini.

Using psychology theory, scientific testing, and real world examples, Cialdini outlines six 'weapons of influence' that can be used to persuade others into action. These six principles include reciprocation, commitment & consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity. He argues that these principles work because of the way humans use mental shortcuts to make sense of the world. The influence principles essentially take advantage of these shortcuts we rely on to deal with the world around us. At the end of the book, he makes an interesting note about how the rapid pace of technology is creating a greater need for us to use brainwave-saving shortcuts. Something I think it is very pertinent in this new media age.

As a digital marketer, I couldn’t help by try to apply lessons learned from these influence principles to some of the challenges in designing effective advertising experiences. We’ll cover 3 of these influence principles in the post and the rest in subsequent posts.

· Social Proof: One important means that people use to decide what to believe or how to act is to look at what other people are believing or doing in a given situation. This concept of social proof is one reason why integrating social media into your overall digital strategy is so powerful. As Bing and Google continue to integrate social data as relevance cues and personalize search results based on your network, the importance of coordinating your SEO and social media efforts around content creation and syndication will be even more critical. Creating great content for your blog or your YouTube channel must be accompanied by optimizing that content to be discovered on the search engines. Conversely, building out a SEO strategy without the great linking benefits of a great influencer outreach campaign will make link building an up-hill battle. In addition, if your business is tied to a physical location(s), consider implementing a strong local search strategy. It is important to pay attention to ratings and reviews of local focused sites like yelp, citysearch, and Google maps. The ratings can be a very powerful tool if managed correctly.

· Liking: This rule simply says that people prefer to say yes to individuals they know and like. I think this leads to one of the biggest opportunities for brands today. Brands that embrace social media as a way of doing business and just as a channel, now have great tools to give the brand a voice and to ultimately humanize the brand. One dimension of liking is similarity. This similarity can be based on opinions, background, personality traits and verbal style. Customer research based on a robust social media monitoring program will provide great insights into what your audience is passionate about and how they talk about it, which will in turn inform your content and communication strategy.

· Scarcity: Based on both economics and psychology, this principle works for two reasons. First, when people assign more value to opportunities when they are less available. Second, as Cialdini says 'things become less accessible, we lose freedom'. According to psychological reactance theory, we respond to the loss of freedoms by wanting to have them more than before.' Putting this principle into practice, we’ve worked with ad networks that offer ad units that can be programmed with countdown clocks and are integrated into our client’s inventory system to dynamically create messages similar to 'hurry, only 10 left', that have shown to be very effective.

If you have the time, I suggest you pick up a copy and give it a quick read before we cover the remaining weapons of influence in the next post. You’ll quickly start noticing these influence principles playing out in your day to day routine, and will be more aware of your own pre-dispositions and short-cuts.

Vincent Ma is The Product Guy at RBM. He is an experienced product manager with a proven track record of developing processes and applications that drive value for companies of all sizes. He can be reached at vma@redbricksmedia.com

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