Yesterday I attended my first ever #LDNBlogClub meet-up. This week’s guest speaker was Steve Martin one of the author’s ‘Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion’ and the British Director of Influence At Work.

Recently, a lot of social media ‘gurus’ have been discussing the impact an understanding of psychology can have on social media. Of course psychology has always been connected to marketing, you can even study The Psychology of Marketing at University. Plenty of studies have been carried out on consumer testing groups to discover things like; the effect of odour on a customers product experience (<delightfully named article Should Mary Smell Like Biscuit?) colour variation in food and even the psychology of supermarket design. It seems natural that we should apply these in the social media context.

But the nature of social media creates a problem:

When you want to appear transparent and engaged how can you use psychology to influence your customers/followers?

3 things I learnt from Steve Martin’s about ethical influence

Steve actually began by talking us through his theory on the principles of ethical influence but I’ll let him tell you about those in his Guardian article.

1. Restaurant mints make us give bigger tips

You’d probably think ‘Obviously not!’ but Steve cited a fantastic study into consumer behaviour that found otherwise. The American study found that waiters who offered customers mints with their bill received a tip increase of 3-3.5%. They then looked at optimum numbers and found that if they gave them a first mint and returned with a second one adding a “For you nice people” they got a phenomenal increase that amounted to a tip that was 23% of the bill.

Of course in British culture we don’t tip as much as the Americans tend to but it proves that by ‘psychologically activating’ people i.e. by making them feel special, you can increase your own/your businesses social standing and income. And as Steve pointed out remember that, “We assign greater value to more personalised requests”.

Take action: Go the extra mile for your followers. Don’t just find them one useful link, find two! Do something special for a friend in need and they’ll become a friend indeed (as goes the Jungle Book song).

2. Free (£0) isn’t a good number

Steve’s second point highlighted our need to frame the worth of the favours we do for people. This was a point I tend to agree with. Too often companies give things away and although they’d love a return on investment (a new contact, a sale, third party recommendation) they don’t get it because they don’t push the right trigger at the right time. Of course the opportune moment is just after you’ve done a favour for them.

In one study mentioned, Steve explained that during a test at a conference people were offered free pens along with several different statements:

Stall one said, “Here take our free pens”

Stall two said, “Have a free pen they cost us 20p”

Interestingly, people preferred the pens when the worth was highlighted to them even though they were identical.

It seems it’s all a matter of being subtle but firm. If we highlight the cost of that free item we add value and perhaps increase the customers feeling of self-worth.

There was some feeling in the audience that pushing people to reciprocate was defeating the point of helping them out and I can understand their view but I think if it’s done in the right way companies could see a return in their investment without anyone getting offended or feeling obliged.

Take action: If you give out e-vouchers of free e-books (and you should) highlight how much they’re worth to you or your company.

3. WE are the cheeky girls (Subtitle was the first thing to pop into my head)

A great way to make a new connection is to find common ground and the same is true when marketing a brand. Most people, to a certain extent, like to be part of the herd. If restaurant customers are given a choice they will choose the item on a menu that most other customers have gone for. The example Steve gave was from a study on hotel towels similar to this one. Customers were more likely to re-use their towels if they had been told others in the hotel were doing the same. Interestingly the more specific the notice was the more likely people were to re-use their towel:

“Telling guests that those who had stayed in this room had reused towels worked better than saying that other guests at the same hotel had done so—even though all the rooms were alike”

According to Steve the numbers re-using their towels increased by around 33%.

Take action: Write about specific groups, topics and locations as it will connect to a more passionate audience. When you have the opportunity to connect with new followers by reading their profiles and mentioning topics you have in common. Use people’s names and stay away from automated messages directed at followers. The information is there we just need to use it.

So to summarise a great way of marketing on Twitter is to make your followers feel part of the gang. Give them something extra but let them know (subtly) how much it’s worth to you.

How do you influence your followers? (Let me know below)

6 responses »

  1. metmarko says:

    Wow great article Charlotte! Well written and well researched. Hope to see you on one of the upcoming London Blog Club meetups!

  2. Filip Matous says:

    To run off of point three, often I think we all crave to be part of the gang. We all need to feel important and included in some group. Community.

    I feel that to influence a group for an extended period of time you need help build a story that like minds can rally behind. You need to help others take the lead – so that you are not the centre of attention. If people can identify with the story you outline then they can join in and act – influence.

    For example I think of Rob Dyer, who runs Skate4Cancer. He built a following of supporters when he skated across Canada and inspired others to join in. Now Rob just finished skating across Australia and his media exposure, twitter followings and blog readership is up, driving people to act to cure cancer. He is an excellent example of someone who weaves a story, reaches out to like minds and causes a influential movement with those that follow.

  3. charlotteelizabethclark says:

    Hey metmarko thank you so much for your kind comments. Be sure to say hi!

    Filip I think you make a very valid point, it’s a big part of human nature. All brands need to identify and write their own story as a group and then use their customers and other companies they interact with to help tell it. I’ll have to check out Rob’s blog I love stories like that, make me feel really inspired to do something.

    Of course social media and the web are fantastic for storytelling. I met a man at University who lectured on multimedia storytelling and he was involved in this BBC project a while back to get Welsh communities to tell their own stories: (http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/audiovideo/sites/yourvideo/pdf/aguidetodigitalstorytelling-bbc.pdf) we did a little of our own storytelling using tools like Vimeo to share information in an interesting way.

    Nice to meet you the other day, looking forward to the next blog club!

  4. [...] from the science of persuasion’ by the lovely people at London Blog Club for writing my blog post about a talk by author Steve Martin. I’ve really enjoyed dipping into it and gleaning little [...]

  5. [...] better refer to other people’s blogs in your posts. Then tell them you’ve linked [...]

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