Dr. Robert Cialdini and the 6 Principles of Social Influence

Dr. Robert CialdiniI am in Las Vegas, attending Pubcon 2012. I love going to conferences. Sure, it’s great to keep up on the latest in the SEO and social  world, but more than that, I enjoy listening to the wonderful speakers that they bring in that expand my mind. The big keynote was given by Dr. Robert Cialdini.

I was (figuratively) introduced to Dr.Cialdini while reading his book Influence, a few years back. Ever time, which was often, I would start quoting out of it while reading. Although my family found it annoying, they also enjoyed his insights.

There are 6 universal principles of social influence. When you hear them, you immediately think that they make perfect sense. We all know that they are true. The beauty is in the simplicity of what he says. Here they are:

  1. Reciprocation – When someone does something for us, we feel ingratiated to them. We want to give back. That’s just how we are programmed. If people don’t give back, they are considered moochers. Practically no one wants to be considered a moocher, so people reciprocate. Dr. Cialdini suggests that we give first. By giving people first, we obligate them to give us back in return. A great example that he used was that when waiters give a mint with the check, they get a bigger tip.
  2. Liking – People like to say yes to people that they like. The big question is how do you get people to like you? People like people that are similar to themselves. The best way for people to find similarities is to share information about yourself. Every website should have an “About Us” page. On that page, it’s a good idea to share information about the people who make up the company. Instead of just spouting technical or industry information, it is a good idea to share personal information as well. Listing hobbies might seem like a distraction from the marketing message, but it will allow people to connect with the person that they will potentially do business with.
  3. Commitment/Consistency – If someone makes a commitment, they try to keep it. An example that Dr. Cialdini used was no shows at restaurants. There is a problem in the restaurant industry that not everyone that makes a reservation actually shows up. Whenever taking reservations, people are asked to call if they want to cancel their reservation. Instead of just saying to call to cancel, asking and getting a response makes people more committed to actually coming or calling if they don’t come. Added the two little words “will you” decreased no shows from 32% to 10%. It’s important that this commitment be public and visible.
  4. Scarcity – People want things that are difficult to get. Marketers at Apple know that very well. On the day of releasing a new product, there are people lining up, with lines going around the block. People are afraid that they might miss out, so they are willing to do crazy things to get what they want.
    Scarcity also spurs people into making decisions. That’s why companies like groupon do well. If you only have 24 hours to make a decision  then you make it fast. We are so afraid of missing out, that we’ll often say yes to things that we might not want or need.
  5. Authority – People defer to people that they think are authority figures. If you are already an authority in your field, then you’re in the green. If not, how can you convince people that you are an authority? Have someone else that your potential customer knows tell your customer how wonderful you are.
    If this doesn’t work for you, you can convince people about your credibility by letting them know about a weakness that you have. It’s important to let people know about your weakness before you let them know about the wonderful things you do. The word “but” is a magic word. Saying your weakness and then saying “but” changes the focus onto the positives that you have to share. A good example is the Avis car rental commercial “We’re #2, but we try harder”.
  6. Consensus -People look to peers when making decisions. Google know this. That’s why they’ve instituted Google plus your world in their search results. I know that I look at Amazon.com reviews before I buy anything. If the majority is happy with the product, then I’m willing to give it a go.
    The example that Dr. Cialdini used was getting people to reuse towels at hotels. Reusing towels is good for the environment. Changing the wording on the card that asks people to reuse their towels increased when saying that most people reuse their towels as opposed to just having text to save the environment. Add the text “in this room” even gets more people to  reuse. The fact that the people in the room have the shared experience of being in that room influences people to be part of the consensus.

Another interesting thing that Dr. Cialdini talked about was not to use the word “new” in advertising. It scares people. New means the product is untested and untried. It means that people you know can’t recommend it. It means that the authority figures don’t have an opinion to give. When Bose music company switch their advertising from “new” to “new and improved”, sales spiked. By adding “hear what you’ve been missing” to their ad copy, they had an even larger spike. Makes sense, they used scarcity.

These are the major points that I got out of what Dr. Cialdini said. If it makes sense to you I suggest that you read Dr. Caildini’s books. You won’t be disappointed.

(Image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/affsum/4321514586/)