6 Powerful Social Media Persuasion Techniques

12 Mar


Let’s be honest, you don’t just want your voice to be added to the conversation; you want your voice to be heard, repeated, and valued—and your message to be influential.  Ultimately, you’re after influence.

So what better way to understand social media than by looking at the fundamental principles of influence as taught by Dr. Robert Cialdini, professor of psychology and marketing at Arizona State University? In his seminal book, Influence, Cialdini covers six “weapons of influence”  that are hardwired into our social and cognitive minds.  In other words, we can’t help but behave in accordance with these laws of social interaction.

Does this sound like something useful to keep in mind during your social media engagements?  Well, let’s take a look six powerful persuasion techniques:

1. Reciprocation


In Cialdini’s words, the rule for reciprocation “says that we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us. If a woman does us a favor, we should do her one in return; if a man sends us a birthday present, we should remember his birthday with a gift of our own; if a couple invites us to a party, we should be sure to invite them to one of ours.”

And so it is in social media: we’re more likely to retweet someone who has already retweeted us.  We link to people who have linked to us.  And we tend to give a business far more trust after it has provided us with a lot of free value.

Used manipulatively, this turns into autofollow bots that help you amass thousands of followers in a breathtakingly short time—none of whom may actually care what you have to say.  Doh!

Used more positively and constructively, if you focus on initiating reciprocity by providing no-strings-attached value to those in your network, you’ll ultimately wield far more influence.  Not because the gift economy is a new fad in marketing, but because following the law of reciprocity is how we’re wired as humans.

2. Commitment and Consistency

“Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment.  Those pressures will cause us to respond in ways that justify our earlier decision,” said Cialdini.

Chances are, you follow too many people on Twitter.  And you’re signed up for more RSS feeds and newsletters than you can really read.  Objectively, purging your list of followers and unsubscribing would eliminate distractions and increase your social media signal-to-noise ratio.

But most people never make that purge and hardly ever unsubscribe.  Part of it goes back to reciprocation, but a larger part stems from consistency: you’re loath to admit that following and subscribing to those people and newsletters was a mistake.

On the positive side, how much more likely are you to comment on a blog that you’ve already commented on before?  Especially if you’re now “signed in” to comment on the blog during future visits—and if your Gravatar or Disqus headshot shows up next to the comments?

According to the principle of consistency, you’ll want to remind people of their previous positive commitments through perks, public displays, an elimination of friction for increasing their commitment, etc.  It works for Amazon prime, Amazon’s 1-click ordering, and Amazon’s reviewer system, and it will work for fostering blog comments and a blog community, too.

3. Social Proof

One method we use to determine correct behavior is to find out what other people think is correct. We view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.

Just watch this video to see this in action!

Whether we admit it or not, most of us are impressed when someone has a ton of blog subscribers, Twitter followers, YouTube views, multiple blog reviews for their upcoming book, and so on.

Yes, people can game the system (autofollows and such), which can jade our intellectual response, but our core and initial emotional reactions stay the same.

On the positive side, creating a lot of value for others can help companies and individuals gain social proof via reciprocation: writing engaging content for guest posts, offering to interview authors and subject matter experts, and so forth.  Not only do these activities provide social proof in themselves, but they can help you gain a support network capable of “salting” your blog comments, your retweets, etc.

And when it comes to social proof, tribes matter.  It’s not just about what the mass of people are doing on social media that constitutes proof, it’s what other like-minded people and peers are doing.  So according to the principle of “social proof,” you should concentrate your social media efforts on finding and building social proof within your tribe.

4. Liking

“We most prefer to say yes to people we know and like,” says Cialdini. Extensions of this principle are:

  1. Physical attractiveness creates a halo effect and typically invokes the principle of liking;
  2. We like people who are similar to us;
  3. We like people who compliment us;
  4. We like things that are familiar to us;
  5. Cooperation toward joint efforts inspires increased liking;
  6. An innocent association with either bad or good things will influence how people feel about us.

How does this work for social media?  Well, to start with the virtual equivalent of physical attractiveness, we give extra credence to attractively designed blogs, messages contained in videos with higher production quality, and corporations’ landing pages displaying a better sense of social media savvy in their overall design and layout.

Similarly, individuals involved in coordinating joint ventures for the common good are associated with—and therefore “haloed” by—those efforts, while at the same time invoking cooperation toward a joint effort, which further increases “liking.”  Think of Seth Godin’s efforts at compiling free and thoughtful ebooks and then using the compilation to raise funds for a non-profit.  Bryan Eisenberg’s Trick or Tweet efforts from a year ago also come to mind.

As for complimenting others, what else is a retweet, a trackback, or a positive blog comment than a social compliment?  And yes, those are all activities you should participate in authentically, sincerely, and liberally if you wish to leverage the principle of liking to your advantage.

5. Authority

Cialdini talks about “The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of authority…”  In his book, he examines how authority can be conferred by (and also manufactured by) titles, clothes, and trappings.

In social media, authority is less about titles and clothes than about virtual trappings.  In his (fantastic) report, “Authority Rules,” Brian Clark talks about how perceived expertise can frequently differ from real expertise.  Meaning that the guy known for blogging about and offering intelligent commentary on a subject will likely have far more perceived expertise (and therefore influence as an authority) than a genuine but unknown non-blogging expert.

But perhaps the most direct measure of authority is the number of people who will buy or download a recommended resource based on little more than an authority’s endorsement.  How many people would buy a copywriting book simply because Brian Clark said it’s a must-read?  How many people will download a free PDF on nothing more than Seth Godin’s evaluation that it contains important insights?

But one thing social media has seemed to spark is a dawning understanding thatauthority is (or should be, at least) limited to a legitimate field of knowledge.  So when a relatively famous figure like Robert Scoble states on his website Scobleizer that search engine optimization isn’t important for small businesses, he’s “taken to task” on it rather severely.

6. Scarcity

Apart from reciprocity, this is perhaps the most used tool in social media.  When bloggers open up a class or inner circle membership or subscription service, it is never for an unlimited number of customers or for an always open/unlimited time.  Smart bloggers either create or fully leverage already existing scarcity by limiting seats available, length of time to buy, etc.

Laura Roeder has rather famously made scarcity a centerpiece of a signature technique,  wherein bloggers hold competitions with free services as a prize.  When contestants don’t win, they then value the prize more highly precisely because of the newly perceived scarcity.  This makes them more likely to accept a consolation prize of getting the services at a slight discount.

Parting Recommendations

While the six principles of persuasion started out as “weapons of influence” that were used against us by “compliance professionals,” I—along with Cialdini—would encourage you to practice the positive side of wielding influence. To sum up many of the recommendations from the post, here are some very positive ways to leverage the principles of influence to increase your social media success:

  • Focus on creating value and initiating the reciprocity principle by gifting your social media contacts with high-value content, insights, reports, etc.
  • Sincerely flatter your subscribers, friends, and commenters by responding to them and nurturing your growing community.  Actively reach out to people you admire using social media and pay them the compliment of commenting on their blogs, following their tweets, linking to their content, etc.
  • Commit to consistent engagement on the social media platforms you chose to use, to the point of staying away from new social media platforms that you don’t have the resources to actively participate in.
  • Use social proof as credibility cues where appropriate.  Show off your number of subscribers next to the Subscribe button.  Possibly use colleagues to “salt” your comments on important posts, build up your network by guest posting, commenting, and retweeting.
  • Coordinate within your community on larger efforts for the greater good.  You’ll probably be psyched at what you create or accomplish, you’ll do good and feel good about it, and you’ll likely become associated with the effort.
  • Put the extra effort in on achieving professional and inspiring design.  Dress for success on your blog, website, and social media landing pages.
  • When creating a contest or trying to spark immediate action, use the scarcity principle to positive effect.  But be honest about it—no changing “last day for” dates, no miraculously replenishing supplies, etc

But, hey, I’d be THRILLED to add to the list if you recognize any of your tried-and-true techniques as falling within—or totally falling outside of—these weapons of influence.


Entrepreneurialism: The Least Risky Path

12 Mar


A recent report by the Center for Labor Market Studies of Boston’s Northeastern University comes to this sober conclusion: the highest paying jobs are also the most secure jobs.

This report, which studies how each income group in America is withstanding the recession/depression (based on fourth quarter 2009 data), concludes that household income and underemployment are inexorably linked. The lowest decile of households have the greatest underemployment (20.6% for households with incomes under $12,000) while the most employed households are at the highest decile (1.6% underemployment for households with incomes greater than $138,000).

Income Decile Incidence of Underemployment (%) Lowest 20.6 Second 17.2 Third 12.7 Fourth 8.3 Fifth 6.1 Sixth 5.4 Seventh 4.4 Eighth 3.6 Ninth 2.5 Tenth 1.6

For anyone who worries about people who have the least—the least money, the least access, the least opportunity—these are matters of grave concern. Step back, however, from the emotional and moral aspects of this decaying social picture and view it purely from an economic perspective. The analysis is quite simple: The more valuable you are (in purely capitalistic terms), the more job security you have.

In America, you’ll find those who own their own businesses hold the greatest accumulation of wealth and therefore are the most secure–both financially and professionally. In a survey I co-sponsored in 2006, households with greater than $1 million in net worth (456 households surveyed) felt they could maintain their current standard of living for 13.4 months without income while households with less than $1 million (2,388 households surveyed) predicted only 3.5 months of run room without income.

This makes sense. Most Americans can only draw down on credit cards or meager savings in a cash flow crunch. The wealthier you are the more pockets you can pull from, such as your home equity, your savings and you business and personal credit.

It’s interesting that most people believe entrepreneurialism to be the path of greatest risk when in fact it delivers quite a bit of job security. After all, if you had to cut back on staff, who would you fire last?

SOURCES: Labor Underutilization Problems of U.S. Workers Across Household Income Groups at the End of the Great Recession by Andrew Sum and Ishwar Khatiwada The Influence of Affluence by Lewis Schiff and Russ Alan Prince

Help Yourself: Triggit’s Real-Time Display Ad Bidding Platform Is Now Self Serve

12 Mar


Last year Triggit, a startup that launched in early 2008, shifted gears to become one of the web’s first demand side advertising platforms. Triggit is part of a new movement in advertising that holds real-time auctions for individual ad impressions, which allows advertisers to better target which sites their ads appear on and who sees them. And today, Triggit has launched a new self-serve platform that it hopes will make running display advertising as easy as it is to run the text-based search ads that made Google a money-making machine.

Triggit launched this demand-side platform in October, but up until now it has been a ‘full service’ solution — in other words, you’d have to work directly with the company in order to manage your advertising campaigns through their system. Now anyone can sign up.

For those who aren’t familiar with these real time ad auctions, Triggit sits on top of a half dozen real time ad exchanges, which are offered by Google, Yahoo, and others. When these ad exchanges have an available impression they offer it, in real-time, to services like Triggit to see how much their clients are willing to bid for the ad impression. Triggit’s system automates this for their customers, allowing them to set rules around how much they’re willing to spend and where their ads should be shown.

The new self-serve signup form should be straightforward to anyone who has run an ad campaign before. You enter the maximum CPM you’re willing to spend on your ads, upload your creative, and if there’s a maximum number of times you’d like the ad to be shown to a given user, you can set a frequency cap.

There are also some advanced options for tracking ad conversions and retargeting. And Triggit’s tracking pixel can dynamically adjust an advertising campaign automatically — if the system detects that a certain site is performing better than others, it can start sending more impressions to that site. Other options include geotargeting, and the ability to whitelist or blacklist specific sites.

6 Great Approaches to Public Speaking

12 Mar


If you want to be a great public speaker, your preparation has to be more than just blasting gangsta rap and shadow boxing in front of the mirror. Whether you have to videotape yourself speaking, join a presentation club, or rewrite your PowerPoint deck 40 times, it’s important to be able to tell your own story. Few of us are born with the gift of public speaking but with a little preparation we can learn to persuade, sell and inspire.


1. How Not to Suck at a Group Presentation: LA-based investor Mark Suster teaches startup companies how to present on stage with some great suggestions. In addition to excellent points on structure and the importance of practice, he suggests entrepreneurs join Toastmasters or take an acting class to become more comfortable in front of an audience.

2. 10/20/30: Guy Kawasaki wrote the 10/20/30 rule where presenters create a PowerPoint of no more than ten slides, in a 20 minute time frame, with a minimum font size of 30. While Kawasaki’s rules are meant for VC presentations, the fact that each slide has a purpose and covers only key points can carry over to larger presentations.

3. How to Present While People are Twittering: Presentation trainer Olivia Mitchell has a great guest post on Laura Fitton’s Pistachio blog where she teaches presenters to incorporate Twitter and feedback loops into their presentations. Although this adds a layer of complication to the presentation experience, it does have the advantage of offering cues to the speaker in addition to creating a long tail of social media pointing back to your words. You can download Mitchell’s book entitled, “How to present with Twitter (and other backchannels)” here.

4. Uncovering Steve Jobs’ Presentation Secrets: BusinessWeek columnist Carmine Gallo wrote a great article dissecting Steve Jobs’ MacBook Air presentation. What I find interesting about this advice is the fact that Gallo points out that part of the Apple narrative requires a binary opposition or an “us versus them” scenario. Gallo writes “in every classic story, the hero fights the villain.” If you as a startup founder can position yourself as fixing an industry evil or vanquishing a lackluster market leader, then you’re more likely to have a compelling story.

5. The Lessig Method: Upon first arriving in San Francisco I had the pleasure of seeing lawyer and activist Lawrence Lessig speak on copyright and remix culture. In echoing David Hornik’s post, we cannot agree more with the statement that Lessig’s presentations are a “fantastic combination of content, art and brand.” The former Stanford professor weaves a narrative of higher purpose while his staccato imagery injects a freshness into what is often considered dry subject matter. Presentation Zen offers a great breakdown of the many methods inspired by Dr. Lessig’s style.

6. Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces: This may seem like an abstract resource, but reading about archetypes is a great way to learn the components of a great story. It is well-documented that George Lucas’ Star Wars was heaving influenced by Campbell’s work. Luke Skywalker went on an epic journey, was mentored by Obi Wan, overcame Darth Vader and returned with control of the force. Which of your mentors is your Obi Wan? What is your greatest obstacle? And what is the skill or lesson you’ve learned in starting this company?

3 Weapons for the True Salesperson

12 Mar


I can recognize a salesperson from a mile away. I can also identify a true SALESPERSON from the same distance.

What’s the difference between a salesperson and a true SALESPERSON (besides all caps)? The former allows prospects to make a decision as to whether to buy. The latter refuses to accept “no” for an answer.

Clearly we cannot force people to buy what we’re offering, so what do I mean by this? Simply put, the true SALESPERSON–the star, the elite–walks into every situation with a set of weapons far more powerful than an elevator speech (which is, in itself, for losers) or another tired PowerPoint presentation (a sure way to induce a coma).

True salespeople walk in with:

  1. A conviction that what they are offering will add immensely to the prospect’s personal or business life
  2. A belief that there is nothing better in the world the prospect can choose
  3. An absolute determination to communicate–through education and brute force of personality–that they are dead right on points one and two

This all relates to the fact that positivity is contagious. When salespeople attempt to sell their products or services, they may walk away empty-handed. But when a superstar SALESPERSON strides in with an overwhelming sense of his mission and a focus on making the prospect see and experience the wisdom of what he’s offering, the prospect becomes a believer as well.

Think of the conversations you’ve had with people who are passionate about an idea, a destination or a device that is unfamiliar to you. Their passion passes through almost like osmosis. Chances are high that you will become infatuated with the idea, the philosophy or the product the proselytizer is raving about. You’ll become a convert.

This is what the real art and science of true SALESMANSHIP is all about. It is not about getting “at bats” in front of customers and hoping to hit pay dirt with some. It’s about being armed to the teeth for every selling opportunity;–not hoping to make a sale, but determined to enlist a convert.

Every time I am in a selling position I think:

  • I will make the sale.
  • Saying “no” to me is not an option–not for my good, but for yours.
  • If the prospect says “no” at first, I will not pack my bags and move on. I won’t even acknowledge the word.
  • I will get to a “yes.”

I never want to be just another salesman. I am a CEO and a true SALESMAN.

Are you?

The salespeople of the world aren’t there to actually, definitely, positively make a sale. Nope, they believe that they are visiting a prospect as part of a process whereby: a) you see large numbers of people, and b) you’ll get lucky eventually, and some of them will become customers.

They think that it’s all a numbers game: Toss a hundred darts against the wall (see 100 prospects) and something will inevitably stick.

That is not true salesmanship. That is going through the motions; that is hoping that the law of averages will reward you. Instead of being thrilled that three darts stick, enter the process with the determination to land every single prospect you visit.

You may not win them all, but I know from personal experience that entering the arena with an absolute determination to prevail every time vastly increases the likelihood of your closing 50 percent, 60 percent or even 90 percent of opportunities.

You see, selling is NOT a numbers game, in spite of what the Willy Loman playbook says. Instead, it’s a human game, and it’s a hunt. The human most important in this hunt is you, the truest definition of salesperson–the one who deserves to be spelled out in all caps. I am a SALESPERSON.

Everyone else is an impostor. You are the genuine article. And if you can’t find it within yourself to become this “winner takes all” person, you should find another career.

I think the Peace Corps needs volunteers

Mark Stevens is the CEO of MSCO, a results-driven management and marketing firm, and the bestselling author of Your Marketing Sucks and God Is a Salesman. He is also a popular media commentator on a host of business matters including marketing, branding, management and sales. He is also the author of the popular marketing blog, Unconventional Thinking.

Going Up! How to Ride An Elevator Pitch to New Heights

10 Mar


As a leader in the Pittsburgh investment scene, long-time entrepreneur Mel Pirchesky is now using his experience to coach startups on fundraising and business strategies. According to his company Eagle Ventures, Pirchesky has raised over $45 million in his 35 years of structuring deals. In a recent guest post on the site Pittsburgh Ventures, Pirchesky breaks the art of the elevator pitch – a tool every young entrepreneur needs to learn to use – into an exact science tailored for the best results.

Analyzing Y Combinator

10 Mar