The Science of Persuasion

A friend directed me to this great video on persuasion. It's about the psychology behind why people make decisions, and how you can ethically apply these concepts to persuading people to do what you want. This is ridiculously useful if you're trying to get somebody to buy something (like, say, a book you wrote), but it also applies to things like getting people to follow your blog, critique your manuscript, or blurb your novel.

(You can use them unethically too, of course. That's the problem with scientific principles. Con artists, for example, make use of these tricks all the time. For the record, I don't endorse this.)

In case you can't watch the whole thing, here's a summary on six shortcuts people use to decide whether or not to say yes to somebody.

1. RECIPROCITY: People are more likely to say yes to someone who has done something similar for them. It works best if you give something FIRST, and if that giving is PERSONALIZED and UNEXPECTED.

2. SCARCITY: People are more likely to want something that is about to be unavailable.

3. AUTHORITY: People are more likely to go along with something suggested by a credible expert. Apparently, this works even if the expert obviously benefits from whatever is suggested.

4. CONSISTENCY: People are more likely to do something consistent with prior commitments they have made. Even if that commitment is something minor (like hosting a guest post for a blog tour of your upcoming book), it can increase the likelihood of more major behavior (like buying your book when it comes out).

5. LIKING: People are more likely to do something for people that they like. And some of the main reasons people like someone are: (1) that person is similar to them, (2) that person compliments them, and (3) that person is cooperative with them.

6. CONSENSUS: When people are unsure about something, they are likely to look at what others are doing before making their own commitment. This is probably why bestsellers take off like they do. It's also why shills work.

Many of these seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how effective they can be when you use them intentionally in a marketing campaign (and ethically; sock puppets have a way of backfiring).

What do you think? Have you seen these work?


Matthew MacNish said...

There is actually, apparently, a rule of reciprocity. They talked about it on NPR Morning Edition the other day.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I think some of this is internalized in our culture (some not). People seem to think I know a lot about marketing, but I don't - I have degrees in engineering, for heaven's sake! What I know (for some reason, I blame my mother, the psychologist) is people. These are the basic skills for cooperative living (which doesn't mean that everyone knows them!). And they work, as you say, not just for selling books, but for any cooperative enterprise.

Example: I've heard authors complain that they can't get people to critique their work - either they critique everyone else, but no one critiques them, or everyone turns them down when they ask. I ask: have you offered to swap critiques? In a swap there is an implied (or explicit) mutual reciprocity; it's a commitment on both parts; and it's people doing something for people similar to them. When you see other people swapping critiques, it hits 4 of your 6! It's very effective, not to mention mutually beneficial.

Which reminds me... I have some post apoc ninjas to read. :)