Online Influence

March 1, 2016
Using insights from social psychology to ignite your social media

Undoubtedly one of the most influential writers on sales, marketing and leadership in our time is Robert Cialdini. His highly acclaimed book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, is on the top 10 list of many recognized marketing experts. Yet the wisdom shared in the book can be applied to not only marketing, but also sales, leadership, politics, or even parenting. It truly is one of the few books that has an almost universal appeal and real-world application across several major categories.

But how might this book apply directly to your shop’s social media marketing? What if the wisdom from the six key ideas presented in the book were focused on the tiny niche of marketing in our field? Let’s think of the six key ideas presented in Cialdini’s book as levers to move our social media marketing to a much higher level of visibility and profitability.

Lever 1: Reciprocity. We tend to want to pay back someone who gives us something. Waiters and waitresses do this all the time and to good effect. That little thing that they do “just for you” is likely something they do routinely and it sets them up for an even bigger tip. Something as simple as bringing a couple extra mints at the end of the meal when the bill is delivered has a powerful psychological effect. (See chapter 1 of the book for the research behind this. It’s fascinating.)

A couple of the ways I try to give back on social media: Right before a winter storm, I put an offer out on our Facebook page to come in and get your windshield washer bottle filled and let us check your tire pressure free of charge. It’s a small offer that costs me pennies but it gets people thinking about our shop as a generous place right before a storm hits. And it’s not a “trick” or sales gimmick. It’s a genuine offer that actually helps our customers and keeps us top of mind when accidents are most likely to occur.

Lever 2: Commitment Consistency. Since we are bombarded with so many choices, our brains actually like to make a singular commitment and then stick to it. Cutting out choices has become a modern day coping mechanism.

On social media it’s great to get “shout outs” for your shop. I’ve talked about our “Facebook Ambassadors” program in previous columns. We simply ask our best fans to give us shout outs or like or share certain things we publish each week. This has the benefit of creating great visibility by leveraging the networks of our fans, but even more importantly, it solidifies the ambassador’s commitment to our brand, which naturally leads to referrals.

Lever 3: Social Proof. We trust things that are endorsed by people we like whether that is someone famous, a friend, or someone we perceive as an expert.

On social media, posting positive reviews from customers has the effect of leveraging past customers’ opinions to help current or potential customers decide to choose your shop. And it’s always best to set a link directly to the review so potential customers can see that these are real, unbiased reviews on a third party site like Google, Yelp or Customer Lobby.

Lever 4: Liking. We are way more inclined to listen to someone we like even if that person is not an expert in a given field. This is why celebrity endorsements are so lucrative. Or to put it another way, this is why underwear companies pay former basketball players millions of dollars. Basketball players aren’t considered experts on the world of cotton undies. Nothing in basketball uniquely qualifies them as a subject matter expert for undergarments. But they are liked, therefore their opinion holds great sway in advertising.

For social media marketing, if you can get an endorsement from someone who is famous, even just locally famous, it is golden. However, something we have more control over is becoming likeable ourselves. This is why we have to function as people in social media and not as an abstract brand. Being human—real, transparent, even our tone when writing—is such a critical skill. Make sure you’re engaging in conversations through social media, not just broadcasting sales pitches disguised as Facebook posts. Be real, warm, sincere, and caring.

Lever 5: Authority. We listen to people who look and act like they know what they’re talking about. All it takes to believe the phrase, “trust me, I’m a doctor,” is for someone to walk into a room with a white coat on and stethoscope around their neck. But are they really? To know for sure we’d need to check their credentials, but our tendency—especially in crisis—is to trust someone who is confident and looks the part of an expert.

On social media, there are hacks who don’t check facts, put up stupid memes that are poorly designed and polarizing, and in general look anything but professional. Don’t be a hack. Check facts. Care about the design, look and feel of your profile pictures and the things that get posted. In general, review your social media to make sure you portray a professional image throughout.

Lever 6: Scarcity. We tend to want things more that are in limited supply. So running specials and time-bound offers on social media are a great way to utilize this lever. Another great way is to hold competitions. We regularly do a “guess the estimate” where we show a picture of a wrecked vehicle and ask people to guess what it ended up costing to fix. Then whoever gets the closest on dollar amount gets a gift card to a local restaurant. When someone else wants something, that creates a feeling of scarcity as there is only one winner and people jump in to try to out guess their peers.

I hope these six levers of influence help you to gain both visibility and ultimately profitability.