Understanding And Implementing Social Influence Strategies
A technical definition of social influence describes it as a change in behavior that one person causes in another. This change could be caused intentionally or it could happen unintentionally. In the case of digital marketing, companies attempt to cause the change intentionally. The ideal change in behavior is supporting a brand, product, or business.
The rise of social media has made understanding social influence extremely important. There has never been a more powerful social tool to exist and social media may never be surpassed. Therefore, understanding social influence today and how to utilize it often goes hand-in-hand with understanding social media.
How do “likes”, “Shares”, and “tweets” drive action? How do they influence others and foster brand awareness? What strategies should you be using to build social influence on today’s leading platforms? These are all important questions Following is a closer look at the business side of social influence as well as the key components that must be present for social influence strategies to succeed.
What are Social Influence Strategies?
Social influence occurs when a person’s emotions, opinions, or behaviors are affected by others. Social influence takes many forms and can be seen in conformity, socialization, peer pressure, obedience, leadership, persuasion, sales, and marketing. In 1958, Harvard psychologist Herbert Kelman identified three broad varieties of social influence.
Is Social Influence The Same As Popularity?
The short answer is, “No”.
A lot of newcomers make the assumption that popularity on social media platforms is the same as social influence. In reality, popularity is somewhat different than a person’s influence. Multiple studies have dived into the differences between the two as well as other similar metrics, such as reputation.
The truth is that we’re attempting to quantify and manipulate psychological concepts for the sake of business. The line between these concepts is often blurred. The less you understand about influence the more it could seem like popularity or the other way around. So what exactly is the difference between the two?
Popularity is the easier metric to understand. As a matter of fact, many marketing vendors claim that they can track your company’s social influence, but they are really only tracking the popularity. What they do is use algorithms that track and quantify social interactions, which are often referred to as “social capital”.
Unfortunately, those algorithms deliver numerical scores while one’s influence is far more complex than a single number. What they are really showing is a company’s popularity. This includes factors like:
– Marketing activity.
– Page views.
– Link clicks.
All of those are important factors, there’s no denying that, but they aren’t “influence”. Remember, social influence is all about being able to cause a change in behavior. Is the number of people who click on a link going to help you influence behavior? Is your page views influencing behavior? You can be very popular with plenty of page views and re-tweets, but that doesn’t mean you can influence people to support and share the brand.
Social influence is not so easily tracked with a number or score. Instead, you gauge influence by setting goals and measuring success. That’s not to say popularity can’t be considered a part of social influence. One of the major differences is that the trust is a primary component of influence. You don’t need trust to be popular, but you need trust to influence changes.
Social Influence Strategies Defined By Science.
Social influence isn’t something that marketing professionals invented themselves. It’s an important part of social psychology that has existed as long as people have been interacting in groups. Over time, professionals have identified a few key strategies for influencing people in a particular social sphere. These strategies weren’t necessarily created for the internet or social media, but they will work there nonetheless.
The following six social influence strategies go by many different names. They are six methods of influence, the principles of persuasion, and the basic strategies of social influence. You are advised to use these strategies and build upon them when managing a social media marketing campaign.
Strategy 1: The Authority Figure.
This should be considered the most important of all social influence strategies. The practices implemented when using this type of strategy actually lend to other marketing efforts as well. Just think of how often you hear the word “authority” when researching search engine optimization. It’s an important part of nearly any decision-making process where multiple sources or suggestions are involved.
The basic idea behind this strategy is that people are more easily influenced by those they consider to be knowledgeable and reputable experts. For example, consider yourself in two different scenarios. In the first scenario, you are sitting in a room with someone. That person recommends a particular exercise course for you.
In the second scenario, you are in the same room with a different person. That person recommends a completely different exercise course. However, on the walls of the room, you see their diplomas, awards, and pictures of them with happy, fit patients. Which of the two people is more likely to influence your future exercise routine?
The second person used their diplomas and such to show to you that they were a credible authority figure. The first person may have been as well, but you don’t know because you never saw any evidence to support that idea. The same methodology should be applied to social media.
The real question is, “how do you show potential customers that you are an authority in your market?”. That’s where you’ll need to be creative. Sure, you have a “digital wall” to post pictures to, which is a good start, but studies show that it takes more effort than that to convince people on the internet; people who are generally more skeptical than they are in person.
On the bright side, establishing yourself as an authority in your market is one of the best moves that you can make. It will continue to benefit your business for as long as it exists.
Strategy 2: Influence With Reciprocity.
If someone gives you a gift every year at Christmas time, it’s natural that you feel the urge to reciprocate with a gift of your own. Or if someone invites you to their barbecue every weekend, then you will likely feel an urge to return the invitation if you ever host a barbecue of your own. This is known as the principle of reciprocity and it is also one of the most powerful social influence strategies.
Reciprocity has been the subject of social psychology studies time and time again. These studies nearly always seem to agree with one another. When a person receives something that they weren’t entitled to they feel the need to “return the favor”.
One particular study revolved around the idea of tipping a waiter or waitress after a meal. During the study, the waiters were provided with small gifts to give to the customers when presenting them with their bills. In the case of a single mint, the waiters saw an average increase in tips of 3 percent. But that’s not the most surprising find in the study.
What happened when the waiter left a mint and then started to walk away, but only to stop, turn around, make a nice comment, and leave the customer with a second mint? Tips were increased by an average of 23 percent. That is a huge difference.
Studies like this reveal crucial information that you can use in your social media marketing strategies. If you were to read a dozen different studies you could learn a dozen new ways to influence your followers. But it all boils down to one important concept: Pleasant and unexpected gifts lead to an urge to reciprocate.
Strategy 3: It’s Important To Be Liked.
This doesn’t necessarily equate to being “liked”, as in someone clicking a “like” button on your page. Rather, it’s about them actually liking you as a person, company, or brand. Of course, getting people to actually like you isn’t exactly easy. It’s even more difficult trying to get a person to like a brand. But studies show that people are more easily influenced by those whom they like.
So how do you get people to like you? Here are three best ways to get someone to like you according to modern social science.
– Share similar interest with them.
– Work together to achieve a single goal.
– Give them compliments.
Some of these are obviously easier than others. It’s not at all difficult to pay someone a compliment online. However, it can be more difficult to find similar interests and even more difficult to work together to achieve a goal. Again, this is an area where the marketing teams have to get creative if they want to want to utilize this as a social influence strategy.
In some ways, the growth of the internet and social media has made it easier to identify similar interests with potential customers. You can then use those identified interests to find goals and construct compliments that actually make a difference.
For example, if your business specializes in manufacturing energy efficient electronics, then many of your followers may share Eco-friendly interests. By launching a campaign where your business works alongside the customers towards an environmental goal you are showing that you have shared interests and you are working towards a mutual goal.
Strategy 4: Scarcity Is Desirable.
This is a concept many of you may already be familiar with. Chances are, you’ve been influenced to want something more just because it seems scarce or exclusive. The underlying concept here is that people are more likely to want something if there is less of it to go around. Therefore, by influencing the supply you can influence the demand.
What’s really interesting is that the scarcity doesn’t even need to be real. As long as they believe the scarcity exists, then it will have the intended effect. You don’t even have to lie about it.
There are a lot of great examples of this principle at work. Think of the five-star restaurant with only a few tables and reservations that stretch out for months. Or for the nightclub with a line that goes around the corner. Or those collectible coins that are only released once before being taken out of circulation.
Scarcity is related to rarity, which is often directly related to the value of something. For example, consider a penny with a misprint. A penny is obviously only worth a single cent. However, that misprint on the coin can make it worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. If you were to take that same penny into a grocery store it would still only be worth one cent. People have been influenced to give it a higher value than it’s worth simply because it is scarce.
Strategy 5: The Mob Effect.
What happens when a large portion of your peer group take interest in a particular television show, video game, or activity? It creates an internal desire to want to try it for yourself. This is known as the principle of consensus. It is most powerful when a person is unsure about what to do. They will often look at what others have done to make their choice.
For example, people are more likely to buy a product on Amazon or eBay if it and the seller have a lot of reviews. If a seller has 500 positive reviews and 200 negative reviews they are still more likely to sell a product than a seller who has 0 reviews. That’s even if they are selling the exact same product.
To properly utilize this strategy you need to do more than just tell people why they should use your products or like your brand. You need to show them that their peers already like it. Obviously, it’s a strategy that takes time and patience to implement, but it has long term benefits.
Strategy 6: The Consistency Strategy.
The final of the six social influence strategies focuses on consistency. The underlying principle here is that people want to remain consistent with their previous actions or words. By openly attempting to get people to change you are actually working against this principle and making it less likely that you will succeed.
The key to using this strategy is to influence small changes at first. Small and seemingly unimportant changes are easier to influence. Those changes build the foundation for future changes that will be consistent, but larger, than the original change. It’s a confusing concept, but one that can snowball into wielding a huge amount of social influence.
Making Social Influence Work.
As you can see, there’s a lot more work involved with building social influence as compared to social popularity. A million tweets and shares aren’t necessarily going to prove you are an authority figure, encourage reciprocity, or get people to like you. You’ll need to find creative and unique methods for engaging with your followers and then influencing them using the above strategies.