Are You a Twitter Snob?

I’m still a total novice, a geek you might say, when it comes to Twitter. I signed up at the advice of a friend and have mostly tried to use it as a tool to promote this blog. Facebook continues to be the place where I get more personal.

Because I just didn’t feel I was getting the hang of Twitter I bought Twitter Power by Joel Comm. For my wife and daughter, the fact that I would buy and read a book like that confirms them that I am indeed a geek, a twit, a tweet.

As I type this I’m half way through the book and have learned several good pointers. But, this post isn’t about the book; rather it’s about what I’m observing about Twitter from a social influence standpoint.

First I must confess, I’ve become a Twitter snob. Are you? You might discover you’re one too and didn’t know it. Why do I say I’m I a snob? Well, for the simple reason that I don’t “follow” everyone who follows me. Kind of rude isn’t it? In my defense there’s a psychological force at work on me. It’s called consensus, also known as social proof.

Consensus is the psychological principle whereby people look to others for clues on how to act. That gets heightened when we are not sure what to do. So I’m new to Twitter, fumbling around not knowing what to do and I look to see what others are doing. I’ve received notification that people or organizations are following me so I pop over to their Twitter home page to see what’s up. Here’s where consensus comes into play which leads me to a question for you. If you saw “Following 1,567” and “Followers 138” would you be like me and wonder, “Why are so few people following this person?”

It’s not that 138 is a small number; after all, we all have to start somewhere. The problem is that 138 is a small number compared to 1,567. We naturally compare and contrast to gauge things. It’s no different than looking inside a small restaurant, seeing a large crowd, people waiting and all the tables filled. I don’t know about you but when I see that I naturally assume it must be a good place. By contrast, when you pop your head into a large place and see more empty tables than full ones it’s easy to conclude something must be wrong with the food, service or something else. In reality there may be more people in the big restaurant but you don’t really notice that. In both cases we’re influenced by groups, or lack of, and that is heightened when comparing it to the number of tables.

At first I felt bad not following someone who followed me. My feeling bad goes to another principle of influence, reciprocity, which tells us we should respond in kind when someone does something for us. Someone smiles at us and we smile back or they do something for us and we feel obligated to return the favor. So naturally, when someone follows us on Twitter we feel somewhat obligated to follow them back.

So what’s a person to do if they find themselves in a follower deficit? Again, I’m no Twitter expert but here are a few things that come to mind:

  • Friends and Family – Use the AT&T strategy and try connecting with people you know so they’ll follow you and you can build up that number.
  • Sympathy – Start sending messages to some of those you follow to tell them you made a mistake and ask them to start following you.
  • Slow Down Cowboy – As people do start following you, don’t be so quick to follow back for a time so you can even out your “following” and “follow” numbers.
  • Last Resort – If all else fails, set up a new Twitter account and be more careful as you build up your followers. This might seem like a hassle but it will be worse to go months, maybe years and never see many followers.

Again, I don’t claim to be an authority on Twitter, that’s why I needed a book! However, I know enough about social influence to realize when people are shooting themselves in the foot. By the way, feel free to follow me on Twitter or become my friend on Facebook. Links to both are on the side of the Web site.Brian
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

Coming to Terms

I thought it would be good time to review some influence and persuasion terms with you. A few of these you’ve seen in some past blogs and others you will certainly see in future posts.

Understanding and ethically applying these psychological principles doesn’t guarantee everybody will do what you want. After all, they don’t represent some kind of magic wand. However, I can say with certainty; if you employee these more strategically and regularly you will hear more people say “Yes!” to your requests.

As you read through these you might think, “That doesn’t apply to me” or “I don’t fall for that.” That assessment may be true quite often but certainly not all the time. To get you to critically think it through I’ve added a question after each principle to give you cause to pause and think. While you may have seen right through some manipulative person’s attempts to persuade you, I’m willing to bet there are other times where you were influenced into action without even knowing it.

Reciprocity – Some might describe reciprocity as the “good old give and take principle” or “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” This principle describes the internal pressure we all feel to return the favor. At its most extreme it might be the person trying to think of a way to repay someone who saved their life. For most of us it’s as simple as picking up the tab at a restaurant because our friend got it last time. Have you ever sent someone a Christmas card because they sent you one first? If so, it’s because of reciprocity.

Liking – In business there’s a saying, “People like to do business with people they like.” Jeffrey
Gitomer, sales trainer and author, likes to say, “All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends. All things being not so equal, people still want to do business with their friends.” We like to be around people we like and they naturally have more influence on us than those we don’t know or don’t like. In turn, the more likable we are the more persuasive we’ll be. Have you ever bought something because a good friend recommended the product or service?

Consensus – A farmer would say we’re like cattle because we like to “mooove” with the crowd. When we see lots of people taking action, or people just like us, quite often that’s enough to get us to go along with the crowd. You’ll also hear consensus referred to as “social proof.” Be honest now; have you ever stood up during a standing ovation when truthfully, you didn’t think the performance deserved it? If so, it’s because you were moved along by the actions of others.

Authority – We don’t have enough time to weigh all the decisions that come our way so quite often we defer to people we view as authorities, or experts. In fact we do so with such regularity that studies show our brain activity actually slows down when experts tell us what to do! In other words, critical reasoning can go right out the door! Experts need not be actual people either. Have you bought something, perhaps a car or major appliance, primarily because Consumer Reports rated the vehicle high?

Consistency – We all feel an internal pressure to live up to our promises. We feel good about ourselves when our words and deeds match, when we’ve done what we said we would. Have you ever found yourself doing something, not because you really wanted to (i.e., help someone move), but because you gave your word?

Scarcity – When we sense something is becoming less available or diminishing in some way, there’s something in us that all of a sudden wants the thing even more. When was the last time you rushed out to the store because you suddenly remembered, “Sale Ends Sunday!”? If that was you it’s because you were motivated by the potential loss of an opportunity.

Compare and Contrast – Did you know two things can appear more different than they really are depending on how they are presented? Considered for a moment how that might impact your decision making. For example, you go to the store to buy something and you’re not sure what that item might cost. When you arrive you see a sign that states, “Normally $150, now only $99!” By comparison $99 appears to be a very good deal. I’ve hear people justify purchases like that because “it was too good a deal to pass up.”

So there you have it, the layman’s overview of several psychological principles than affect us all to one degree or another every day. Most of the time these principles impact us in such subtle ways that we’re not aware of it and yet they’re major factors in our decision making. As we continue our journey together I think your eyes will be opened to how politicians, marketers, salesmen and so many others try to persuade you to do what they want.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

“Because I said so!” Mom (or Dad)

You may not be aware of how your mom and dad conditioned you to simply comply with other people’s requests but I’m here to tell you they did. Unknowingly, all mom and dad did was use a single word, the same word their parents probably used on them, and you were set up to be more compliant. What word am I talking about? “Because!”

While “because” makes you “fall in line,” it can actually help you get to the front of the line. A behavioral scientist named Ellen Langer conducted a study in which people standing in line at a copier machine were approached by a stranger who asked, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?” Nearly two out of three people (60%) generously allowed the person to go in front of them. Later the person conducting the experiment approached the copier line and asked unsuspecting people, “May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush.” Hearing she was in a rush, nearly everyone, 94%, told the experimenter she could get in front of them.

Of course if someone is in a rush we might be more generous but the question is this – was it due to being “in a rush” or could it have been something else that caused those people to say “Yes”? Back at it one more time the experimenter asked, “May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make copies?” You’d think people might have denied that request saying, or at least thinking, “We’re all in line to make copies so wait your turn like everybody else!” After all, her was reason irrelevant…and still, 93% of the people let her go ahead! There was virtually no difference in response between a valid and bogus reason when “because” was used.

The social psychologists think we don’t pay attention the reason given because we are so conditioned by the word “because” that we hardly pay attention what comes next. Again, think about your parents when you questioned them about why you had to do something. I’ll bet quite often you heard (and might say to your kids), “Because I said so!”

So how does this understanding impact you? Two ways come to mind. First, it can help you protect yourself. Don’t mindlessly comply with a request without giving thought to the reason you’re being asked to do something. If you don’t you may just find yourself doing something you wished you would not have done.

The second way you can use “because” is to be more persuasive. When my daughter Abigail was younger she used to ask me (she’s a teenager now and doesn’t seem to ask as much any more) what I did at work. I’d share things I thought she’d find interesting and things I felt would really help her some day. Once during a conversation I shared the copier study and told her, “Abigail, whenever you ask someone to do something, always say ‘because’ and give them a reason. If you do that more people will say ‘Yes’ to you.”

Here’s the really cool thing. Some time ago, long after that conversation, Abigail and I were w
atching American Idol and the latest American Idol CD was about to hit stores. Ryan Seacrest was promoting the CD outside a music store where there was a long line. Smart producers were using consensus to get you to believe everyone wanted to buy the new Idol CD. As Ryan would talk about the CD he would try to make his way into the line but each time people motioned him farther back. Eventually he was at the very end of the line with a disappointed look on his face. Out of nowhere Abigail blurts out, “He should have said ‘because.’” I looked surprised and replied, “What?” She said, “Dad, don’t you remember the copier story?”

Wow! I have no clue why some stories stick with kids and other stories don’t but I was sure glad that one stuck because it’s a life skill that will serve her well. It will serve you well too, if you look for ways to use your new understanding of “because.” You know how I know, because the science tells me so…and you can believe that reason!

To let me know what you thought of this week’s posting click on the comments link below and share your thoughts.

Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes!”

The World’s Most Cited Living Social Psychologist

In several past blogs I’ve mentioned the name Dr. Robert Cialdini. I thought it would be helpful to let you know more about him for several reasons. First, Dr. Cialdini’s work is the basis for most of what I have shared and will continue to share in this blog.

Obviously having a doctorate gives him lots of credibility but I thought you should know more because he’s the Tiger Woods of his field. He is billed as the world’s most frequently cited living social psychologist.

I met Dr. Cialdini in the summer of 2004 when he was a guest speaker at State Auto. His presentations to our agents on the ethical use of influence were some of the best received ever. Later that year I attended his two-day Principles of Persuasion workshop. His work in the area of ethical influence became the basis for much of the sales training I have conducted since that time.

In January 2008 I had the privilege of spending a week with Dr. Cialdini, Dr. Gregory Neidert and other members of the Influence at Work staff when I earned my CMCT (Cialdini Method Certified Trainer) designation. That week-long training, which concluded with a rather rigorous test (he is a professor after all!), allowed me to earn my CMCT designation. Currently there are only about two dozen active CMCTs world-wide. That certification allows me to conduct Dr. Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion workshop, which I’ve been doing the past year and a half with State Auto managers and supervisors.

So what’s the big deal about Dr. Cialdini compared to other social psychologists? As I alluded to earlier, he’s recognized as the undisputed leader in his field. If you happened to have read the Time Magazine article “How Obama is Using the Science of Change” you might recall the opening paragraph mentioning “a world-famous team of scientists, psychologists and economists.” The first person quoted in the next paragraph was Dr. Cialdini, the most famous of the world-famous team!
His book Influence: Science and Practice, now on its 5th edition, has sold more than million copies. And, the book recently received an incredible endorsement when it was named the best marketing book of all time in a book entitled The 100 Best Business Books of All-Time. Wow!
Dr. Cialdini recently co-authored Yes: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be More Persuasive along with Dr. Noah Goldstein and Steve Martin. Yes focuses on real world, every day things you can do to be more persuasive. I highly recommend the book.
What I love about teaching ethical influence is its versatility. By that I mean, when you learn about persuasion and adjust your communication style accordingly it will help you be more successful in your career, you’ll negotiate better deals when you’re the customer, and it can even help you be a better spouse or parent. Bottom line, it can help you be more effective and successful in all your relationships.
If you have any doubt about the impact of social psychology and influence then consider this recent example. My daughter Abigail and I were at the Polaris Mall on Saturday and we noticed what looked like a book signing in front of Waldenbooks. We slowed down long enough to see the name of the book which was The Christian Athlete. I told Abigail I didn’t recognize the man behind the counter, who I assumed was the author. A man at the end of the line heard me said, “I’m not sure what it is but it must be good because there’s a line.”
That man’s comment tracks right along with one of Dr. Cialdini’s six principles of influence – consensus. I’ve mentioned consensus (also referred to as “social proof“) before – it’s the psychological principle which tells us people look to others for clues on how they should act. For the man at the end of the line, the simple fact that many people were in line meant something good awaited him so he joined the crowd. If you take a look at last week’s posting, “Make Your Next Event the One Everybody Attends,” you’ll see how consensus can help, or hurt, your efforts when it comes to promoting a product or gathering.


Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Make Your Next Event the One Everybody Attends

As a kid I remember my mom saying things come in threes. I don’t know if there’s any scientific validity to that but it always seemed like famous people died in sets of three. Right or wrong, superstition or coincidence, what my mom said stuck with me. So, when I recently noticed three similar things occurring in a relatively short period of time I thought I should write about it in this week’s blog.

What I’m going to share might just help your next event be a little more successful, and a little better attended, because of the power of persuasion.

A good friend asked me to review an invitation she was getting ready to send for an upcoming webinar. Part of the invitation read as follows:

“Registration limited to only 20 organizational teams, and 4 teams have already signed up.”

Mentioning the limited seating was good use of the principle of scarcity because people are motivated to act when things they want appear to be limited, rare or dwindling. The fact that only 20 teams would get to participate should motivate people to sign up rather quickly so they won’t miss out on what could be a great learning opportunity.

However, mentioning only four teams had signed up was working against my friend because it was not a motivator to sign up. In fact, it was a demotivator because it goes counter to another principle of influence known as consensus.
Consensus is the name for the psychological principle that tells us people look to others when deciding what actions to take, especially when they’re not quite sure what to do. With kids we call it “peer pressure” but that same psychological pressure is at work on us as adults, too. If we see many people, or people similar to ourselves, doing something, we tend believe it’s probably the right thing to do and quite often we go along with the crowd. If you don’t believe that then ask yourself why you stood up last time there was a standing ovation for some event that really, you didn’t particularly care for.
Consensus can help motivate people to action but it can also work in reverse. If we don’t see many people doing something then we might not be inclined to do it either. For example, talking about what a shame it is that so many people don’t vote only legitimizes not voting in the minds of many people. As far as my friend’s invitation, although four registered teams before the official invitation went out was a good thing, my advice was to change the wording, or remove it altogether, because people receiving the invitation might see that as a lack of participation and decide not to sign up.
At the beginning of this week’s posting I said three things came to my attention so here are the other two. These were also invitations to public events but they differed slightly from the previous example. When I went to sign up for these events there was a section at the bottom of each registration page with a list of attendees. Because I went to the registration sites as soon as I got the email invitations I noticed there were no attendees listed on either Web page. Falling back on my understanding of consensus I knew that was not going to motivate anyone to sign up and could actually be a deterrent.
As I’ve been writing this I just saw another invitation, this for a networking event, and 53 were signed up to attend and another 21 were interested. Those numbers will most likely entice others to join the crowd.
Consider this for just a moment; what would you think if you went to register for some event you thought was going to be a big deal but only saw a couple of people on the guest list? You might not feel the event will be worth your time. So here’s my suggestion; if you use Web sites that allow you to show people who’ve registered, don’t show the list until some critical mass is achieved. Otherwise it will probably work against you. Doing this might just make your next event the one everybody wants to attend!
I welcome your feedback so click on the comments link below and let me know what you thought of this week’s article.
Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Cruising along with Influence, Part 2

When I made my last posting I mentioned my wife, Jane, and I were leaving for a cruise. We enjoyed a five-day, four-night cruise aboard Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas in the Western Caribbean. We had a great time and, on top of that, I got my idea for this week’s Influence PEOPLE posting!

When I teach the two-day Principles of Persuasion workshop one of the six principles of influence I talk about is the principle of consensus. Consensus tells us people generally look to others to determine how they should act in different situations. We tend to take our cues from large groups of people or people we see as similar to ourselves. If you’re a parent with teens you might call this “peer pressure.” No matter how you label it, the reality is we’re heavily influenced by the actions of others, particularly when we’re not quite sure what to do.

A study was conducted to determine the effectiveness of different messaging in an effort to get hotel guests to reuse their towels rather than have them washed and get new ones each day when staying for more than one night. Door hangers were used to try to accomplish this. One door hanger used a message with only an environmental appeal, “Help Save the Environment,” followed by some information on the importance of the environment. We live in a time when going green is important so this message was somewhat effective; towel reuse went up 37.2%.

A second message was tested, one that engaged the principle of consensus. The wording at the top of the second door hanger read, “Join Your Fellow Guests in Helping Save the Environment.” Beneath the heading it went on to mention 75% of guests had participated in the new towel reuse program. When this message was used towel reuse rate increased to 44.0%.

The hotel was committed to doing something to motivate its guests to help save the environment so the cost of the door hangers was a constant. The real consideration was how to best make the appeal and get the desired behavior. As you saw with the experiment, tapping into what others were doing was the better form of motivation because it resulted in an 18.3% increase over the environmental only appeal. Now that you know this, which message would you use if you were in charge of soliciting the help of others to go green?

So what does this have to do with the cruise Jane and I were just on? Royal Caribbean participates in a program known as “Save the Waves.” Because of the towel reuse study, Royal Caribbean’s “Save the Waves” placard hanging in the bathroom caught my eye. Here’s how it read,

Protect Our Oceans At Royal Caribbean, reducing waste and conserving resources such as water and electricity is a large part of the company’s Save the Waves program. You can help us reduce waste generated by laundering and conserve water by using your towel more than once. Simply place the towel on the rack to indicate: “I’ll use again.” Place the towel on the floor to indicate: “Please exchange.”

I give Royal Caribbean an “A” for effort — helping the environment is a good thing — but only a “C” for execution. With almost 40 ships in its fleet and a capacity of 79,000 passengers at any one time, approximately four million passengers cruise with Royal Caribbean each year. Increasing towel reuse and decreasing electricity usage for 5%, 10%, perhaps even 20% more passengers can have a huge overall impact on the ocean and the Royal Caribbean’s expenses.Maybe you’re thinking, “I don’t work for a hotel or cruise line so what’s this have to do with me?” Each of us has countless opportunities to influence people every day and too often we don’t leverage the science of influence which means we’re not as successful as we could be. If a huge corporation like Royal Caribbean, which has a lot at stake with helping preserve the environment and reducing expenses, can miss a golden opportunity, who are we to think we’re not missing them too, especially when we have so much less on the line?

As I noted last week, this is the type of real world application I’ll be sharing with you as we continue this persuasion journey together. I welcome your feedback so click on the comments link below and let me know what you thought of this week’s article.


Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

The Principle of Consensus

The Principle of Consensus tells us, when people are unsure how to act in certain situations, they tend to look to others to see how they should respond. It makes me think about the old saying, “There’s safety in numbers.”

For example, when making a major purchase on something we don’t know lots about, we just feel better when we know there have been many other satisfied customers. After all, what are the chances all those people were all wrong?

If you’re the parent of a teenager, you know this principle is true because you’re constantly warning against “peer pressure” when it’s related to bad choices. During their teens, kids look to other kids for their cues on how to talk, dress and act.

Even though they may see themselves as different, to adults most teenagers look and act alike. The reality is, teens may be different than their parents but they’re just the same as their friends.

How can understanding the consensus principle help you? Two ways. First, just share with people whose behavior you’re trying to influence how lots of other people are already doing what you’re asking them to do.

The second way would be to share with them what people like them are doing. We are very motivated to want to move with the crowd because we’ve been taught there’s safety in numbers.