Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Commitment- Turning Followers Into Fans

The last three posts I wrote all had to do with influence- what it is, why it's important, and how to achieve it.  These posts were very focused on the functional and interactive aspects of influence through the use of social media sites for marketing campaigns.  There is another aspect of social media marketing that you should not forget about, one tied to influence- the psychology of marketing.

I am currently reading Influence: Science and Practice, 5th edition, by Robert B. Cialdini which talks about how compliance tactics are used to get us to say "yes" and how we can use these methods to persuade others.

I've been reading this while keeping myself focused on how psychology can be used in social media to help increase influence.  One idea that struck me, mainly because I've been seeing extremely poor use of this tactic by many businesses who are delving into social media marketing, is that of commitment.

In the last year, I have seen a lot of businesses try to build their social media followings by offering a potential reward, the most popular being a free iPad, for doing nothing more than clicking the "like" button, becoming a follower or fan, or by subscribing to a blog or email list.  What this tends to generate is an increase in the number of followers, most of whom see the action as a way to win an iPad, rather than increasing the number of fans who are following the business because they have real interest in what the business provides.  You've gained numbers, but, little to no influence.

Cialdini states:
Social scientists have determined that we accept inner responsibility for a behavior when we think we have chosen to perform it in the absence of strong outside pressures.  A large reward is one such external pressure.  It may get us to perform a certain action, but it won't get us to accept inner responsibility for the act.  Consequently, we won't feel committed to it.  The same is true of a strong threat; it may motivate immediate compliance, but it is unlikely to produce long-term commitment.
In other words, if your new follower only has to click on the "like" button in order to be entered into a drawing for the iPad, there is no inner responsibility for the act.  They haven't had to show any commitment to you or your business in order to be entered to win.  They are now free to move on and never pay attention to you again, unless they win the iPad.  Then the reciprocity rule may take hold, but that is a different blog post for a different day- or you can read what Cialdini has to say about it.

Cialdini then goes on to point out that by making people work for something creates a larger sense of commitment.  It is internalized.  What was even more interesting was the fact that the reward for the commitment doesn't need to be very big, it just needs to be there.

Translating this to a social media marketing campaign- it is okay to give something away, but make the potential follower do some work to get them to internalize the commitment to you.  For example, have them write a 100 word essay on what they would do with the iPad, as it relates to your business, and post it on your Facebook page.  Or, give away a sweatshirt with your company logo if they post a picture of themselves with one of your products in the most exotic location (e.g. standing on the Rock of Gibraltar).  Sure, they still have to "like" or follow you in order to participate, but they are being required to do some work, to internalize the commitment.  These are the followers that become fans, those who are more likely to follow you with purpose, to respond to your marketing efforts online.  The others?  Well, if they are only willing to click to win, you'll probably not convince most of them to buy anything from you anyway.

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