It bears repeating: we don’t know the true impact we have on others. It bears repeating because we matter far more than we know. You already are more influential within your circles than you may think or feel. You are making a difference — today.
This Pt. 2 post is a further nod to Robert Cialdini, the Godfather of Influence and its principles delving further into authority, social proof, and scarcity.
Social Proof — Social Proof is an incredible principle of influence pertinent to our daily lives. When we do not know how to behave or what a social situation calls for, we look to others for cues. We see social proof play out in all kinds of daily human situations. When we don’t know what kind of car we should buy, we look to our friends and neighbors for cues. When we don’t know what to order at the steak house, we ask our colleagues what they’re ordering. When we don’t know where to invest our 401(k), we ask our team or the people in finance.
Social Proof works in habit-forming situations as well. Look at the gym. When developing a new habit in regular work-outs, social proof can play a large part in your new behavior. When you begin a new work-out regimen, you seek others who already have the results you desire. You ask them how they got to where they’re at now. They tell you they eat clean, they supplement, and they work out four to five times per week. You compare these answers with what you already know about working-out. And then you compare them with answers of your friends who are in good shape. This helps to shape your work-out regimen and new eating habits.
When we’re unsure of what to do or how to behave, we look to others for cues.
Social proof drives social media. We see others doing something and we think we need to try that. We see people go to the new restaurant and we think it could be right for me. We see people go to Jamaica and think we should look at Jamaica for our next vacation. We see people with the new Lexus and dream about getting the new Lexus some day. This is another factor of just how embedded social media is in our lives and how much it influences our consumer decisions.
Marketers know that testimonials are powerful drivers in business and consumer decisions. We want to know what the other guy’s experience was first before we make the purchase. What worked? What didn’t? Would you decide to purchase again if you had to do it over? What tripped you up? All of these questions are what we want answered before we purchase, and they can be answered through testimonials and product reviews, both powerful forms of social proof. When we see enough people buying and saying a product is vetted and OK, we then think it must be good enough for us. So, we move ahead with our purchase.
Social Proof drives the crowd. Think of cohorts of people who love a brand, say, Tesla. Tesla enthusiasts get together and spread the excitement of Tesla cars to each other and to other people who may be on the fence about purchasing a new Tesla. These enthusiasts act as unpaid salespeople on Tesla’s behalf, telling people new to the brand about all of Tesla’s wonderful features and abilities. They then tell the story about their personal experience with the car, what it is like to own it, and drive it daily. These enthusiasts provide the testimony — the social proof — on Tesla’s behalf without them having to do anything. This band of enthusiasts is driven by passion for their Teslas, the brand, and what it stands for.
Scarcity — Pure classic economics tell us that the more scarce something is, the more we demand it. If you seek to create demand for your product, simply limit its supply or availability. Better, make them wait to get it. When consumer items are in scarce supply and times are stressful, such as in an extreme weather event, people tend to go rather crazy for them.
To an extent, it helps to make something hard to get. The more something is just out of reach, the more people work for it, and thus, the more they value it. Status with rewards programs work well in this way. An airline rewards program hits these buttons for us well. They have their top tier levels with excellent benefits, they have their mid-tier levels with OK benefits, and they have their silver level tier which provide few benefits worth mentioning. The top status level is elusive. When you begin the program, you aim for it but it is so far away you don’t even think about it. Then you fly, you fly, and fly some more. You’re gaining miles. Your status bumps up accordingly. You fly again. You keep acquiring the segments. Your status bumps up again. Eventually, you reach near top tier status. You’re proud of your accomplishment and your newly-arrived status on the airline. You feel like bragging to others. Your proud of your new status because you had to work for it. The airline didn’t just give it to you. They want you loyalty and for that, in turn, you get better treatment each time you fly. They make the top tier status elusive for a reason: they aren’t for just anybody.
We want what’s scarce, rare and hard to get. While we don’t like admitting it, we like working to acquire something. We don’t appreciate things that are just handed to us. We need to jump through a few hoops first.
Authority — It is hard to overstate the importance of authority in our lives. We naturally defer to authority figures no matter the circumstances. Just because someone has a title or a badge or a white lab coat is often enough for us to believe them and take what they say seriously. This is so true for us that we’ll often go to incredible lengths to comply with authority.
Decades ago, a professor of psychology named Stanley Millgram wanted to gauge the effects of authority on people and decided to launch a study. In his experiment, he had a two people in white lab coats play the authority figures and had subjects sit down in a room with the authority figures. They were placed in front of a machine with knobs that were supposedly administering electric shock on other people in an adjacent room. Whenever the person answering questions in the other room got answers wrong, they were administered a shock. The authority figure in the white lab coat kept them on track, and insisted they continue to upgrade the shock levels. The people administering the shock did not know the people receiving the shock were actors who were not being shocked at all, merely acting like they were.
In an incredible nod to authority, most people were compliant with the white lab coat-wearing authority figure and continued shocking the subjects up to high levels despite the cries and pleads from the folks on the receiving end. The compliance rate of the shockers was quite high.
The Millgram experiments prove not only how fast but how frequently we’ll defer to authority and its perception. Often we don’t have to see any credentials, licensing, or badges and we’ll still do what we’re told. We’ve been taught since a young age to be compliant with authority or else. Thus, authority’s eerie influence over us.