On being an influencer

Like it or not, we all are either on the receiving or giving end of Influence.

But few understand what constitute sphere of influence.

A study on the subject, by Cialdini , lists below elements:

Like (ability). This is self-explanatory. When you like someone or are liked by someone, nothing can go wrong.

This explains the “a priori” principle: we read into a situation or person due to our early imprints (trust that face that resembles mother’s – Oil Olay commercial uses “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face ” to resonate and resurrect that trust). Charismatic personalities, cinematic and telegenic figures all got our vote of confidence (Kennedy-Reagan).

Social proof. The majority get to decide and have the final say (free election, trial by jury). We took this at face value (in experiment, a decoy looked up to a highrise. After a while, a huge crowd gathered to look up to the sky as well.) Conformity principle is a sub-set of this: pagelink, youtube, McDonald (billions burgers served).

Consistency. We need that congruence between past choices and new ones. That way, we can live with ourselves.

e.g. membership fees and bulk buying (Costco and other Reward cards). Ultimate antidote to “buyer’s  remorse” (Zappos free-shipping for returned merchandise – relies on people’s resigning to a faith accompli).

Reciprocity.  “loss leaders“: they first scratched our backs, then, we scratch theirs. Customer life-time value is worth much more than an initial and temporal “loss”. This is where brand and habit buying takes over ( path of least resistance ). Casinos give out VIP free rooms and/or buffet.

Scarcity. How many times have we seen an ad, then rushed to the store, just to find out the item was no longer available. Then, with a rain-check , we are more convinced (influenced) due to scarcity. Right now, investors are worried that I-phone 5 are in short supplies.

Authority. The ultimate pair-association in advertising: Angelina Jolie , Sean Connery and the Gucci bags.

We want to identify with and project ourselves onto these icons. After all, 007 has ducked the bullets for 50 years.  What if we can be like them (immortal), in some ways? Well, they travel light and high on Gucci. That purse got cloud.

It got their endorsements. Their “Likes”. After all, 007 must know how to choose his “gadgets” .

Now you know. We influence and be influenced by others. A test: put your parents through this check list. See if each and every single item fits the bill. I bet you they did. Our parents: our ultimate influencers. They first gave us life (reciprocity), then they sustained us (sorry, I have to use the past tense in my case) – commitment and consistency, from cradle to the grave.

Then when they were gone, there are no replacement (scarcity). Of course, they were the authority (I still wanted to buy those sesame-seed cakes my Dad and I used to eat after our weekly noodle  breakfast or mom’s fermented rice for snacks).

And I like them. They liked me. Social proof: everyone likes and loves their parents. Period. Case closed.

Knowing these principles, you can improve your sphere of influence, or be innoculated against unsubstantiated claims of social proof, or build better resistance against those who initiated reciprocity cycle (Hari Khrishna free roses at the airport).

Be the best influencer you can be. It’s a world-wide web in need of good and selfless influencer like yourself. Keep feeding the network, pay forward. When good men just stood by and did nothing, we would end up with the wild wild web.


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