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The Science of Social Media - Persuasion Techniques

The Science of Social Media - Persuasion Techniques

The Science of Social Media - Persuasion Techniques

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Social media is an important source of information in our digital world. We log on to our social media accounts to read about the latest events, share opinions with others and even make important purchase decisions based on how a product is reviewed.

While using social media might be easy, it is much harder to build an impactful and persuasive social media presence that can sell your product and brand. Here are five techniques, drawn from Robert Cialdini's book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, which can be applied to social media.

Social Proof

The concept of social proof says that we're likely to accept and follow the behavior of others. For example, if we see a neat line forming outside of a bus stop, then we're likely to join the line rather than just stand to the side. Think about how your own behavior on social media - maybe there is some new show that everyone is raving about on Facebook? The next time you see that show on TV, you are more likely to watch it because of the great reviews that you have seen.

Social proof is evidence of this support and it can be used in many ways to enhance the power of your social media presence. As suggested, social proof can be enhanced by posting endorsements of your product, so that users get influenced to purchase the product. If you’re wondering how to use social proof in your social networks, you should consider a few things. First, are there any very happy customers that you may be able to film or interview? Sharing a real customer testimonial can help boost your persuasiveness by using this concept. A second way would be to incorporate some statistics (which could easily be taken from your analytics). Is there a specific part of your site (a product, tool, video, etc.) that is the most popular? Consider adding a “seal of popularity” or a line about how this is commonly used or popular. You may be surprised at the increase in usage!



On social media, thought leaders and domain experts enjoy greater authority and they are more persuasive. Whether it is a sporting, political or environmental event, social media users look up to the appropriate authority for news and analysis or directions regarding what to do. If you or your organization are on social media, work to assert your power and knowledge in the domains that matter and you are likely to be more persuasive.

Consider how your brand might show authority. Answering complicated questions or explaining related topics could be a great place to start. Maybe it’s a specific investment or a product that is confusing to some - think about creating an animated infographic video or microsite that can help answer user questions and provide easy-to-understand information.


Those who can get a commitment from their followers or potential customers on social media are more likely to persuade the same people to purchase their product. Getting commitment on social media is like your customers letting you put a foot in the door, so they are likely to let you in fully when you persuade them to purchase your product, visit your store or attend a special event that your are organizing.

An obvious way to get commitment on social media is to generate interest among your target audience. A sneak preview of an upcoming product is the most common way to generate this interest. This can be done through a short video that is circulated across social media channels. For online tools, an animated overview of the tool can be used.

The number of Facebook likes and retweets on Twitter would be an indication of commitment.



Before persuading others, it is important to make others appreciate you on social media as this enhances the likelihood that they will be persuaded by you.

To enhance likeability, various design elements are commonly used on social media. These include avatars and logos that are appealing, the use of 'happy' colors and friendly taglines. Funny animation can also enhance likeability.


Social media relationships are strengthened through acts of reciprocation. Giving back to those who support you is an essential component of reciprocity, which enhances the ability to persuade.

Help your social media followers by responding to comments, liking other comments, follow clients and partners and provide a shout out to people who have supported you.


If your social media followers get the impression that your products are scarce, then they are more likely to purchase the products. Similarly, if the advice that you share on social media seems difficult to access elsewhere, then chances are that your followers will take this advice more seriously. Online book sellers commonly use this technique when they announce that only a few copies are left in stock.


Use social media to alert followers that a special offer on a product, such as a free chequing account, is expiring soon or that a product, such as a premium credit card, will not be available after a certain date. Even better, use animation to emphasize the urgency of purchasing a product or taking advantage of a discount immediately.

So before you start tweeting your heart out or spend hours working on your Facebook page, step back a moment and ask yourself whether you are using the appropriate strategies to persuade your customers. Your social media resources will be utilized efficiently when you possess the ability to persuade.

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