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A Beginner’s Guide to the Psychology of Influence

Influence is a huge factor in marketing. After all, who doesn’t want their brand to be influential? But is it something you can create?

According to Robert Cialdini, yes. In 1984, he put forward six principles of influence. Reciprocity. Consistency. Social Proof. Liking. Authority. Scarcity. In this post, we’ll explore how those principles work and how it could help your business.

1. Reciprocity

The basic definition of reciprocity is to give in order to receive. People are more likely to be influenced if you’ve done something for them. That’s why it’s easier to get a lift to the airport from the person who owes you money. In a business sense, customers are more likely to buy from or interact with your brand if they’re getting something in return. This could be an eco-conscious stance for your business, where customers know you are doing something for the environment – and by extension, them. Or it could take the form of a rewards scheme where you offer discounts or free products for loyal customers.

2. Consistency

Second is consistency, which is a bit trickier. In short, it’s the idea that people want to be cognitively consistent. So, you can better influence them if they feel like they’re living up to something they have said or written down. The question is, how do you get people to commit to your business? Social media could be key here, as consumers might feel more influenced by a business they have publicly liked, followed or shared on the likes of Facebook and Twitter.


3. Social proof

Social proof is commonly thrown about in the marketing world. Put simply, people like to do what their peers are doing. Buy what they’re buying. Wear what they’re wearing. Eat what they’re eating. You get the idea. Having that first person or first group of people using your product or service is key to influencing others. This is where social media influencers can play a big part. Rather than relying on members of several different social groups to take on your product, you can fast-track the first step by having an influencer that fits in with – and provides social proof within – countless groups across your target audience.

4. Liking

People like those who like them. It’s that simple. Liking can be achieved either by genuine praise or by finding common ground – showing you like the things your customers like. The latter is probably more practical for businesses. Do a bit of research into your target audience and find out what they like. If it’s a fashion brand targeting young men, for example, football is a safe bet. Sharing content related to these interests on social media could create common ground with your target audience.


5. Authority

We’re all more influenced by people we see as experts. That’s why it’s important for businesses to show why they are an expert in their field. Make sure any accreditations you have are fully visible on your site or position yourself as an expert by providing advice on social media or answering FAQs in blog posts.

6. Scarcity

A bit of basic supply and demand. People value what is scarce. That’s why limited time offers are influential. They create a sense of scarcity out of nowhere and suddenly people want your product, service or special offer even more. This element of influence can also be achieved through exclusiveness. Voucher codes, members clubs and reward schemes all create the illusion of exclusivity, making customers more inclined to follow your brand.

7. Unity?

In 2016, Cialdini added a seventh principle to his list. Namely, unity. He proposed that people are influenced by those they feel united too. Similar to liking, this is about creating a shared identity. By connecting with customers, you can become part of the “us” rather than the “them”. That makes people far more comfortable in being influenced.

The power of influencers

Whether it’s unity, authority or social proof, social media influencers combine many of these key principles to help your brand become truly influential amongst your target audience. At Hoopla, we help businesses find the perfect influencer for their brand and target audience.

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