Persuasion Patterns on Facebook

I ran across a facebook page recently that leverages a lot of persuasion (or influence) patterns. The page is Being Conservative. This page uses a surprisingly large number of persuasion patterns to influence users to take action. First, it often follows Dr. BJ Fogg’s Behavior Model. Second, it uses most if not all of Dr. Robert Cialdini’s influence patterns.

First, notice the low cost of liking. Unlike a brand, the person isn’t committing to liking much other than something consistent with their personality. This is a great way of building a community on facebook. Don’t ask users to like Keebler, ask them to like fudge stripe cookies, or just cookies. Still, have a page for your brand, but similar to a mobile app, don’t be afraid to have multiple pages for more focused engagement. In the case of Being Conservative, persons are liking the fact that they are conservative and consequently are being marketed to quite successfully.

bj fogg's behavior model

The motivation for showing their support for conservative views already exists. This page offers a trigger to like being conservative with a very low cost. That is, it’s very easy to do. Once the user likes the page, the organization continues to produces content that is consistent with their users’ motivations and with a low cost. They consistently ask the users to like that content thus putting a trigger in the user’s path. Combined with some of the influence patterns found below, they have developed a strong persuasive architecture.

Persuasion on facebook isn’t new. I was on the review board for Dr. Fogg’s Psychology of Facebook book in 2008 that included many articles on this very subject. However, it’s rare that you see explicit uses of persuasion. The following patterns on Being Conservative are straight out of Dr. Cialdinin’s Influence: Science and Practice.

Notice (1) that the organization is putting out a message that they know their fans will like. Other times they encourage their fans to like it and they generate tens of thousands of likes and thousands of comments. However, those don’t directly translate into a ROI. But using the principle of commitment and consistency they ask the fans, one day later, to purchase a shirt that has that very message on it.

This pattern has been found to be highly effective. In 1966 psychologists Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser published a study where they asked homeowners to put obnoxiously large and unsightly sign in their yard that said “Drive Carefully.” Understandably the conversion (or compliance) rate was rather low, 17 percent. However, the researchers were able to get the conversion rate up to 76 percent by changing one simple variable. For the group that converted at 76 percent the researchers simply added an additional call to action a couple of weeks earlier. This time the call to action has a much lower cost. They asked the homeowners to put a small sticker in their window that said “Be a safe driver.” Almost all of the homeowners asked, agreed to put the sticker in their window. Then, two weeks later when asked to put the obnoxious sign in their yard, the researchers were able to attain the 76 percent conversion rate. This commitment and consistency principle has been shown in other studies and is clearly seen in the persuasion patterns in Being Conservative’s facebook strategy.

(2) “TODAY ONLY” for the t-shirt sales? Why would the organization limit t-shirt sales to one day? According to the scarcity principle it’s to trigger an action. Namely, the purchase of the shirt. And in conjunction with the commitment and consistency principle it allows the organization to leverage this principle while the fan’s previous consistent act, liking the post with the same quote, is still fresh in their minds. While the Internet seemingly makes anything you want available at any time of the day, the scarcity principle is often employed by online marketers to trigger an action. It’s a powerful and consistently fruitful persuasion pattern.

Also, notice (3) that they are using an image that many conservatives hold in high regard. Here, the organization is implementing a strategy that instantiates the liking principle and the authority principle. Research shows that persons are more likely to perform a call to action when it’s requested by or associated with someone who is attractive, similar to them, and/or familiar. By leveraging authority figures, social media friends, and other conservatives (page fans), Being Conservative is able to implement this persuasion pattern in a big way.

Persuasion patterns are often implemented unintentionally for surprising gains. However, a well designed user experience should have conscious patterns in place to help the users act in a way that’s consistent with their motivation. It’s our job as user experience designers to understand our users’ motivations and to provide them with the triggers that best allow them to act in accordance with those motivations.

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4 Responses to Persuasion Patterns on Facebook

  1. Jason Crist says:

    Excellent post Robert. When it’s pointed out like that it seems so obvious. But sometimes even when I look for it the bluntness escapes me and all I see is a call to action.

  2. Jeff Cross says:

    Good article. I can’t help but feel like a guinea pig being persuaded to do something when I visit your site though. Wait…is that why I’m commenting? You win again, Robert.

  3. robertjneal says:

    @Jason Thanks! It’s like software patterns. When you do it day in day out you can’t help but notice :)

    @Jeff Persuasion only works if you’re already motivated to do it. User experience design is about providing the environment for users to do what they already want to do. Having said that, I’m totally controlling your mind right now. Quick, don’t think about an elephant. ;)

  4. Pingback: Get users to say “YES” using persuasive design | UCD Concepts

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