How to harness the 6 principles of influence on your website.

Six principles for greater influence online
Learn the six principles of influence you need to increase the effectiveness of your marketing and specifically your Wordpress website.

In Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Prof Robert Cialdini examines exactly what makes people say ‘yes’. His book delves into the psychology of influence and breaks it down into six core principles. Despite the publish date of 1984, the six principles are still relevant today, both offline and online.

Here’s how you can use each principle to drive your content strategy and website design, and ultimately get people to say ‘yes’.

Principle 1: Reciprocity

If you do something good for someone, they’re more inclined to return the favour.

This principle is widely used in marketing. Just think of the times you’ve been in a shopping centre and been handed a free sample, usually with a discount voucher to encourage you to buy. In the world of websites and content, you see this most often in the form of ebooks and white papers. All you need to do to download them for free is leave your email address. You give me something, I give you something.

This approach is still worthwhile, although with the advent of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), you’ll need to revisit the consent that is being given and how you’re storing data. Reciprocity is very different from digital blackmail!

Principle 2: Commitment and consistency

Take a look at the news or blog section of your website. Does the last entry date from six months ago? If so, you’re not following one of Cialdini’s key tenets: commitment and consistency.

Having outdated content doesn’t exactly give prospective clients the best impression of your business. And worse still, it’s detrimental for SEO. Google favours regular updates pages when indexing. If your content is old, there’s less chance for your site to rank higher in search results.

Principle 3: Social proof

This one could have been invented for the social media age. In essence, it asks: what do people say about you online? What they say matters, because their opinions inform and influence what other people decide to do too.

Think of the times you’ve read a review of a hotel on Tripadvisor or product reviews on Amazon. If a good review doesn’t encourage you to buy, a bad review may well put you off.

Since we’re now so familiar with reviews, mere testimonials on your site no longer cut it. So try to ensure that reviews on your site come via independent third party plugins and services such as Trustpilot.

Principle 4: Authority

Making yourself an authority might seem easier said than done. But with any luck you might already have something suitable in your armoury.

If you’re a member of, or better still accredited by, a professional body, be sure to put their logo on your homepage.

Is your marketing agency a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing? Is your franchise part of the British Franchise Association? They’ll certainly have imagery you can employ.

If you don’t have anything like this you can simply design your own graphic for your customer response time, product guarantee, or other USP.

Graphics like these really do make a difference when potential customers are deciding whether to give their business to you or to one of your competitors.

Principle 5: Liking

Everyone wants to be liked. In website terms, this means making good content.

Good content is enriching and memorable. It’s written with conviction and personality, and perhaps even humour.

And don’t forget the design. It’s the marriage of text and visual elements that gives content the best chance of being read and shared on social media.

And when it comes to liking, consider this. The average visitor spends just three seconds on your site; if it looks boring or outdated, they’ll quickly go elsewhere.

Principle 6: Scarcity

Picture a holiday home with a swimming pool and unrivalled views of sand and sea. You can rent it for half price this summer, as long as you book in the next three hours!

Tempted? This is exactly the kind of tactic employed online, along with phrases like “only three rooms left!”, to convince you to buy before it’s too late.

In fairness, the scarcity hand has a tendency to be overplayed. Be careful how you deploy this tactic; customers are more informed and cynical than ever and these tactics can become redundant if overused. But it can still be a useful technique if used truthfully and sparingly.

Now that you know about Cialdini’s six principles of influence, keep them in mind when you browse the web and as you develop your site moving forward.