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Blogging For Results: The Psychology of Influence

By Bill ArnoldJun 6, 2013

psychology of influence bookAll bloggers want to believe their efforts will compel their readers to take action. After all, the power of the written word has changed societies—even compelled nations to go to war. Surely your blog can convince the reader to click through to your website. Right?

Unfortunately, too many blogs are simply written for the sake of adding content. I understand getting continuous content to your site is important. And making sure you have included the right key words is critical. But it is equally important to remember the purpose of your blog—you want the reader to take action.

This fact is not new; it has been the goal of advertisers throughout the ages. The good news is the same concepts, methods and, yes, even the tricks used by traditional advertisers and marketers work online.

If you want your reader to take the next step, give them a reason to do so.

Unless you're dealing with Gandhi or Mother Teresa, every person wants to know “What’s in it for ME?” If you can't show them how they will benefit, then they will never do anything. It’s a cold, hard truth.

Tuning Into WIFM

In life, we all listen to the same radio station: WIFM. The station may broadcast a different message to each listener, but the call letters are the same and stand for "What’s In it For Me."

Is that all there is to it? Is that really enough? Not by a long shot. Simply knowing you will benefit does not ensure you will take action. Think of trying to stay on a diet: You know you will benefit, but that by itself usually does not instill compliance.

The Six Principles of Influence

If you really want to influence your reader and compel them to take action, incorporate the six principles outlined by Robert B. Cialdini, PhD, in his book, The Psychology of Influence—the bible of marketers since it was first published in 1984. 

  1. The Law of Reciprocity: We are compelled to return favors and treat others as they have treated us. This is because we're uncomfortable with feeling indebted to them. Don’t believe it? If a friend gives you a gift for your birthday, don’t you feel compelled to reciprocate on theirs?
  2. The Law of Commitment (and Consistency): Once a person commits to a course of action, they are more inclined to follow it through to conclusion. Salesmen have known this for years and have capitalized on it by getting the buyer to agree to small, intermediate steps along the way to a purchase.
  3. The Law of Social Proof: We live in a society where we are overwhelmed with information and do not have time to research every buying decision. That is why referrals work so well. We trust our friends, and if they recommend a restaurant, a movie or a product, we are more likely to buy. This principle relies on people's sense of "safety in numbers."
  4. The Law of Liking: People are more likely to be influenced by someone they like and can relate with. This is why so many sales people compliment us on matters totally unrelated to what they are selling. We like people who compliment us.
  5. The Law of Authority: We are programmed to respect and listen to people who have a position of authority. This is why advertisers of pharmaceutical products employ doctors to front their campaigns. That is why advertisers use uniformed police officers to sell auto insurance. We have learned from an early age to respect and mind those in positions of authority.
  6. The Law of Scarcity: When something is rare (think gold), it is more desirable. We are even willing to pay more for it. The Home Shopping Network built its entire business model using the scarcity principle. It always has a limited number of items and a limited time you can purchase them. Buy it now, or go without.

After extensive research, Cialdini found everyone, regardless of their gender or origin, was moved to take action when confronted by these six principals. Have you implemented these principles into your blogging? Share your examples below! 


BillArnold webBill Arnold is the Strategic Accounts Manager at Kuno and loves to blog about practical application of social media strategies, inbound marketing, and technology. Connect with Bill on Twitter and LinkedIn .


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