Influence and Social Media

Part 1. Blogs and Expressive Influence

If you recently ate at a restaurant for the first time, or perhaps bought something online, chances are good that you were influenced in your decision by a stranger. Did you read an online review? Perhaps visit or Citysearch? Did it influence your decision and did you know the reviewer? 

I recently read a blog article called “When Did We Start Trusting Strangers? New Research from Universal McCann.” The article points to research that shows how “social media” is influencing more and more people’s buying decisions.

Social media is a very broad term covering a number of internet and other tech tools, from text messaging to blogging, with email, instant messaging, and simply posting user reviews and comments in the middle. The social media has what experts call “user-generated content.” User-generated content is made by people like you and me; we have computers and we know how to upload a video to Youtube, or post to a blog. 

The above-referenced article is primarily about marketing; it says social media influences how we shop and what we buy. Certainly, if the social media can influence people’s spending habits, we could broaden the range of influence. And the Exercising Influence behavior model (1) is a wonderful tool to influence people more effectively online.

Blog posting is a good medium to use one of the “Sell” behaviors: offer reasons. Well-reasoned arguments, statistical analyses, examples from history, are all helpful blog-related examples of offering reasons. In fact, the “ten top reasons” format is used by a number of popular and not-so popular bloggers on a variety of topics and issues, and it is used even more so during this U.S. election year.

Here is a link to a non-partisan, blog-like posting from Youth Noise, Top 10 Reasons to Vote. Not all the reasons are equally compelling, e.g.Reason 7, Fashion, wearing an “I Voted Sticker”; versus Reason 2, “Every vote counts”; but we are often pressed to find ten equally-compelling reasons for anything.

Blogs are useful places to use one of the “Enlist” behaviors as well: envision. If you can paint a verbal picture of what could be, you can envision. A blog posting lets you build your vision in several paragraphs, or include a vision at the end of a  paragraph or two of offering reasons. It seems to me that bloggers don’t use envision nearly enough. I could not find a single, non-political or non-partisan example to share! If you need help with the envision behavior, try to imagine having a staff offsite in Hawaii. Picture the palm trees, the beaches, warm sunshine, how laid-back and easy-going everyone would be and how easy it would be to foster creativity and get consensus. That’s how to envision. Just don’t mention the cost!

If the envision behavior is not used enough, perhaps the describe consequences behavior is used a bit too much in social media. Describe consequences is part of the Negotiate tactic; it is difficult to negotiate in a set piece of writing. When bloggers describe consequences, they could be seen as using scare tactics, or going too negative. Sometimes, we need to describe consequences, albeit judiciously. When blogging about alternative energy, for example, we should reiterate at least some of the consequences of relying on fossil fuels. On the other hand, I think we should balance envision and describe consequences. For example, “Can you picture driving a car with zero emissions and no need for expensive gasoline? A car that will go over 100 miles for a dollar or two? A car completely powered by renewable energy?” That’s envision. “If we continue to rely on fossil fuels, gas prices will rise again, fuel supply will be limited, and we will continue to dump noxious gases into the atmosphere.” That’s describe consequences.

Blogging represents only one facet of social media, albeit a popular facet. You can exercise influence judiciously using the above behaviors and tactics when you write your blog posts. Perhaps you can think of ways to use other behaviors as well. Please feel free to comment.

Speaking of comments, blog comments—and especially your responses to them—present an opportunity to use Receptive influence behaviors and tactics in social media. I’ll be writing about that next week.


(1) Exercising Influence is a copyrighted program of Barnes & Conti

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