Who is Robert Cialdini and why should we consider how he approach LinkedIn networking and messaging?
In 1984, the now Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University, Robert Cialdini released his eponymous book. ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’.
Having sold three millions copies and after being translated into thirty languages, the principles he teaches us on how to persuade others to do or think what we want them to do or think is just as influential as ever.
Cialdini did his field studies working undercover in telemarketing firms, fund-raising organisations, and used car dealerships.
Although the principles he learned were picked up in a time before the mass adoption of the Internet and 20 years or more before the founding of LinkedIn, it’s surprising just how little of his work needs adapting or revising for the modern business era.
But if we did adapt or revise his teachings for LinkedIn, how would we do it?
LinkedIn networking and messaging principle 1 – reciprocity
“If you do something for me, I feel obliged to do something for you”.
On your LinkedIn feed, you will see plenty of content from your own followers and content reposted by followers from their network.
Where possible, try to show your appreciation for the content others post – if you can use the comments section under their post to expand the original content idea and enhance it without stealing the original poster’s limelight.
Engage with as many people a day as you can.
Social media mores value engagement and sharing – make every interaction helpful and build an audience.
On the people whose content you comment on and to the people who respond to your comments under the same post, invite them to connect with you.
That way, whenever you post, your personal brand and your company brand is visible.
That visibility works in tandem with the quality of your content and contributions to your credibility among the people who can see what you post.
Be kind, be helpful, give of yourself to the platform.
You will build up a bank of reciprocity and good will which can be later cashed in by inviting your followers to events later on.
Of course, if someone in your network (and expanded network) then needs something that you can help with and for which you can charge them, your familiarity and approachability will put you ahead of your competitors.
What a huge advantage this will be when a contact of yours is in the right part of his or her buying journey.
LinkedIn networking and messaging principle 2 – likeability
“People buy people first”.
If you have a sales or marketing background, you are certain to have heard this in the very early years of your training.
And, even in the disembodied online world of LinkedIn, that cliché, although well-worn, is as true and as bankable as ever.
Although much of what you post online (either to the general platform or in private messages) will be work-related, you should never pass up an opportunity to promote yourself as a person.
There is great value to be built with a steady stream of content which makes you more human and gets across your better personal qualities.
One overriding factor behind a decision to make a purchase is how much we like the person we’re buying from.
Would we really be willing to put our business with someone who we actively personally dislike for a saving of 1%?
Some of us would but the idea of potentially dealing with that person for years to come pitching us more products is too much to bear for most of us.
In your own content and in your responses to other people’s content, look for what you have in common personally and professionally.
When someone posts a message about their own achievements, be sure to compliment them sincerely because you can rest assured that they’ll remember the people who took the trouble to for a long time to come.
LinkedIn networking and messaging principle 3 – consensus
Human beings are social, pack animals who, in most cases, feel the need to join a herd of others when we’re not quite sure what we’re supposed to do.
Cialdini believes that this principle relies on people’s innate sense that there is safety in numbers.
And that’s exactly the reason why so many of us rely on online reviews – so that they can tell us what to think about something on which we have no strong opinions or about which we have little usable knowledge.
There is a war on for your hearts with online reviews, so much so that some manufacturers give away hundreds or thousands of their products or service to users in return for a five star review on Amazon, eBay, TripAdvisor, and more.
Take the example of signs in hotel rooms designed to encourage guests to reuse their bath towels. Four different signs were used. This is what guests were shown:
- The first sign described the environmental justification for towel reuse
- The second sign said that each towel reused would result in a donation to an environmental charity,
- The third sign stated that the hotel had already given a donation to an environmental charity and asked if the guest would do the same
- The fourth sign stated that more than half of the guests reused their towels at least once during their stay.
The fourth one – an appeal to consensus in describing the actions of others – got the best response (source: Veritus Group).
The lesson we can learn about LinkedIn is the desire to belong to a group based on numbers.
The groups we belong to say a lot about what we care about.
Try to understand the people who are exposed to your content regularly, where possible demarking them into particular groups.
Create public and private messages which appeal to their values and which are in line with their goals.
We like to associate with and buy from people who are like us and who we feel understand us better.
Make someone you want to get to know better know that you are on their side and that you’re ready to help them achieve your shared goal.
For example, if someone is raising money for a particular charity or looking for volunteers on LinkedIn, for example, be the first to show that you support what they’re trying to do.
LinkedIn networking and messaging principle 4 – authority
“Trust me – I’m a doctor”.
“It’s Shelley calling from the fraud department at the bank – could you tell me your username and your password for your online banking”.
Titles convey authority – however, on their own, they don’t mean that much on LinkedIn.
However, if you are able to exert authority and gravitas on LinkedIn, the effect on your personal brand is dramatic in terms of the number of followers you accumulate and the influence you have over them.
To maximise return on investment from the fourth principle – authority – you have to be seen to be an industry expert.
Yours has to be a voice and an opinion which others in your industry respect because of the knowledge, expertise, and experience you’ve had.
And it’s not just your successes people want to hear about.
In fact, they want to understand the nature of the challenges you faced and how you overcame them.
The storytelling nature of any leadership and authority piece you write can be further enhanced by detailing any failures or missteps you suffered along the way to your eventual triumph.
Authority can further be underlined by linking to reputable sources in your content.
It’s not just you saying this – the experts say it to.
When you have something genuinely valuable and useful to share, be generous with it.
Encourage other users to participate and answer questions. Better still, try to find other people on the platform asking a similar question and help them too both publicly and privately.
The reservoir of trust and belief in you that you need to build authority can never be too high.
LinkedIn networking and messaging principle 5 – consistency and commitment
This is the “foot in the door principle”.
It’s about realigning people’s beliefs through small actions and the cumulation of those small actions eventually change the way we think to justify our new beliefs.
It’s why we often feel more inclined to buy something which we were given as a free sample originally.
It’s why, if we put a bet on a football match, we decide to up our bet because we’ve convinced ourselves even more that our football team will win.
It’s also the underpinning behind something in business called “sunk funds theory”.
Sunk funds theory describes a course of action when we spend more and more money on a business project even though the evidence that the money we’ve spent so far might be wasted and that the project is doomed to failure.
When we commit to something, we want to justify this by inventing new reasons for having that commitment and when we look for signs, no matter how small, that our commitment is right even if Rome is burning around us.
You can use this to your advantage on LinkedIn by asking followers and the people you advertise to to commit to something small in the first place.
This is your foot in the door – the top of your sales funnel.
LinkedIn networking and messaging principle 6 – scarcity
On the sixth principle – scarcity – scarcity refers to both your own availability online and to the value and uniqueness of the contributions you make to LinkedIn which have the potential to enhance the business prospects of your followers.
As Cialdini himself said in an interview in an interview about social media influence with Mischa Coster in 2010…
“just because everything is free and abundant, doesn’t mean it is equally good. So, what we can do is emphasize the unique or special features of what we have to offer.
“So that we employ the rule of Scarcity not in terms of how available our information is, but how unique it is, how uniquely valuable it is, how uncommonly informative it might be. And that causes people to want it because they can’t get that anywhere else.”
You can do this on LinkedIn by getting followers and advertising recipients to compete for something that is scarce and has unique value – for example, offering to share a uniquely helpful piece of content with the first 20 people who request the information.
You could, although there is an element of risk to this strategy, get followers and advertising recipients to qualify themselves for what you’re offering – so that they have to work for what you’re giving them.
Start your campaign of influence and persuasion on LinkedIn
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