Do the Laws of Persuation Hold in Social Media?


Anyone who has ever shopped for a car is familiar with the tried and true negotiation methods.  With the advent of social media, negotiations are happening more and more in social space and in combination with in-person events.

Time pressures, price pressures, asymmetric information, location, vetting, and abundance of alternate solutions are breaking the rules of negotiating.  Meanwhile, retribution for deals gone wrong has swung in favor of the consumer.  Here is a list of methods sourced from Robert Cialdini for negotiating and a few point about how things have changed.

1. Law of Advocacy; Introduce a third party: a salesperson can tell a prospect he “needs to talk to the manager” From that point forward, the prospect views the salesperson as an advocate.

People don’t need an advocate. Social media provides a written record of a past transaction as well as a snapshot of supply and demand in a market. People check FB while salesperson is off checking with manager. Customers have checked prices elsewhere and are only calculating the cost of time to scroll down the street for the deal they want.

2. Law of Urgency: Top negotiators create a sense of urgency by specifying which terms they’re willing to agree to, then setting a firm deadline, after which the deal is off the table.

Twitter sets a new standard for urgency.  Cause and effect are reversed as people respond to social media news to initiate the process.  “Off the table” means off the screen and on to the next vendor.  Next prospect is warned not to fall for the urgency trick.

3. Law of Authority: Using statistics to establish why you offer the best value on the market. It’s a way of saying, “You have more to lose here than I do.

Facts are increasingly easy to check. Undisclosed facts are easy to discover. Statistics can be read many ways in social media. Is the negotiator ready to be accused of warming the planet more than the next guy?

4. Law of Social Proof: Credibility is king in negotiations. Presenting testimonials from best-in-class companies lets prospects know the best in the business choose to do business with you.

Some references may in fact be liabilities.  Best in class companies (such as Whole Foods Market) can get in trouble real quick.  Is the negotiator ready to keep this list “twitter ready”?  Testimonials come from the bloggers, not the PR department. Ouch.

5. Law of Reciprocity: Shrewd negotiators establish a quid-pro-quo early on, so prospects understand it works both ways.

What can a negotiator offer in an environment where the customer has the same information they do? The customer is more able to put a fair market value on the “quid” thereby eliminating any arbitrage advantage.

6. Law of Commitment and Consistency: By getting the other party to agree to the “no brainer” terms gets them in the habit of saying “yes” and they are less likely to say “No” to a deal that is 99% done.

Customer is more empowered to say “no” to the terms that matter.  They have studied the case studies of others who have gone down the same path. Social interaction is desensitized especially of the negotiator does not appear to be tech savvy – commitment and consistency is easily lost.

Traditionally the negotiation process starts in the advertising campaign.  Get it?

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