The Old Give and Take

16 08 2010

When I was helping my daughter unpack in her new apartment in North Carolina last week, I ran across one of her psychology books called “Influence: Science and Practice”. At first my interest was piqued simply because of all the talk in social media land about influence these days, but by chapter 2 I was hooked. It’s the same topics all over twitterland and facebookhaven. But down to the brass tacks – or should I say the science of psychology – of the basics of influence.

The textbook was copyrighted in 2001, well before the emergence of social media as a marketing channel. And it explains so well the basics of influence, upon which social media marketing relies. Chapter 2 was all about reciprocation – the old give and take. Take the experiment by psychologist Dennis Regan in 1971. Two subjects in a supposed  art-appreciation experiment were supposed to rate paintings. But one of the subjects was actually Regan’s assistant Joe, who had an additional role to play. In some of the cases, Joe would leave the room during a rest period and return with a Coke for himself and one for the other subject. In other cases, Joe would return with only a Coke for himself.

After all the paintings had been rating, Joe would then ask the subject to do him a favor. Joe was selling raffle tickets and would get a $50 prize if he sold the most tickets. And across the board the subjects who received a Coke from Joe bought twice as many raffle tickets as those who hadn’t received a favor from Joe. It didn’t matter if they liked Joe or not; if they felt they owed him a favor, they bought twice as many tickets.

Social media marketing is all about reciprocity. Give away content on your site that will help others. Retweet interesting information. ‘Like’ good products and services. Which creates a cycle that may help you.

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