Using social psychology in communications is nothing new. The ad men have been at it for decades, tapping into our innate behaviours to sell us dreams and aspirations. As a case in point, take a look at the bookshelf in Don Draper’s office.
The members of the Mad Men production team are sticklers for period detail, and has chosen to put some interesting books behind his desk. These include Vance Packard’s “The Hidden Persuaders”, first published in 1957, and hardly out of print since. The “Fast Food Nation” of its day, the book took an alarmist stance on subliminal advertising. A contemporary review by “The New Yorker” described it as: “A brisk, authoritative and frightening report on how manufacturers, fundraisers and politicians are attempting to turn the American mind into a kind of catatonic dough that will buy, give or vote at their command.”
Also on there is “The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America” by Daniel Boorstin, from 1961. This bit of pop sociology looked at how the Don Drapers were programming our experiences. The book specifically focuses on the ways admen shaped the jingles, TV ads, and TV debates of the 1960 Nixon-Kennedy election. Analysis of those debates provided the first evidence to support consumer psychology theories.
What both these types of books and academic research have demonstrated is that there are several behaviours that are hardwired into us that we rely on when we’re making decisions.
There’s a great blog post on “Social Commerce Today” that explores in more details what these “heuristics” are, the research behind them and how they’re being used by online retail. (By the way, this piece contains the answer to the “Cookies” question in my Social Media Week presentation). From a fundraising perspective these could translate as follows:
The psychology: reciprocity.
The psychology: scarcity.
The psychology: liking.
The psychology: consistency.
The psychology: social proof.
So what’s really changed between the dawn of the Mad Men and the rise of Social Networks? Now we the consumer have the chance to control the message, to talk back. And we the brands have the chance to listen, engage and adapt our messages. Social media amplifies who we are as people, and who we are as organizations.
Looking at this as a fundraising model, advertised direct response (tell me what to do) and experiential direct response (show me what to do) are still the bedrock of acquisition. These should get our potential supporters from initial engagement to donation. But if we look at what will stimulate people to move on from there to advocacy and a feeling of “brand ownership” we can start to create a ripple effect.
Each organization, each appeal, will be different. But as with any communications we need to consider who we’re targeting, what we want to say and where we need to be saying it. We also need to think about who we need to say it: who influences our supporters, who do they trust?
Like chess, this model is not a one move game. We need to invest time and thought if we’re to build a true relationship. But consider this:
Let’s focus on people not platforms. Let’s focus on creating a community fundraising model for the social media age. Let’s add insight to our tactics to establish Social Giving as a “third way”, standing alongside Individual Giving and Corporate Giving.
She’s our Head of Digital. Usually found online somewhere, rather fond of the real world too.