How to Use Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion to Improve Your Content Marketing Strategy

As Cialdini puts it, we’re in the age of information overload. We don’t have the time to process all of the information and then to make informed decisions. This incapacity makes us look for signals — signals that help us decide if we want to do something. Cialdini calls these “shortcuts”.
  • Reciprocity
  • Commitment & Consistency
  • Social Proof
  • Liking
  • Authority
  • Scarcity

Principle of Persuasion #1 — Reciprocation

The easiest way to get people to reciprocate is by giving away free content. Here’s how:

  • Step #1 — Create or compile your best content to give away: If you’ve been producing content for a reasonable time, you should have a good idea about the posts that resonate with your readers.
  • Step #2 — Repurpose: Once you’ve selected (or created) the content to offer to your visitors, find ways to convert it into a nice format.
  • Step #3 — Decide if you want to ask for an email: The choice of asking for an email and requesting readers to subscribe is subjective. No matter what choice you make, the bottom line is that your content should be so valuable that it gets people to oblige the favor.
  • Step #4 — Promote: Once you’ve created the goodie to giveaway, promote it!

Principle of Persuasion #2 — Commitment and Consistency

  • To elaborate on the power of making a commitment, Cialdini rehashes the experiment that a pair of Canadian psychologists performed on people participating in horse race betting.
  • Its findings showed how people started feeling a lot more confident once they placed their bets. It goes like this. Once they placed their bets, they felt obliged to behave in a way that aligned with their choice, so they conditioned themselves to feel more confident in the horses they had placed their bets on.
  • Their commitment triggered a sense of consistency, as their chances for winning hadn’t changed really.
  • Once people make a commitment, they start behaving in a way that is consistent with their commitment.
  • After you get users to commit, the second part of the principle comes into play: consistency.
  • Following Cialdini’s principle of commitment and consistency, once a reader is past the first step, it would be very unlikely that this person would not finish the rest of the steps that lead to the donation.
Here are two simple steps to get people to commit to your content:
  • Step #1 — Decide the investment: There’s no standard investment that you plaster into your process — analyze your existing readers to find out what they’d consider a good investment. It doesn’t have to be financial.
  • Anything goes: think email ids, social shares, signups, free registrations, etc.
  • Step #2 — Choose the implementation: Once you’ve chosen the investment, you’ll have to find a way to implement it.
  • If you require users to complete a form before they get access to your content, you will have to find a way to restrict the access so that it’s only unlocked upon form submission.
  • Remember: you’re getting users to commit to your content, so that they start behaving in alignment with their choice of committing to you.

Principle of Persuasion #3 — Social Proof

Here are a few ways that you can integrate Social Proof into your content strategy:

  • Add social sharing options: Most social sharing tools come with the option to display the share count. The share count is a great indicator, to the visitor, of the quality of your content and it encourages new site visitors to read your content (and even to share it).
  • Use list strength to display quality: People will be more willing to get on your list if you can back up your form with your current list strength. Add the number of your current subscribers to your signup form.
  • Get influencers to share your content: Reach out to the influencers in your niche and ask them to share your content.
  • Display social followings: The strength of your social following also acts as social proof.
  • Use badges and trust seals: Badges, trust seals and name drops work great, too. If your content is the most read content in your niche, or if it has been featured on leading publications, make sure that you advertise this fact.

Principle of Persuasion #4 — Liking

A few tips to make your content more likeable:

  • Talk to one reader: Start by identifying your ideal reader. Discover their top desires, fears,greeds, pains and hopes. All of these are powerhouses for making connections. Create a reader persona and produce content for that reader.
  • Write a compelling title: If you’re aware of the 80/20 rule of content, you know that 80% of readers will only read the headline. Run your titles through tools, like the CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer and Advanced Marketing Institute’s Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer.
  • Work on the opening: Title templates make the task of writing a title somewhat easy, but it’s still possible to lose the sizzle with a lame opening. Work on your post’s opening lines.
  • Youify your content: Think of every instance of “you” as a cliffhanger in your content. Every time a reader comes across the word “you,” he or she is drawn back into the conversation.
  • Add power words: Power words tighten up content and make it more engaging. They are like buzzwords that catch the attention of the biggest content skimmers.Use them throughout your content.
  • Adopt a positive tone: Tone is a matter of preference, but, whenever possible, stay away from fear-based or negative writing styles.Ernest Hemingway had four rules for creating epic copy. One of them was to maintain a positive tone.
  • Use friendly images: Images can set the tone of your content, so choose them well. Look for quality images that invoke emotion. You can find all of the power moves for delivering likeable content here.

Principle of Persuasion #5 — Authority

  • Embrace transparency: Transparency is a sure way to achieve authority status. Content that takes people behind the scenes of what goes into a company or business appeals to readers.
  • Use words that hint at an authority status: If you already have an authority status, hint at it across your blog and content. Use testimonials and social proof
  • Be available: Hold Ask Me Anything sessions, from time to time. If you don’t want to put it all together yourself, participate in communities that conduct them regularly
  • Consistently create quality content: Create an editorial calendar and stick to your schedule. People are impressed by consistency.

Principle of Persuasion #6 — Scarcity

Choose the right offer: Depending upon your offering, you can choose between these 4 types:

  • Limited time offer: This is a pretty straightforward one — it runs until a certain date. This works great for interactive content, like webinars and apps.
  • Limited units offer: Here, you’ll typically name a number of the copies available. A limited units offer could work great for ecourse-type content. (ex, Xiaomi phones)
  • One time offer: This is an offer that’s made available only once.
  • Charter offer: A charter offer is one that’s typically offered when a product launches.These are one time offers that are available only when a product launches, such as a pre-launch discount.

Two effective ways for inducing the FOMO could be:

  • Invite only: Here you decide whom you’ll make your content available to. You might want to try this offer on some types of interactive content, like quizzes and calculators.
  • On demand: In an on demand offer, you typically ask the recipient to request the resource so they are able to download it. Content such as whitepapers, demos and videos could be a good fit here.

This article is inspired from the book Influence by Robert Cialdini & Neil Patel’s Blog on the topic.