Twitter and Facebook users hold tremendous power over the rest of us – if only they knew it…! Within social networks like these, there lies a range of tools that help establish psychological “authority” which is one of the most powerful means of persuasion known. Indeed, used wisely, Twitter and Facebook can completely change the way people perceive you and your business.
Authority means being seen as an individual who must be respected at all times, whose views should remain largely unchallenged and whose instructions should simply be followed. In experiments conducted at Harvard by the psychologist Stanley Milgram, people were willing to induce seemingly lethal electric shocks to other participants in a study simply because a man in a white coat (an authority figure) told them to do so.
Although that research has been challenged, a repeat of the study last year showed that little has changed; we still respect authority. But what exactly is authority and how can you use Twitter and Facebook to help you establish it?
Authority means we are more easily persuaded by the individual who has it, than by someone who is not seen as authoritative. Hence, for instance, Tony Buzan, the person who made mind mapping popular, is regarded as a real expert on the topic. Indeed, he is called a “world authority” on mind mapping. Equally Dr Stephen Covey is considered an international authority on personal achievement, with his book sales in their millions.
If either of these people were to tell you something on which they are an authority, there is a much greater chance that you would believe them and be persuaded by their argument than if some other person gave you the same information. In other words, it is not the information you provide to people online that matters – it’s you.
Your web site or your blog may contain brilliant, incisive, wonderful information, but if you are not perceived as an authority on your topic, your chances of persuading your readers that you are right are slim. In order for you to be believed you need authority status – and that’s where Twitter and Facebook can really help you.
Just as in Milgram’s experiments or like Tony Buzan and Stephen Covey you need to be seen as an “expert” in your field. You can do this in several ways. Firstly, you need to publish original material – so your content on your web site helps do this, as does a blog and a book or two. Make sure that you let as many people know of this material using Facebook and Twitter to promote everything you write.
Secondly, you need to be seen to be “on top of the game”. That means knowing what everyone else is doing in your subject area and talking about them. Knowing what is going on in a topic – keeping up to date with current research and thinking – is an important component of authority. Use Google Scholar to help you find the latest academic research in your area – and then discuss that research in your blogs, your web site and highlight your findings on Facebook and Twitter.
Another aspect of authority is being seen to be helpful and to answer questions. Use the likes of LinkedIn Answers to find questions on topics you want to be seen as an expert in – then answer them. Try to make it a daily routine to answer questions on LinkedIn, or to provide answers to problems raised on Twitter, for instance, or in Facebook discussion groups.
Being in a leadership position also enhances your authority. Tony Buzan, for example, is the founder of The World Memory Championships – a competition designed to find someone with brilliant mental skills. Being “the founder” gives him an element of status, thus enhancing his authority position. What contests or organisations could you be the founder of? Which societies and groups could you join and become a committee member of? By doing so, you further enhance your authority. You can even do it by starting Facebook discussion groups or or clubs on Ecademy, for instance.
Finally, to further boost your authority you need connections. If you are trying to be seen to be an expert in a subject, but you don’t know anyone else in that area, the rest of the world perceives you as an outsider to that topic. You need to be involved with the people who already own the subject. If you want to become a leading authority on, for instance, growing fruit trees, you need to be seen to be in contact with some other fruit tree growers – preferably well-known ones. Then make sure you let people know about those connections in Tweets, by establishing them as Facebook friends and so on.
You will be able to persuade your audience that your products and services are the right ones to choose if your potential customers see you or your business as authorities on the subject. You can use Twitter and Facebook and all the other social networks to help you do this by publicising:
- Your original content
- Your thoughts on current research
- Your readiness and ability to answer questions
- Your leadership position in associated organisations
- Your connections with other authorities
Do these five things and you will become more authoritative without having to resort, as Milgram did, to electric shocks….!
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+