Newly-weds David Walliams and Lara Stone are clearly very much in love. But did they choose each other because they fell in love, or were they influenced by people around them – indeed possibly by strangers? New research suggests that the lovers we choose are not entirely our free choice. According to research conducted at Indiana University, our mate choices are heavily influenced socially.
“Mate choice copying” is well known in the animal world and there is some evidence us humans do much the same; we tend to choose partners who other people we know would have chosen. We like to get confirmation from our friends that our proposed partner is perfect. We seek social approval of our choices. Now, this new research extends that notion and reveals that we even take into account the views of complete strangers in determining which mates we’ll date.
Social approval is rife; we don’t like doing anything very much unless it is socially acceptable. Now it seems that something as fundamental as choosing a partner is not completely down to free will. We depend upon the views of others, including people we have never met, to confirm our choice of lover.
So, how might this work in the world of blogging? How many times have people said to you “Oh you must read this blog, it’s just your sort of thing, you’ll love it”. Or have you ever been asked, “What you don’t read his blog? Gosh you are missing out!” The blogger is happy because they get recommendations, but the subtle psychological impact is that you will also be likely to like the recommended blog simply because your friends rate it. Social acceptance.
But it extends beyond this. If you see complete strangers talking about a blog, say on Twitter, or in other blogs you might read, your chances of also liking the blog appear to be further increased.
So, as a blogger trying to attract readers it’s clear you have two tasks you need to perform. Firstly, you need to get people to recommend your blog to their friends. You can add “recommend” tools to your blog, for instance. Or you can ask people if you can be a “guest blogger” on their site, which gives a form of recommendation to you. After all, if blog A likes blogger B enough to include their guest posts, then the readers of blog A are more likely to want to read blog B – it has gained social acceptance from a friend.
The second thing you need to do is to ensure that strangers also recommend your blog. That means providing the facility so that anyone reading your blog can share it using social bookmarks, or Twitter for instance. (By the way, there’s a share button at the bottom of this post – hint, hint…!) But by getting people to share your content it has more visibility online. This can then be picked up by people who don’t know the individuals who shared the items in the first place. But as this new dating research suggests, it provides “stranger backing” which makes your blog even more attractive; it helps confirm what friends have said, adding to the social pressure.
According to the implications of this new research, it is not only important to get people you know recommending your blog, but also to provide methods whereby complete strangers can publicly show they like your blog too. That way you’ll create the right mix of social pressures to get even more readers. And who knows, you may even get people to truly love your blog and profess their love for it in public, just like a pair of newly-weds…!
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+