Have you got your credit card ready? Today is “CyberMonday” the annual online peak of shopping – supposedly. It is reckoned to be a response to the gloom of “Black Friday” – which follows “Thanksgiving” in the USA and when people are, seemingly, somewhat depressed. They return to work today, knowing that Christmas is less than a month away and if they want to be sure of getting those bargains delivered in time, then today is the day to complete those orders. According to Google, searches for CyberMonday deals are technically an “on fire” search. Last year the level of sales rose by 43% on the previous year; new records are expected today – oh, and you can also expect the web to be slow today too…!
Interestingly, the reason this is all happening is exactly the same reason why we are seeing the publication of thousands of documents on the Wikileaks website. Yes, the Internet may run even more slowly today as people try to trawl through the leaks about what the US Government thinks about the rest of the world. Naturally enough, the Americans are angry about the leaks. They seem to ignore the fact that these leaks have come from someone very senior within the American Government machine – few people had clearance for these cables. Secondly, they ignore the fact that if they hadn’t been two-faced in the first place – saying one thing in public, then another in private – these cables would not have been in the slightest bit interesting.
But the key question remains, why did the leaker do the leaking? It is, in part, the same psychological reason as to why CyberMonday works – social acceptance. We do many of the things we do because everyone else does them. If we don’t do them we feel odd, left out, strange, different. CyberMonday is, in fact, an invention; the term was first used in a press release five years ago. But once enough people start saying “today’s the day to go online shopping” everyone around them starts to do it. Otherwise you are not part of the “in crowd” you are an outlier, an oddity. So, millions of people will go online shopping today for no other reason than deep down they don’t want to feel or appear “odd”.
Similarly, the profile of the leaks happening at Wikileaks is growing. Vast amounts of previously confidential material is now being submitted to the organisation. So valuable is that content the website has deals with respected news organisations, such as The Guardian, to provide them with information which Wikileaks itself does not publish. Whatever you think about the organisation, it is gaining respect. It has won awards from The Economist and Amnesty International. It has exposed war crimes, corruption and torture. It ruffles feathers enough for world leaders to comment on its activities. In other words, if you are a potential “leaker” then Wikileaks is “the place to go” because it is respected. True, you can argue that its activities have potential dangers and that they are morally dubious. But if you are a holder of secrets what you see is many of your peers leaking them. In other words, social acceptance is in place. If as a holder of secrets you think those secrets should be exposed you are likely to leak them simply because you see many of your peer group doing just that. It is the non-leakers who start feeling odd, strange, or different.
Your website too can benefit from social acceptance. You can take advantage of what Wikileaks does – making it seem the “right thing to do” to visit your website or buy your products. Many people buy the iPhone, for instance, simply because many of their peers have bought one. Yet, secretly, they complain about poor battery power, its relative uselessness as a “phone” and it’s comparative high price. In other words the social pressure to buy the phone, overcame the logical rejection of it. The logical rejection of leaking material to Wikileaks does not beat the social pressure of feeling you have done the right thing. Equally, the social pressure of buying online on “CyberMonday” defeats the logic of saying “it’s an invention from a PR company five years ago”. Logic does not always make sense in the face of social acceptance. When you engender social acceptance in your products and services you can sell more of them.
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+