Build Engagement by Virtue of a Timeless Rule

Posted on January 7th 2014

Build Engagement by Virtue of a Timeless Rule

Engagement is a metric that is constantly talked about, sought after, obsessed over. Marketers profess the importance of engagement. Business owners wonder how it will make them more money. In the meantime, we’re all scrambling for answers. We know one thing: we want more of it.

Of course, many seek engagement in their marketing efforts, but at the same time many fall short. The reason is more simple than you think. Engagement only comes through the act of reciprocity.

We are inclined to do favors for people that do us favors.

There have been more than just a few studies showing that this is true. Entire fields are devoted to understanding the science of human relationships. Reciprocity plays a big role in social psychology.

The Art of the Favor

When someone does you a favor, how does it make you feel? Do you ignore it? Or do you feel obligated to return the kindness in some way? If you chose the latter, you are not alone. You have been programed to respond this way. In fact, we all have.

Remember the Golden Rule?

“Do unto others as you would have done unto you”.

This statement has more to do with human psychology than religion. When someone is nice to us, we feel compelled to be nice back.

The Coca Cola Experiment

In 1971 Dennis Regan, a professor at Cornell University, conducted a study which became known as the “Coca Cola Experiment” [PDF]. Using two test subjects he invited participants to evaluate art, or so they thought. In reality, art had very little to do with the experiment. One of the subjects was asked to leave the room and was told to bring back a Coke and tell the other participant, “I asked him [the experimenter] if I could get myself a Coke, and he said it was okay, so I bought one for you, too.”

Afterwards, the subject who brought in the Coke was instructed to ask the other subject (via a handwritten note):

coca-cola"Would you do me a favor? I’m selling raffle tickets for my high school back home to build a new gym. The tickets cost 25~ each and the prize is a new Corvette. The thing is, if I sell the most tickets I get 50 bucks and I could use it. If you’d buy any, would you just write the number on this note and give it back to me right away so I can make out the tickets? Any would help, the more the better. Thanks."

Wouldn’t you know that the majority of subjects that received a favor prior to being asked to purchase raffle tickets did just that. And, to take it one step further, those that received a soda and were asked to purchase the raffle tickets purchased more.

It’s called favor compliance. Learn it. Live it. Do it — your business will thank you.

But you should keep this in mind…

It’s very important to understand why we use the internet. It boils down to two reasons: information and entertainment. If you want more engagement from your fans and followers you don’t necessarily need to buy them a Coke, but you do need to offer them a reason to engage with you.

Think about it: how often do you interact with a business on social media in your personal life? And, for the businesses you do interact with, what are they giving you? I’ll venture a guess and say it’s either information or entertainment. 

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Anthony Miller

Anthony Miller is a content marketer and blogger with an interest in cyber security. He works with Rivalhost to help businesses of all sizes find solutions for their web hosting and DDoS protection needs. Follow on Google+

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