Persuasion Through Communication

persuasion through communicationPersuasion through communication has changed with social media. In the past with traditional media we were persuaded through sending out a one way communication where we talked, they acted. They acted by ignoring or buying. While this seems simple and in traditional advertising it is, as we were dependent upon the numbers, the ROI, the reach, frequency, impressions and the sales dollars. The more people advertised, the more they could equate the sales dollars to the advertising and advertise more. Almost a vicious cycle as when you cut back on advertising, the sales dollars dropped and you were left scrambling to increase the advertising to increase sales. The model of traditional advertising was/is very effective when you only equated the sales volume to the advertising. What was ignored was the word of mouth, brand loyalty that was built as well as evaluating what you were saying to your audience that  persuaded them to buy. Was it price? Competitor’s failure to communicate? What are you saying to your audience that persuades them to notice, comprehend and take action?

Communicating a Message

When we speak, we are communicating some sort of message. Think of babies, they are unable to speak but yet are able to communicate to us their need. Sure, sometimes we are unsure and have the game of trial and error but in time we do get to hear a different cry for hunger, pain, overtired, pick me up, etc. We are constantly communicating a message verbally and non verbally.

A facial expression is communicating a message through body language of joy or discontent as we are reacting in a manner that we want that person to know how we are feeling. In advertising, we are communicating a message that we also want people to know. We want them to know that we exist, what our offering is, how we are better than the rest and how we can solve their problem. In social media marketing, we take communications a bit further as we do all of the above as social  media is a form of advertising, but we take it a step further we are able to communicate to create dialogue, conversation and engagement. We are establishing a communication channel that is persuading people to listen.

Stages of Persuasion

When we communicate, we are persuading. We are persuading them to listen, accept, comprehend and act. If they do not accept the message they act by either voicing their opinion or ignoring. When you have their attention, the stages of persuasion tend to emulate the stages of brand perception and acceptance. We will not buy from people we do not trust. We buy from people/a brand that we hear, listen, accept and trust when we have a need and feel that they are talking to us. That talking to us, is the persuasion which as we know in marketing comes in stages.

1. Unaware. Introducing your brand to your audience/target market while at the same time talking to your current market is no easy feat. Crafting a message that is universal of sorts on certain platforms needs to guide and direct them to satisfy no only their needs for information but your needs as a business as a first exposure to persuade them and the repeats to buy.

2. Aware. Those that are aware but not yet sold on your message are where many businesses focus on. They are the leads, they the folks that need to be nurtured and pushed along through repeat communications. They pull the trigger when you are able to communicate a bigger message of how. How will you make their life easier, how will your product perform, how much attention should they pay to how you perform (thinking big brand vs generic here). As a small business social media agency, we have to show how we will create goals and strategies and tactics that persuade them to buy. They know we are here but when they are unsure, they are saying we are unsure how YOU will elicit a favorable response for ME. You created a favorable response for you (as I am talking to you) but how can you turn that around for me  – and I want hard results before I can sign that check!

3. Acceptance. Are they accepting what you are saying? If they are, they are trusting you? If not, they are unsure. Trust is a big factor when the consider the propensity to buy. If you offer the lowest price should people be skeptical? If you offer the highest price is what you are providing the best of the best? We trust people/brands that make us trust them. We trust Apple. Why? They have a great product and whether we are an Apple or PC, we know that they are the other side may offer more than we have. That that end, is your brand and accepted in social media or a hassle to change?

4. Action. We want people to take action from our communications. That could be to respond to us, see us, listen to us, buy from us. In traditional media in a radio commercial we are given a short period of time to get our message out which is a non-visual message. You are relying upon their ears to provide the attention where as with TV we have the visual and audio (if people are not walking away from the visual). In social media we are visual. We have to see the message to respond. We have to exude that control where we either stay or click off. Action is not always buying. Action is a listening and trusting which in turn is persuasion to get then to listen.

Persuasion Through Communication

The cognitive process of persuasion through communication is not new as Aristotle in his book, The Art of Rhetoric, equated communication to persuasion. While we can challenge this through a myriad of examples (simplest  one, a speed zone sign vs a police officer sitting with a radar gun) we have leaned to associate cognitive thoughts and perceptions to a certain sets of emotions. The emotions arise as a result of our perception in marketing is through the message and also through their level of awareness, acceptance and buyer stage.

Changing Perception, Creates Persuasion

If we change the perception, what will happen? Will that have an effect upon the persuasion? Of course it will. The retailers created a change of perception with the sales, the you have to have this at this price early bird specials. Most people I spoke with who did shop early went because it was a purchase that they would never make unless the price was right. The retailers persuaded them to want to have. The 100 or so I spoke with said that while they bought for others, their reason for going was, for them, too good to pass up. The retailers know this and create a message to them. Did they talk to the moms and dads to get that doll or loopy loop Hot Wheels? It was certainly advertised in their sales circular and on the kids shows but not so much on network TV.  They changed the perception that we can buy for us.

When we communicate do we persuade?

photo credit:from kevindooley

  • Some good points here and there is no doubt that the way in which the message is being delivered is changing right in front of our eyes. The big old hammer that brands used to use is just not getting as much cut through and brands need to talk to consumers in a different way. Even one individual has the power to have their voice heard and cause big issues for big brands. Advertising is by no means dead and still works very well but it needs to have a good dose of listening thrown in as well!

  • The biggest challenge for brands becomes the ability to start such a conversation, one which people can relate to, one that can change and shape itself into trust in a reasonable amount of time.

    It’s difficult for someone to become “Aware” of you, due to the high amount of brands that are launching themselves in social media channels nowadays. It’s the same for blog content, with so many blogs out there, you *really* have to stand out of the crowd to be noticed and appreciated.

    Acceptance and Action all depend on the message you convey, on your content. If it’s something valuable and if it feels “human”, people will recognize it and relate to it, otherwise you’ll just be another name in the jungle.

    I believe persuasion comes from authority, the authority you build with trust and influence, over time, with the various social media actions you engage in, in a progressive way.
    People might not be persuaded if you don’t have anything interesting to offer, or if you do offer it in a wrong way. They will be persuaded if certain conditions are met, but achieving such a goal is not an easy feat, definitely.

  • Anonymous

    You’re one of my fave tweeps (and fellow long-suffering Mets fan) but I’m gonna have to disagree with some of your observations. First of all, “word of mouth” has been around for centuries – it didn’t start with social media. People spoke well (or ill) of a company to their families, friends, church groups, bowling buddies, co-workers, etc., face-to-face & by phone (where the two main factors of communication are present: body language & voice). Contrary to your statements in your third paragraph, social media marketing totally eliminates body language and voice communication and replaces it with a cold tweet or a facebook update.

    Moreover, if you think companies are setting up shop on social media platforms to “communicate”, I’d beg to differ. They’re there because “you” are there and they want to “present” you with their product/service and get you to make a buying decision. Sales drives businesses, not “engagement” or “conversations”. Can a social media presence improve sales/revenue for a company? Sure. But let’s all be clear why they’re there – they’re selling and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    “When we communicate, we are persuading.”? When we are effectively presenting our product/service with the intention of getting a prospective client to make a buying decision – that’s persuading. Communicating is is you and me talking about what a disappointing season the Mets had. There’s a big difference.

    Unbeknownst to most people, before I started my video/film production company, I was a Sales Manager and Director of Sales & Marketing in the catering/family entertainment industry for 10+ years. I learned that the successful sales professionals asked questions and listened more than they spoke. They learned to identify a prospect’s needs/desires and then effectively present a solution. We learned how to read certain body language & tone of voice to better understand the prospect’s areas of concern. You can’t get that from social media communication and I believe it is actually easier to deceive someone when you can’t look into their eyes.

    Communication via social media channels is much colder than face-to-face, where you can look into a person’s eyes, hear the tone of their voice, and shake their hand. And with all the noise on social media, who’s really listening?

    Still pals?

  • Brilliant discussion. What you are talking about here is Ninja Marketing 401. Perception is reality. This is a tough lesson to understand, yet is invaluable to everything we do in marketing. Once you get this point, all else falls into place.

    I once worked with a retailer that had developed a reputation for having a dirty store. This was his customers’ perception. So he cleaned it up. Yet his sales continued to slump. “I have a clean store now. Why aren’t they coming.” Perception is reality. He had to change their perception and turn around all of the negative word of mouth.

    Suzanne, you are absolutely a gem. I hope your readers understand just how fantastic you are.