As you know I have a huge interest in psychology and how that is translated online. At the upcoming Conversion Conference the keynote speaker will be Nathalie Nahai. She wrote a book called “Webs of Influence” which looks into how online persuasion on website could work. I recently had the chance to talk to her. You can find the interview with Nathalie below. It was truly inspiring so I urge you to read on! You can also download (right click) the interview I did here or listen in this post:
Are we being persuaded a lot online?
“Yes, whether or not we are aware of it and especially when we are not aware of it, we are constantly being competed for, in terms of our attention and engagement. Everything that we are encountering online is an act to persuade us to take a particular action.”
Is that something that marketers are doing on purpose or is it something that ‘just happens’?
“I think it’s an element of both. Marketers and advertisers are in the trade of getting us to do what they want us to do, which is nothing new. But there are lots of things that we do without thinking that also have an impact on how we behave online. It’s a combination of both. It’s about raising awareness about the things we do subconsciously.”
Are marketers influencing enough or is it just a small part of it?
“I think marketers are doing some of it enough, but I think the psychology of online persuasion is a field that has been largely neglected which is something that kind of surprised me and got me into writing the book. I think that if you’re looking at persuading people in an emotionally engaging way, then you have to look at the wider context of psychology – such as individual traits, culture and expectations – so that you can then create something which is a lot more persuasive.”
You wrote the book ‘Webs of Influence’, what is your background?
“I did a BSc in Psychology, then went to art college and I’m also a musician. I started to think about how the two (web design and psychology) interact, and discovered there was no-one combining these fields in a holistic way so I thought well I’ll write the book.”
Is the book merely about design?
“It’s not just about design, its about building reputational capital, social psychology principles that work to create more persuasive relationships, all sorts of things.”
You mentioned music, music is used to persuade people. Back in the 90s there were websites where music was playing. Is that part of persuasion? Are we going to see that again?
“In that respect no, because people are expecting to have more user control. We’re also seeing increasing enforced personalisation. We like to think that we’re the authors of our own reality, that we are in control and when we are online, being forced to take actions (like having music imposed upon us) can be a big turn off for people.”
You divided your book into three parts: know who you are targeting, communicate persuasively and sell with integrity. Is there one part more important than the other?
“No, they are all interrelated. The part that I found the most interesting to write about was the last part, selling with integrity. It’s also the largest part of the book. It basically talks about persuasion techniques and influence techniques you can use to sell more effectively to people. Which is a very tricky area because it can be seen as very manipulative and it can be very manipulative if you use it unethically. If you look at the digital and tech industry, there is much more of an open community, of open source and sharing – we support each other as we succeed. With corporates you don’t find it in large organisations.”
Why did you write the book in the first place?
“There is so much research in different areas. You have things like web science, human computer interaction, user experience, web analytics etcetera. I thought surely someone had brought all these together and created something like a manual. When I found that it didn’t exist I thought, Well I’ve got to write the book. Especially because a lot of the blogs I come across either haven’t researched properly or haven’t covered it in enough depth, which is what I aim to do with this book.”
Is it possible to actually ‘catch’ the psychology of people on the web into a book?
“I think its possible to catch a lot of it. The difficulty with any sort of research or hypothesis is that it is based on the theory of ‘all things being equal’. In reality things are rarely equal and there isn’t a standard type of person. There are definitely general principles which should work in most situations, but that’s why its also very important to test, test and test.”
Did you find any surprising things?
“I think the thing that I found most interesting of all were the cultural differences. My heritage is very mixed, my parents are not British. The work that I found by a Dutch psychologist Geert Hofstede, who has done the most incredible work on cultural dimensions. We assume to a large extent that other people are like us. We are seeing more and more content delivered in the native tongue of the people targeted. I thought the cultural aspect which was really interesting.”
Have you looked at offline versus the web?
“One of the books I read and highly recommend is ‘influence’ by Robert Caldini, who is an American psychologist and marketer. His work was seminal, 6 principles of persuasion. These are very much translatable online.
I was surprised that a ‘new’ industry like online didn’t do this from the start
“I know! I have no idea why they didn’t do this from the start! I just think its crazy that this is the first time this kind of book is attempted.”
You are going to be speaking at the conversion conference, what will you be talking about?
“I’m going to be talking about several things. I’m talking about personalisation within a context of culture. A bit about glocalisation, risk trust and privacy. Growing trends in customer behaviour the web as a whole.”
What are people going to be taking away from it?
“People will be getting an idea of where they stand on Hofstede’s dimensions. Also some of the trends which they can start building into their websites to help get better engagement and trust.”