The Psychology of Social Commerce

Courtesy of Tab Juice (via Brian Solis)

Thanks to a recent post by social media guru Brian Solis, I chanced upon this brilliant infographic on the psychology of social commerce.

According to the post, there are six heuristics or pillars in social commerce: social proof, authority, scarcity, like, consistency, and reciprocity. Let me go through each of these in turn and give my layman's take on what it means for us.

1) Social Proof

Essentially, social proof means the act of following the majority. When you see all your friends and family members going after a particular trend - K-pop stars, cycling, Zumba dancing, bespoke cakes, for instance - you're much more likely to emulate their example. This need for confirmation and conformity has been universally true since time immemorial, and is the principle driver behind word-of-mouth marketing. In this day and age, it is super-charged with mobile social networks.

2) Authority

In a world filled with gazillion Facebook updates, blog posts, tweets, and Youtube videos, people are leaning more than ever towards figures of authority. By this, I mean those who are respected, trusted, and experienced in their domain areas of expertise. This also implies that specialisation as opposed to generalisation increasingly takes on greater prominence.

3) Scarcity

I believe this translates into our ability to find "micro-niches" that are highly valued by folks who value exclusivity, individuality, and uniqueness. Having what the Joneses have isn't enough anymore. Instead, people are looking at products or services that exude their personality and helps to affirm their sense of worth and value. Here, rarity and authenticity counts much more than ever before. Perhaps the most scarce resource is time, and this is why people are focusing more and more of their energies and bandwidths on the things that truly matter.

4) Like

Anybody who has a Facebook, Youtube, or Google + account knows the value of a "like". In an age where links are increasingly replaced by likes as the new social currency, people are gravitating towards the endorsed and the recommended. Interestingly, this also presents a kind of a dilemma from points 1) and 3). The more social proof you require (via "likes" or other mechanisms of endorsement), the less scarce that product or service is going to be.

5) Consistency

In a highly transparent digital enabled world, people are yearning for the reliable and the tried-and-tested. I will follow you and read your posts if I know what to expect on a regular basis. This is something that I've been preaching for a long time - that in any user generated content channel, you need to develop a certain cadence in publishing and pushing out valuable content that your readers, viewers and listeners desire.

6) Reciprocity

Finally, in a world that is so "hyper-social", the only way to gain in popularity is to win people's trust (and love) by giving, giving, giving. Selfish hoarders of information or benefits will be easily sussed out while people will increasingly follow those who are generous with their thoughts and their time. The noble notion of paying it forward rings true in this day and age, especially when people increasingly distrust the shenanigans of big money businesses which wrecked havoc in people's finances and lives.

For more information, check out the infographic from Tab Juice here, as well as Brian Solis' exposition here.

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