Social Psychology of Social Media


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This interactive workshop introduces participants to several key theories from social psychology and sociology in order to demonstrate how science can be used to design engaging social media applications and campaigns.

The content is presented in a simple format that makes key linkages between our daily social lives and the social world in social media. During the workshop, participants have a chance to learn a number of theories, see examples of how they play out online, and then join a group analysis on the social psychology employed by a number of social media sites and mobile apps.

Questions Answered:
1. What are some of the most popular theories from social psychology that I can leverage to build more persuasive social applications or run more engaging social media campaigns?
2. What’s social influence and how can it help me? How about six-degrees of separation? And what about the strengths of weak ties?
3. Where did all this hype about “influencers” come from and what’s up with the obsession over social metrics? Are they real or just marketing hype?
4. Is it true that all the top websites in the world are driven by social algorithms?
5. What’s the difference between interpersonal persuasion and social influence?

Based on this top paper from a world leading scientific journal:

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  • The Spread of Obesity in a Large Social Network over 32 YearsNicholas A. Christakis, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., and James H. Fowler, Ph.D.A person’s chances of becoming obese increased by 57% (95%) if he or she had a friend who became obese in a given interval. Among pairs of adult siblings, if one sibling became obese, the chance that the other would become obese increased by 40% (95%). If one spouse became obese, the likelihood that the other spouse would become obese increased by 37% (95%).yellow denotes an obese person (body-mass index, ≥30) green denotes a nonobese person
  • Call to action (CTA)PromptRequestOfferProposalSales pitch
  • RhetoricWriting style/clarityFramingPsychology of graphic design/layout (human perception)User Experience (UX), usability, information architectureEyeball tracking and web heat maps guidelinesTunnelling (and providing clear sequences)ReductionOne time vs multiple interactions (relationships)Foot-in-the-door techniqueDoor-in-the-face technique
  • AudioTextPicturesVideoMulti-media
  • TailoringPersonalizationProvide feedback on performanceAdaptation/content matching
  • TailoringPersonal influence (Kats and Lazerfeld)Diffusion of innovations(Rogers)Social network analysis metrics (centrality, betweeness, etc..)Strength of weak ties (Granovetter)Six-degrees of separation Viral spreadSocial influences (social norms) Environmental context and resources (Environmental constraints)Moral appealsScaricity Social proofConsistency and commitmentPersonalizationProvide feedback on performanceAdaptation/content matching
  • Degree CentralityThis is a straight measure of the number of links to a node; it is based on the principle that the node with the most links must be the most important. As a limitation, this measure does not factor in the importance of network positioning, nor being connected to other well connected nodes. Consequently, degree centrality is considered a good, but limited measure and normally supplemented by other metrics.ClosenessIn some cases an actor may have many connections, but may be connected to a disconnected sub-network. This is sort of like being the tallest midget. To overcome this limitation, closeness measures how close one node is to all others. In other words, closeness measures how many hops a node must travel to reach all other nodes, and the node with the highest closeness is the best connected.BetweennessIn some cases, a person does not need to be well connected to everyone in a network to be influential, nor do they need to be connected to well connected persons; rather, they just need to be positioned between persons who don't know each other. Betweenness measures a node's brokerage position, between disconnected nodes. In other words, it measures how well a given node is able to connect disconnected nodes, and benefit from their ignorance. This is the match makers measure.CorenessThe inner circle, in-group, the elite--these are all terms that describe groups of individuals who are core to a given network or organization. They're the ones with access to information and who exert the most influence within networks. Capturing this notion, coreness is a measure that represents a core/periphery analysis which aims to break networks into the ‘in group' and ‘out group'.
  • What if they stopped playing with the change?
  • Social Psychology of Social Media

    1. 1. Social Psychology ofSocial MediaBrian Cugelman, PhDOnline strategy and research consultant@cugelman Ryerson University Toronto, Canada 25 Feb 2012
    2. 2. AGENDA1. Were Social Animals, However We Connect2. Digital Persuasion Equation3. Eight Spheres of Digital Influence4. Social Contexts, Offline & Online, Private & Public5. In-depth Look at Sphere Eight: Social Context6. Leveraging Social Context Factors for Social Design7. Crowdsourced Analysis 2
    4. 4. MASLOWS HIERARCHY OF NEEDS How many of these needs can we satisfy without others? 4
    5. 5. SHIFTING VIEWS ON THE INTERNET & SOCIALRELATIONSHIPSBefore 2006 Beyond 2006• Internet keeps people at • Pew Study, The Strength of home, away from friends and Internet Ties shows the net family enhances social relations• The Internet is destroying • Texting helps long-distance relationships couples stay connected (sexting too)• Using the Internet is anti- social • Mobile phones for teens are not phones anymore, theyre a social lifeline 5
    6. 6. A QUICK POLL• Have you ever donated to a cause, because the organization needed a bit more money to reach their funding goal?• Have you ever purchased a product because of top star ratings? How about one star?• Have you ever changed your views on an issue because of an online discussion? 6
    10. 10. DIGITAL PERSUASION EQUATION Click + + + Here =Motivation Ability & Persuasive Trigger Change Efficacy Experiences (8 spheres of digital influence) 10
    11. 11. CHANGE + + + Click Here = Motivation Ability & Persuasive Efficacy Trigger Change Experiences• Agreeing to something - Saying “yes”• Buying more widgets• Increasing support for a social cause• Losing trust in a politician• Deciding to quit smoking 11
    12. 12. HOW CHANGE Click + + + =HAPPENS Motivation Ability & Persuasive Here Trigger Change Efficacy Experiences Beliefs Attitudes Behaviours Not necessarily in this order. Behaviour can shape attitudes, and attitudes can shape beliefs. 12
    13. 13. MOTIVATION + + + Click Here = Motivation Ability & Persuasive Efficacy Trigger Change Experiences Value proposition (-) Demotivaror: Costs, disincentives, barriers, effort (+) Motivator: Goals, carrots, benefit, drivers Behaviour is more likely when motivators outweigh demotivators 13
    14. 14. ABILITY & Click + + + =EFFICACY Motivation Ability & Persuasive Here Trigger Change Efficacy Experiences Ability or self-efficacy dictate what you will and wont do Ability Self-efficacy What you can or What you believe cant do you can or cant do Skill Confidence Learned helplessness 14
    15. 15. TRIGGER Click + + + =(COVERT) Motivation Ability & Persuasive Here Trigger Change Efficacy Experiences Triggering chickens Triggering humans with recordings of with recordings of chicks chirping people laughing (canned laughter) Chicken acts friendly People laugh longer and towards a threat harder, even at bad jokes Trigger. Reaction. 15
    16. 16. TRIGGER Click + + + = (OVERT) Motivation Ability & Persuasive Here Trigger Change Efficacy Experiences Call to action (CTA)Act now while Promptquantities last. Request Offer Proposal Download your Sales pitch free report You were poked by Bob. Click Here Poke Bob back!"Wow! That shirt makes you look20 years younger. Would you like to pay by cash or credit?" Click on this link now!
    18. 18. PERSUASIVE + + + Click Here =COMMUNICATION Motivation Ability & Efficacy Persuasive Experiences Trigger ChangeMODEL This system can integrate hundreds of influence components, but well just focus on the eight spheres. Cugelman, B., Thelwall, M., & Dawes, P. (2009). Communication-Based Influence Components Model. Paper presented at the Persuasive 2009, Claremont.
    19. 19. 1. SOURCEWhat it is: Key principles:•The person, organization, •Appealing to sourceor group behind a website, credibility boostssocial media profile, ad, or persuasivenessmessage •Build on the three components of credibility: 1. Expertise 2. Trustworthiness 3. Visual appeal 19
    20. 20. WHICH PHOTO CAN INCREASE TEXT CREDIBILITY? No photoNGUYEN, H. & MASTHOFF, J. (2007) Is it me or what I say? Source image and persuasion. Persuasive 07. Springer.
    21. 21. CREDIBILITY AND IMAGERY Photo Goodwill Trust High credibility Higher Higher No photo Middle Middle Low credibility Lower Lower Readers perceptions of text credibility is influenced by photo credibility Dont underestimate the contribution of visuals towards perceived credibility 21
    22. 22. Featured by X, Y, Z.Low credibility websites can borrow credibility from higher credibility sources. 22
    23. 23. 2. MESSAGE ENCODING ANDDECODINGWhat it is: Key principles:•How you express an idea •How you expressand how the person something can strengtheninterprets it or weaken what you say•Expression can be spoken, •Encode messages so thewritten, symbolic audience can rapidly understand them 23
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    25. 25. Place the CTA where most eyes land
    26. 26. 3. MEDIA CHANNELWhat it is: Key principles:•The various media used to •Select the media channelsexpress something most suited to your target audience•Eg. Written words, spokendialogue, photos, video, •Make it easy for theminteractive websites, email engage with the media 26
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    28. 28. 4. AUDIENCEWhat it is: Key principles:•The person or organization •Understand youryou are trying to engage audiences motivations andand influence psychological hot buttons•It comprises their •Frame interaction arounddemographics, traits, and motivations and leveragepsychology hot buttons 28
    29. 29. HOW THE PSYCHOLOGY OF 30 HEALTH CHANGING WEBSITES INFLUENCES USERS BEHAVIOURd CUGELMAN, B., THELWALL, M., & DAWES, P. (2011) Online interventions for social marketing health behavior change campaigns: A meta-analysis of psychological architectures and adherence factors. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 13(1), e17. 29
    30. 30. 5. FEEDBACK ENCODING ANDDECODINGWhat it is: Key principles:•How the audience •Automate data collectionexpresses and transmits whenever possibletheir feedback to you, andhow you interpret it •Incentivize requests for user information•Some of this is contributedvoluntarily, but most is •Just get what you needencoded automatically initially, then incentive data collection over time 30
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    33. 33. 6. FEEDBACK MESSAGEWhat it is: Key principles:•The information an •Leverage user data toaudience shares with the tailor personalized andsource that is used to tailor relevant messagesmessages•In other words, any data •Mine trends amongcollected about a user that populations to buildis processed and acted processes that helpupon individuals•This is the foundation forrelationship building 33
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    36. 36. 7. INTERVENTION MESSAGEWhat it is: Key principles:•What you express or do •Build your messages around your audiences•In other words, the motivation, make it easy,tangible communication or and leverage persuasionaction you express to anaudience •Research will help you identify the influence components that matter 36
    37. 37. 8. SOCIAL CONTEXTWhat it is: Key principles:•The social environment in •Demonstrate groupwhich a relationship occurs behaviour to leverage social norms and pressures•This includes society,whether virtual or "real" •Play on our competitive nature and scarcity The rest of this presentation will only look at this sphere. 37
    39. 39. SOCIAL CONTEXTS Offline Online Classroom E-learning platform Shouting out to people on the street Twitter Sharing thoughts with friends during Sharing thoughts Facebook a night out Academic conference networking Email discussion group 39
    40. 40. PRIVATE AND PUBLIC SPACES Private Controlled Public Access Twitter Facebook SMS (txting) Lined in Discussion group Email 40
    41. 41. PRIVATE VS. PUBLIC CONCERNS With a group of In a large complex Living alone on a close & trusted social environment desert island friends (school or work)Care about your Probably not Possibly Probably looks?Worry about your Probably not Possibly Probably social status?Care what others Possibly Possibly Probably think?Willingness to say whatever you Probably Probably not think? 41
    42. 42. SURVEILLANCE:MAKING PRIVATE MOMENTS PUBLIC Research bias Crime prevention Socially desirable Deterrence answers Surfing the net Employability at work Never posting Cautious about anything that could Cameras | Internet usage the sites we visit tracking | Friends posting & harm our reputation tagging your photo on Facebook. 70% of employers have rejected Surveillance moves us from a applicants due to online information. private to a public social context. 42
    44. 44. CHANGE AGENTS: INTERPERSONAL & SOCIAL INFLUENCE Interpersonal influence Social proofThe persuasive experience resulting from The principle that we determine whats one-on-one interaction. correct by following what other people show to be correct. 44
    46. 46. SOCIAL PROOF EXAMPLES• A 10 out of 10 star produce is rated 500 times. No doubt, it must be amazing.• A nightclub forces people to line-up outside for hours. If theyre enduring that to get in, it must be great.• The "most popular" download software must be the "best". 46
    47. 47. SOCIAL PROOF AND DONATIONS Opaque: people Empty: people Primed: Starter cant see the dont see the social tips show people social norm norm in action what to do Donations Donations Donations $1.50 $50 + 47
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    50. 50. DIFFUSION OF INNOVATIONS: HOW THINGS SPREAD Opinion Leaders ROGERS, E. (2003) Diffusion of innovations. (5 ed.). New York: Free Press. 50
    51. 51. ONE-WAY COMMUNICATION 1 2 3 Media Channel 4 5Older, eroded model 51
    52. 52. TWO-STEP COMMUNICATION FLOW 1 2 3 Media Channel 4 5 Opinion LeaderKats and Lazerfeld (1955) 52
    53. 53. MULTI-STEP COMMUNICATION FLOW 1 2 3 Media Channel Supporter 4 + Opinion Opponent Leader - 5 Opinion LeaderSlightly updated model Opinion Leaders
    55. 55. SOCIAL NETWORK ANALYSIS AND INFLUENCE Common influence metrics •Degree Centrality •Closeness •Betweenness •Coreness 55
    56. 56. TOP WEBSITES ARE SOCIAL OR USE SOCIALALGORITHMS1. Google (Search)2. Facebook (Social media)3. YouTube (Social media)4. Yahoo! (Search) •5 Search5. Windows Live (Search)6. (Search) •5 Social media7. Wikipedia (Social media)8. (Social media)9. Twitter (Social media)10. QQ.COM (Search) Based on Alexa ranking retrieved 12 Oct 2010 56
    57. 57. THESAME RECOMMENDATION CAN SPREAD ASTRUSTED ADVICE OR SPAM Trusted Dishonest recommendation marketing spam I dont like spam! or 57
    58. 58. CREDIBILITY ASSESSMENT AND ACTIVE TRUST Credibility How recommendations perception are regarded 1. Advice from a trusted expert High Valuable advice 2. Advice from a Promising, but trusted person, but Medium not fully not an expert trustworthy 3. Advice from an unknown source Low Marketing spam A study on how source credibility and trust relate to user behaviour: Cugelman, B., Thelwall, M. & Dawes, P. (2009) The dimensions of website credibility and their relation to active trust and behavioural impact. Communications of the Association for Information Systems. 58
    59. 59. SPAMMING REDUCES DIFFUSION Dishonest spamming techniques undermine viral diffusion Differential Adaptive Diffusion: Understanding Diversity and Learning Whom to Trust in Viral Marketing 59
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    62. 62. SCARCITY People assign more value to things that are less available. “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.” Groucho Marx 62
    64. 64. FROM SUPPER TO SOCIAL INFLUENCE Burger and fries Chicken Burger Chicken Salad Bun   Beef patty Chicken breast   Fries   Salad  64
    65. 65. FROM SUPPER TO SOCIAL INFLUENCE Beliefs Attitudes Behaviours Pay influencers to push your idea   Testimonials from trusted experts   Show how popular it is   Incentivize personal affiliate marketing   Make it rare and time bound  65
    66. 66. PSYCHOLOGICAL ARCHITECTURE OF SOCIAL INFLUENCE Above the surface • What you see and experience • The total effect Below the surface • Social proof • Modelling behaviour • Influencer endorsement • Viral spread leveraging social trust • Scarcity 66
    67. 67. BEWARE OF UNETHICAL ABUSES OF SOCIALINFLUENCE• Fake positive testimonials• Fake negative ratings of competitor products• Tricking people into inviting their friends to join social networks• Affiliate marketing portals that masquerade as impartial and honest advisors• An important email from a fried, which is really a virus exploiting your social trust 67
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    74. 74. THE SCIENCE BEHIND THIS PRESENTATIONThis presentation is based on a multi-year study of online influence, that was published in the worlds leading scientific journal on eHealth, mHealth and medical informatics. Get the study here: 74
    75. 75. Brian Cugelman, PhD Online strategy and research consultant Want to leverage psychology to make your websites, campaigns, or digital products more engaging and persuasive? Get in touch. alterspark alterspark alterspark 75