The Psychology of On-line Influence

During the recent Social Media Week London, I had the privilege of chairing a session on psychology. The silent revolution behind social media has been to create an environment where there is more data about what we are doing, where we are doing it and who we are doing it with, than at any other point in history. For the professional people watchers, this is an fascinating time. Psychologists, business marketers and others have a wealth of data to explore, at the intersection of psychology, technology and marketing, a new discipline is emerging that analyses our observable behaviours and provides actionable insights. This session brought together leading experts in the field to share their insight with a distinguished panel of speakers who each looked at a different aspect of the psychology of the on-line world:

 David Stillwell, Science Director, Cambridge Personality Research
 Azeem Azhar, Founder & CEO, Peer Index
 Martin Talks, President, Digital, Draft FCB.
TheWebPsych Nathalie Nahai, Digital Strategy | Web Psychology, The Web Psychologist

It was a highly interactive session, becoming a trending topic on Twitter and ending up as one of the most talked about events of the week, with Nathalie Nahai winning speaker of the week award. Gabrielle Laine-Peters has curated an excellent storify of the event which gives an overview of what was covered, and the video of the session is now on YouTube:

David talked about the impact of personality type on our on-line behaviours,  Nathalie introduced neuroesthetics, Azeem shared insights from PeerIndex and Martin was our caveman-in-residence. With cognitive, experimental, applied and evolutionary psychology covered, I threw in some social psychology: Should we consider groups as a unit of influence, rather that individuals? We often think about influence as an end point, but we’re constantly influencing and being influenced. It is a networked effect, at least in what we see in the work we do here – a business is built of influences working together and against each other, shaping opinions, making things happen, blocking things. Messages flow across the network, spreading, branching and interrupting.

It was very interesting that the lean methodology came up during the session. Want to test a new product? Create a Minimum Viable Product, test it and adapt it. Even the experts find it very hard to predict behaviours. Sometimes a good old-fashioned experiment is the fastest way to find out what will work. Decision making is a complex process, involving emotional factors that lead to “evidence” gathering to  justify the decision rationally. The over riding evidence is that we aren’t as rational as we think we are (although not totally unpredictable)!

Nathalie has posted her slides and has a book coming out soon, and Martin has posted a podcast of interviews. And, if you missed it or want more, keep your eyes peeled – Chinwag has a longer half-day event in May – more details soon.

One Response to “The Psychology of On-line Influence”

  1. March 29, 2012 at 12:48 pm, Sam Michel said:

    Thanks for the write-up…you’re dead right, we’ve just announced the half-day, longer, better, more in-depth version of this session:

    Chinwag Insight: Psychology of Online Influence
    http://chinwag.com/insight/psychology

    including, one, Benjamin Ellis on the speaker line-up!

    Reply

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