Skip to content
The power of liking

Principles of Influence Part 1: The Power of Liking

Note: This will be the first in a series of six blog posts in the coming weeks and months based on principles found in Dr. Robert Cialdini’s seminal psychology book entitled Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. It is essential reading for any marketer.

“Liking” is a powerful motivator when it comes to transacting business – and life. In the simplest terms, people do business with people they like. It is one of six Principles of Influence, articulated by persuasion guru Dr. Robert Cialdini, that act as shortcuts to help us cut through the vast clutter of information and choices that confront us on a daily basis. “Liking” doesn’t just help us make up our minds, it facilitates decisions we can feel good about.

To illustrate the point, Cialdini cites a study conducted at two leading business schools. The first group was told “time is money” and that they should get down to business straight away. Among this group, 55% came to an agreement. The second group was told to share something about themselves with the person they would be negotiating with, in an effort to find something that they had in common. Among this group, 90% of the participants were able to come to some sort of agreement. Talk about powerful social proof.

The foundation of the “Liking” principle involves three key factors:

  1. We gravitate toward people who are similar to us – the old ‘birds of a feather flock together’ saw.
  2. We appreciate people who compliment us – flattery will get you everywhere.
  3. We are attracted to people who cooperate with us towards mutual goals – working together to achieve win-win outcomes.

So how does this axiom work in the real world, especially one where so much interaction occurs online? For starters, it suggests that embracing the Stephen Covey principle, “Seek first to understand, then be understood” should be the mantra on every business person’s lips. How many times have you sat through (or given) a sales presentation that was all about YOU versus your audience (and then watched as their eyes rolled back in their heads)? How many times has someone invited you to join their circle on LinkedIn, and then immediately sent you a pitch email? Annoying, isn’t it? Why? Because they didn’t take the time and couldn’t be bothered to get to know you. It’s like a tap on the shoulder from a Tinder hook-up you didn’t opt in for. And, in fact, rather than act as the basis for building goodwill, it does the opposite – it puts the offending party in a deficit position.

Despite this, social media is the perfect place to begin to find common ground. A LinkedIn feed will tell you who you share in common in your sphere of influence, but beyond that perhaps you’ll discover you have the same alma mater – or are football rivals. On Instagram and Pinterest, you may discover what people are really passionate about (wallpaper – who knew?!); and, of course, Facebook can act as the ultimate window into people’s lives and even gives you a tool to “Like” others’ personal expression with a click of effort. While some might call this social media stalking, or even creepy, I simply regard it as homework for those who are interested in others; it’s a path to uncovering our common humanity. That’s the thing – this sort of thing doesn’t have to be conducted in a self-serving, Machiavellian way. In fact, very often it happens organically, especially when our professional and personal lives overlap, as they so often do in today’s social media age. Want proof: some of my dearest friends are relationships that started on Facebook, with people I had not previously met but were an extension of others I knew. We’ve become friends first, then tried to figure out how to do business. As Mark Zuckerberg himself has suggested, amid a social media pervasive world, there is no longer a distinction between one’s personal and professional personas; there is just one: the authentic you.

I’ve started this series with the “Liking” principle by design because, given the tenor of our recent politics, the idea that we might find common cause and broaden our “Like” spectrum seems more important than ever. My social media community includes people of all kinds of different backgrounds, from around the globe, with many, many differences. We’ve found common cause around things as disparate as our careers, art, upbringing, parenting, sports, family, and, yes, politics. Pretty much the gamut and in every instance, like a Venn diagram of the heart, I have discovered intersections of commonality; the raw materials for unity.

These overlapping interests are what give me hope in the face of rampant discord, violence and despair. They allow me to see beyond the superficial, past our sound bite, fire-ready-aim-judge culture and realize that there is beauty and wonder all around me, but especially among my circle of friends and business associates. As a society, we are not just in the business of nurturing business; we are also in the business of taking care of ourselves – and one another. That’s why the “Liking” principle, when applied ethically and with genuinely good intent, is not just sound business that feeds the bottom line, it also nurtures the soul. “Liking” helps foster trust, the foundation of every relationship, whether it be in the service of commerce or compassion.  Best of all, it’s free.

Rick Petry
Rick Petry

Author: Rick Petry is the CMO/EVP Client Services of DirectAvenue and a seasoned direct marketing professional and thought leader with experience spanning three decades. He has had a hand in campaigns generating over $1 billion in sales and is conversant in all facets of performance-based marketing including off-line and on-line media planning and buying, research, analytics, creative, production, and back-end management, Rick is the author of over 200 articles on direct marketing best practices, and is a past Chairman of the Board of the Electronic Retailing Association (ERA) and a recipient of ERA’s Volunteer of the Year award, as well as the Direct Response Marketing Alliance’ Member of the Year award as voted by his peers.