Month: April 2016

Degree of Control

April 11, 2016Comments Off on Degree of Control

A great predictor of someone’s likelihood of taking action is their perceived ability to influence outcomes.

The more you can ensure they influence outcomes the more they participate.

The less control someone feels over the outcome, the less likely they are to act.

This is a problem when we’re attempting to motivate people to do what we want them to do. because it’s what we want them to do.

People take actions to satisfy a future emotional state.


April 10, 2016Comments Off on Laissez-faire

In 1681, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the French Finance Minister, gathered the top merchants in the country to ask how the government could help. The merchants replied “laissez-faire”.

Essentially, stay out the way and let us do our thing.  

That’s not what they meant of course.

They still wanted the government to protect property rights, enforce private and commercial contracts, administer justice, ensure their safety, and continue to provide services upon which their trade directly and indirectly relied.

All of those things entail costs (capital, social, political etc..)

Letting groups get on with it only works if they end up producing something more valuable than they cost. That means an improvement upon something that already exists.

This could be a superior body of knowledge, creation of a valuable object, a better place for people to get support.

If you’re lucky, that will naturally happen and you can be as laissez-faire as you please. Just let the group get on with it, remove the bad stuff, and reap the benefits.

If you’re like everyone else though, you’re going to need to gain and exert your influence to achieve your goals.

Don’t be afraid of this. The danger today isn’t that we do too much, it’s that we’re so worried about trying to influence group behavior we do too little.

Which results in a very active community generating very little valuable output.

Beyond The Vocal Minority

April 7, 2016Comments Off on Beyond The Vocal Minority

A common story.

You ask your members what you want, get some good responses, implement those ideas, and the level of activity doesn’t go up.

The problem is the people most likely to respond are also those who are already as active as they’re likely to be. They’re the vocal minority. They’re the small group that already participate in most discussions about the topic.

They’re already getting everything they need to be as active as they can be. You need data from the people who aren’t participating much.

You need the people that make 1 to 5 contributions per month. Build a segment of this group. Send your survey to them. Interview them. Incentivise the responses to this survey. Compare them with the vocal minority.

Now organize discussion and create content specifically around their concerns. Send them an email letting them know that their ideas led to this discussion. Move people over to your side. Put those that reply into a separate mailing list and send out activities that are focused entirely upon their needs.

Then repeat with the next group.

Re-Engagement Message

I received this email from recently.  


The ‘manage your preferences’ suggests this is a mass email.  

However it’s short enough, direct enough, and specific enough to motivate replies.

This is a very simple re-engagement message. Most re-engagement efforts go wrong. They begin with messages such as:

“Come back, we’ve been missing you!”

“Here’s what you’ve missed”

“Return to our community and get access to {x}”

These messages prime people with negative views of the group. They remind people they decided not to participate.

The best way to re-engage someone is simply to pretend they never left.

Psychological Tricks To Control People

You can guzzle from an inexhaustible supply of tricks from the deep well of psychology.

You will learn to repeat messages back to people, ask for more than you need, use flattery, and mirror behavior to get what you want.

Some of these tricks will get you a slightly higher compliance rate – at least for a while.

The problem with psychological tricks should be obvious, people feel tricked!

If your audience doesn’t feel good after the behavior, they avoid you and resist the behavior in the future. That hurts you over the long-term.

Don’t search for psychological shortcuts. Do the hard work. The best tactics to influence people are those that

  1. Increase your expertise and credibility.
  2. Grow the number of people who know and like you.
  3. Help you understand what they need.

The best and most influential people in your field didn’t go looking for psychological tricks, they developed a solid base of unique expertise, demonstrated credibility, and grew their connections.

This is a deliberate process. Begin with your expertise and credibility.

Increase your Expertise and Credibility

Like a diet change, the process is clear. Sticking to it is hard.

I’d begin this way.

  • Visit Amazon. Buy the top 5 books in your field. Set an hour aside each night to read the books over the course of a month. Identify where the cutting edge of your field is and who the top authors are. Make sure you get through this book first.
  • Google Alerts. Setup Google alerts for the relevant terms and questions in your field (use these hacks). Tag stories in evernote which could serve as useful case studies in the future. Keep tabs on how frequently the examples follow the theory. Highlight discrepancies.
  • Google Scholar alerts. Setup alerts in Google Scholar for relevant terms too. Identify the top academics in your field and build up a list of studies to support your future points (believe me, you will want to do this early). Tag these in evernote too.
  • Dissect and Improve. Break the key parts of the field down into distinct components and study them individually. We spend a lot of time studying psychology and motivation for example. Identify what could be improved. Read the books that others don’t on this topic. Read the academic articles. Talk to experts in this unique niche. Find your unique cutting edge.
  • Search for the conferences in your field. Search in Meetup, Lanyrd, eventbrite and on Google for the top conferences in your field. Volunteer to help in exchange for a free ticket. Ask for introductions to the top people in your field from the organisers during the event. Better yet, host your own events.
  • Develop a project to test the proven knowledge in your field. Write up your results. Either it succeeds and you have a successful example or it fails and you’ve disproven what others believe. Publish this project as a case study other people can download – collect the email address. The more frequently you can repeat this, the better. This is by far the most important step. Make sure you amplify your posts.
  • Get a professional recording. Pay $500 – $1k to shoot a professionally recorded video at either the beginner or expert level for someone in this field. Send this video out to conference organisers with a speaking pitch idea. Approach local meetup groups offering to speak as well. You need a unique angle here. Something that most people don’t know. Make sure this footage looks professional.
  • Pitch guest posts and white papers. Find those with an existing audience in your field. Offer to create a guest post or co-create a white paper. They get the material for their audience, you get to increase your reputation within this field.
  • Host a webinar series. Sign up for a GoToWebinar account. Setup a recurring webinar series for every Wednesday. Host an expert interview each week and ask follow up questions. Post the videos on YouTube/Vimeo/Wistia and collect the email addresses. If you run out of experts to interview, host your own webinars sharing your knowledge and expertise.

Each of these will help you become a credible, authority, in your field.

Each of these will deliver a far better return on your time than trying to master another round of psychology tricks.

By the end, you will have tested the theory, gained expertise, and have something of proven value to add. This gives you credibility which attracts an audience. If you’re starting from scratch today, begin with building your credibility. Once you have a core group of believers it’s a lot easier to do anything else you need.

Make no mistake though, this is really hard work. This is a good thing. It makes it rare which in turn makes it valuable.

What Is The One Thing That Nearly Stopped You?

April 5, 2016Comments Off on What Is The One Thing That Nearly Stopped You?

I love this question.

For every registration, sale, guest post contribution, someone stepping forward to lead a group, sharing ideas, there will be many who were close but didn’t get over the line.

These people are almost impossible to identify.

A great question to ask (and you can set this up as an autoresponder) is “what is the one thing that nearly stopped you doing {x}?”

If you’re trying to find out why most people didn’t, ask the few that did why they nearly didn’t.

Teach People To Value The Information First

April 3, 2016Comments Off on Teach People To Value The Information First

In our rush to get people to share knowledge, we often fill intranets and communities with information everyone already knows.

That’s not much use to anyone beyond the beginner level. A simple 101 guide can take care of most beginner questions (and a 102 guide can take care of the most frequent questions after that).

Getting people to share what they know is only useful if others value that knowledge.

They only value that knowledge if;

1) They didn’t already possess it

2) They think it will be useful.

The former is easier than the latter. If you don’t know something, you probably don’t value it.

This often means you need to persuade people that a specific category of information is important before you give them the information.

Don’t underestimate just how difficult this is.

It means you need to run a campaign among your audience. This campaign might include emails, webinars, and presentations.

First you research their values (use a variation of this survey). Position that information within their values. If they value helpfulness, show how they can use the information to help people. If they value achievement, show how this information can help them achieve their goals etc…

Next identify relevant (evocative) stories. Who has already used this information? Have them explain in their own words why they used the information and how it felt to use it. Distribute these both in quick quotes and longer-form stories (guest posts work well here).

Finally highlight the most immediately applicable and relevant information people can use now. Ideally this explains how people can do something they hadn’t thought of doing before (not something they’re already doing wrong). Make this the entry point to the information.

For example, you might not value information about developing a world class productivity system, but you might be happy to apply a few quick wins right now that will save you 20 minutes a day.

If you want a world-class knowledge system, you need to teach people to value the information shared first.

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