The Six Principles of Persuasion Explained

  • Psychologist Robert Cialdini developed the Six Principles of Persuasion, which are widely influential in marketing, sales, negotiation, and everyday relationships.
  • The principles are reciprocity, commitment/consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity.
  • Each principle has been demonstrated to influence human behavior and decision-making through psychological studies. For example, the reciprocity principle showed that giving someone a small gift makes them more likely to comply with a more significant request.
  • The principles work best in combination and are not foolproof - human emotions and situational factors also come into play.
  • Practitioners should use ethical discretion when leveraging these principles of influence.

It's no secret that we all like to be liked. Whether in our personal or professional lives, we want to be thought of well by others.

Understanding the six principles of persuasion can give you the edge you need to influence others, whether that means persuading someone to go on a date with you or removing information online that is damaging your reputation. 

Persuasion is vital when convincing someone to fall in love with your brand or get your boss to approve a project. But what are the best persuasion techniques and tactics to use?

 

Six principles of persuasion can make an impact, according to esteemed psychologist and academic Dr. Robert Cialdini. And if you want to be successful in establishing your online reputation or just convincing people of anything, you need to know them. 

In this blog post, we'll look at each of the six principles and give some examples of how they can be used:

  • Persuasion is the power to influence someone to take action after the person has already decided not to.
  • The six principles of persuasion are - reciprocity, commitment/consistency, social proof, authority, liking, and scarcity. 
  • Dedicating time to these principles can increase trust, a more positive online reputation, and brand advocates. 

Sections

Persuasion as a Marketing Strategy 

In marketing, persuasion is the power to influence someone to take action after the person has already decided not to.

Let's take a look at why persuasion is an effective marketing strategy. Your brand must position itself as more than just a product or service.

If your values align with your target market, it will be easier to convince people to buy your product. 

 

Consider the following: 

  • One study in the Journal of Marketing Research found that consumers are willing to pay more for a product if they think it will make them feel good about themselves.
  • In another study, researchers found that 88% of consumers would like brands to help them be more environmentally friendly and ethical in their daily life. 
  • 63% of the public would give socially responsible businesses the benefit of the doubt during a crisis.

Suppose you're a business looking to build a solid online reputation or an individual looking to get your message across. In that case, you need to know something about persuasion and understand what consumers are looking for when vetting companies to support.

Free reputation management consultation

What are the Six Principles of Persuasion? 

6 principles of persuasion (1)

Persuasion is not just about convincing someone to do something. It's about building a relationship of trust.

 

The best way to do that is by establishing common ground, showing credibility, and making it clear that you have the other person's best interests at heart. The six principles of persuasion can help you do just that. 

Here are Dr. Robert Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion: 

  • Reciprocity
  • Commitment and Consistency
  • Social proof
  • Authority
  • Liking
  • Scarcity 

Reciprocity

The reciprocity principle relies on the universal tendency to feel obligated to return favors, gifts and efforts. When someone does something nice for us, we intuitively want to reciprocate.

It's a simple concept, but it can significantly impact your business. Reciprocity is all about giving first. When we receive something, we feel compelled to return the favor. 

Studies back up the power of reciprocity. In one experiment, waiters increased tips by 21% simply by giving diners a mint at the end of their meal. The mint, although small, triggered the reciprocity response. Another study found shoppers were more likely to purchase when offered an unsolicited gift from the salesperson.

How Can Reciprocity Improve Your Reputation?

We most commonly see reciprocity at work with word of mouth. If you do something nice for someone, they're more likely to return the favor.

  • In the business world, this often manifests itself in the form of referrals. When you provide excellent service or products to your customers, they'll be more likely to refer their friends and family to your business.
  • Over time, this can significantly improve your reputation and help you attract new customers.

Of course, ensuring that you're providing genuine value to your customers is essential; otherwise, they'll quickly see through your ulterior motives. But when done correctly, reciprocity can be a powerful tool for boosting your business.

Blogging is a classic example of reciprocity in the online world. Let's say you're a marketer trying to get your website noticed by potential customers. One way to do this is to guest blog on other websites in your industry. By providing valuable content for free, you're persuading people to visit your site and see what you have to offer. 

Blogging can: 

  • Improve your reputation and make it more likely that people will do business with you. 
  • Establish a loyal customer base, many of whom will turn into brand advocates simply because of the valuable information you post for free on your blog. 
  • Increase awareness of your company and what it has to offer. 

Reciprocity builds goodwill in relationships and makes people more willing to comply with larger requests. Of course, it's important not to exploit reciprocity by making disproportionate demands.

So, next time you're looking to boost your image, remember that reciprocity can be a powerful tool.

Commitment and Consistency

Commitment and consistency are important because they build trust and credibility.

People want to be consistent with commitments and promises they've already made. Once we take a stand or go on record about something, we are more likely to align with that stance in the future.

If you say you're going to do something, do it. If you make a promise, keep it. 

Researchers saw this in action when they had people sign small petitions supporting a particular issue. Those who signed were later willing to show much greater support for the same cause by volunteering time or donating money.

Our desire for consistency with our commitments can influence larger behaviors down the line.

How Can Commitment and Consistency Improve Your Reputation?

Making commitments and consistently following through with them isn't just good for your personal relationships. It can also improve your reputation in your professional life.

Marketers leverage this principle by getting customers to make small initial commitments, like free trials or product samples, which turn into larger purchases. Consistency with existing commitments is a powerful driver, but marketers should avoid making misleading claims.

If you're known for being reliable and trustworthy, people will be more likely to want to work with you and support you. Additionally, people are more likely to take you seriously if you're consistent in your words and actions. They know they can count on you to follow through, making them more likely to listen to what you have to say. 

Social Proof

Social proof is a powerful persuasion technique because it taps into our natural tendency to follow the lead of others. If we see others doing something, we often assume it must be the right thing. That's why online reviews and testimonials can be so influential in persuasion. 

For example, one study found that hotel guests were 26% more likely to reuse their towels when informed that most other guests were reusing theirs. Simply hearing what other people were doing influenced them.

The phenomenon is known as informational social influence in psychology.

What does the principle of social proof state? The principle of social proof, as outlined by Robert Cialdini in his book "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion," states that people are more likely to adopt a particular behavior or belief if they see others doing the same. 

In one experiment, researchers recruited participants to eat at an unfamiliar restaurant. The participants were told that most customers enjoyed eating there and rated the food positively. When they arrived at the restaurant, they found a sign saying that most customers had enjoyed their experience. These prompts all positively influenced the participant's opinion of the restaurant before they even tried the food. 

How Can Social Proof Improve Your Reputation?

When people see that others are happy with your product or service, they're more likely to trust you and give you a chance. That's why social proof is essential for building a strong reputation.

When someone Googles your name, they're likely to see social proof in the form of online reviews, testimonials, and endorsements. If they see that you have a strong track record of satisfied customers, they're much more likely to click on your link and give you their business. On the other hand, if they see that you have few reviews or that your reviews are mostly negative, well, that’s not going to inspire a lot of confidence.

So, if you want to improve your reputation, use social proof to your advantage. Show potential customers that others have been happy with your products or services:

  • Leverage customer testimonials
  • Encourage social media reviews
  • Outreach to social media influencers and other media
  • Build trust and persuade people that you're worth doing business with

Authority

Authority figures can be persuasive because we tend to believe those with expertise or experience.

The authority principle states that people are more likely to follow instructions and advice from those they perceive as legitimate experts. Symbols of authority - titles, clothing, luxury items - increase compliance.

In one experiment, people were 34% more likely to follow medical instructions when the room contained posters of a doctor and medical certificates on the wall.

Even subtle authority cues sway behavior, so it's important not to exploit people's respect for authority with unethical tactics.

 

When trying to persuade someone, it helps to establish your authority on the subject matter.

You can establish your authority through: 

  • Displaying credentials, awards, and accolades on your website
  • Speaking as an expert in your niche
  • Regularly contributing guest posts to industry publications
  • Maintaining an active social media presence 
  • Earning a Wikipedia page 

Having these things shows that you know what you're talking about and are credible. As a result, people are more likely to listen to you and take you seriously. In turn, this can improve your reputation and make it easier to persuade others.

How Can Authority Improve Your Reputation?

One of the first steps to establishing authority is through your website. Before you start any outreach, ensure your website displays your awards, accolades, professional accomplishments, and experience in your field. This is also a great time to build your blog by posting helpful information. 

Once your owned media is in good shape, you can focus on outreach to strengthen your credibility further. This includes:

  • Influencer outreach
  • Guest posting
  • Wikipedia creation (if you are notable enough)

When people see that you have been widely cited in the media or have received prestigious accolades, they can be more confident that you know your stuff. Ultimately, authority can improve your reputation by making people more likely to listen to you and take your opinion seriously.

Liking

It's human nature to say yes to people we know and like.

Physical attractiveness, familiarity, compliments and positive associations can all increase liking and make persuasion more likely.

Research showed that negotiators who found common ground and shared personal information were 90% more likely to come to an agreement. They built rapport first before getting down to business. Another study revealed we're more influenced by people similar to us in background, personality, or lifestyle.

Have you ever been in a situation where you've had to ask someone for a favor?

Maybe you needed a ride to the airport or help moving some furniture. Regardless of the specifics, you were likely more successful in getting what you wanted if the person liked you. That's because people are more likely to comply with requests from individuals they like and admire. 

So, when trying to persuade someone, it pays to focus on building rapport and developing a relationship. Get on their wavelength and try to find common interests. When people like you, they're more likely to take your request seriously. 

How Can Liking Improve Your Reputation?

There’s no doubt liking can also improve your reputation. If people see that you're easy to get along with and that others like you, they'll be more likely to have a favorable opinion of you.

Liking and building rapport are all about establishing connections and finding commonalities with your clients, prospects, or other audiences. So next time you're trying to persuade someone, remember the power of liking and focus on building rapport.

That's why salespeople strive to be friendly, pay compliments, and establish connections. While getting people to like you isn't unethical in itself, overdoing flattery or deceitful affinity-building tactics should be avoided.

Scarcity

Scarcity is another key principle of persuasion because humans naturally desire things that are rare or in short supply.

When something is scarce, we perceive it as more valuable than when it's abundant.

 

This perception of scarcity can be harnessed to increase persuasion power.

Studies showed that limited supply labels increased perceived value and purchase intent. Words like "exclusive" and "limited edition" work well because they imply scarcity. Marketers must strike a balance between communicating genuine scarcity and manufacturing it.

How Can Scarcity Improve Your Reputation?

The principle of scarcity has been used in persuasion for centuries and can also be harnessed to improve your reputation. When people perceive you as being scarce, they will naturally view you as being more valuable. This boost in value can help to increase your persuasion power and make it easier for you to achieve your goals. 

Additionally, scarcity can help you to garner respect and admiration from others. By being rare or hard to find, you will stand out from the crowd and be seen as someone who is special and worth paying attention to. Of course, this only works if you actually are rare or in short supply. If you try to fake scarcity, people will see through it, and your reputation will most likely suffer. So take time to find that balance, and don’t overdo it. 

Ethics in Persuasion

While Cialdini's principles explain human behavior, individuals also consider personal ethics when deciding whether to apply them. Good persuasion involves using them judiciously, not bombarding people manipulatively.

The most ethical approach is to persuade others for mutual benefit - both parties come out ahead. Malicious manipulation or deceit for one's own gain only should be avoided. Persuasion should empower, not take advantage.

When ethics are top of mind, Cialdini's principles provide invaluable understanding. We can nurture reciprocity, uphold commitments, establish social proof, build likability, respect authority, and leverage scarcity - all while maintaining integrity.

Final Thoughts

Robert Cialdini's Six Principles of Persuasion - reciprocity, commitment, social proof, authority, scarcity and liking - explain what compels people to say yes. These principles are well-supported by studies in psychology and widely used in fields like marketing and sales.

Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion can help you: 

  • Create a more positive image for your brand
  • Increase trust
  • Inspire people to take action

While they provide a useful framework, it's important that persuasion be done ethically. Malicious manipulation should be avoided. With ethics in mind, however, understanding these principles leads to more positive influence and mutually beneficial outcomes. Whether in business, relationships or any domain, consider how to ethically apply these principles to persuade others.

Applying these six principles of persuasion is not a guarantee that you will close every sale, but it can help to increase trust and credibility with your audience. They can be powerful tools for improving brand awareness and building a more positive online reputation. Have you tried any of these persuasion techniques? Let us know in the comments!

 

About the author

Brianne Schaer is a Writer and Editor for Reputation X, an award-winning online reputation management services agency based in California. Brianne has more than seven years of experience creating powerful stories, how-to documentation, SEO articles, and Wikipedia content for brands and individuals. When she’s not battling AI content bots, she is cruising around town in her Karmann Ghia. You can see more of her articles here and here.

-


Free reputation consultation

call 1.800.889.4812

Call

1.800.889.4812
Talk with an expert
schedule a meeting

Set a Meeting

Schedule a Zoom meeting with an expert

Discuss your options with an expert. Get answers to questions about the best way to proceed, timeline, pricing, and much more.