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The Science Behind Influencing Behavior… on Facebook, Twitter, and More

Trying to influence human behavior is hard enough to do in person, but at least when you’re in person you can take advantage of bio feedback and body language to come up with a strategy. In the online world, though, trying to persuade someone to do something or get someone to like you is a whole different matter.

Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, or good old-fashioned email, online communications are tricky because you have to rely solely on text to strike an emotional chord and create rapport.

As some background, I invented two board games. One was acquired by Hasbro, the company behind such board game classics as Monopoly, Cranium, Trivial Pursuit, Battleship, etc. [Wall Street Journal]. As I was trying to bring the game to market (prior to Hasbro), I discovered an Internet persuasion method – utilizing Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) techniques (which played a role in Hasbro’s acquisition). (For those of you who don’t know, Neuro-Linguistic programming is a form of psychological hypnosis.)

Whether you’re trying to meet someone online, trying to pitch a journalist, or are attempting to get a job, these methods can be effective, and I urge you to give them a shot.

So where do you start in trying to create rapport with someone online?

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1. Mirror their language.

Keep this in mind as a universal truth – everyone’s favorite topic is themselves. So hold up a mirror to the person you’re speaking with and let them see that you’re just like them. Just as in in-person meetings, mirroring someone’s body language, if done naturally, can create strong rapport.

Using a similar method with words can be just as effective. This means use similar words to the ones that the people you’re communicating with use, make your format and paragraphs appear like theirs, but don’t be obvious. If you notice they obsessively use dashes, use some dashes, too. The trick here is to make it appear natural and make the person believe you are just like them.

2. Pay Attention to Detail.

Do the people you’re communicating with start a message with “Hi,” “Hey” or “Hello”? Pay attention to these details because they matter. You’re trying to speak on the same wavelength, so make sure when they read your message, you’re using similar words so they subconsciously think to themselves, “I think the same way.”

3. Categorize the person you’re speaking with.

This uses a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) technique, a form of psychological hypnosis. Let me explain.

You can categorize a person’s communication style according to four different categories:

  1. Visual
  2. Auditory
  3. Kinesthetic
  4. Digital

How do you know what person is in what category? Look at the words they use in their messages, tweets, emails, etc., and see which of the categories below they fit under.

Online Persuasion Thesaurus (PDF available to download)

  1. Visual people will use words like this:
    1. Focus
    2. Imagine
    3. Look
    4. See
    5. Show
    6. Picture
    7. Clearly
    8. Appear
  2. Auditory people will use words like this:
    1. Resonate
    2. Discuss
    3. Talk
    4. Sound
    5. Hear/heard
    6. Say
    7. Click
    8. Chat
  3. Kinesthetic people will use words like this:
    1. Feel
    2. Connect
    3. Touch
    4. Catch
    5. Fun
    6. Stumble
    7. Grasp
    8. Comfortable
    9. Reaching
  4. Digital people will use words like this:
    1. Know
    2. Describe
    3. Perceive
    4. Logically
    5. Figure out
    6. Consider
    7. Think
    8. Understand
    9. (Words in series that are listed from first to last)

People can certainly fit into more than one category, but they will let you know what they are by the words they use. But never assume if someone writes to you in a more auditory way one day, they’ll do the same the next day. Always pay attention, be prepared to adapt, and don’t make assumptions.

Observe Patterns: Observe the pattern in which people use the words in a sentence as well. Personally speaking, when I’m not sure how to categorize a person, I tend to default to digital or kinesthetic words. Take these examples:

Message

A person sends you this message: “Thanks for reaching out. Let’s chat soon.”

Analysis of Message

They used a kinesthetic word (“reaching”) in their first sentence, and an auditory word (“chat”) in their second sentence.

Response to Message

Follow this pattern with your response and change the words up using the Online Hypnosis Thesaurus above. You could reply with this:

“Thank you for being in touch (kinesthetic word). I’m available when you’re ready totalk (auditory word).”

Something to keep in mind, each category (visual, auditory, kinesthetic or digital) has stereotypical personality traits. Knowing these personality traits will help you create rapport or, in a worst-case scenario, break rapport.

1. Visual people:

  1. They do NOT like appointments changed on them once they’ve visualized the appointment in their mind. Give sufficient notice if you need to change an appointment.
  2. They do NOT like long stories with too many details. Give them the details that they are looking for. No more, no less.
  3. They LIKE to plan projects and will try to imagine how things will play out.

To stimulate responses, you can ask this:

  1. Does that look okay?
  2. Was that clear?
  3. Do you see what I mean?

2. Auditory people:

  1. They LIKE to talk about themselves and tend to be great writers and editors.
  2. They do NOT like to be pressured.
  3. They listen closely, which on the Internet means pay attention to the words that they use and the questions that they ask.
  4. They pay attention to words being misspelled and can’t stand grammatical errors.
  5. They tend to gravitate toward brainstorming sessions and they like telling stories.
  6. They often are also blunt or seem too direct.

To stimulate responses, you can ask this:

  1. How does that sound?
  2. Tell me about it.
  3. Does that ring a bell?

3. Kinesthetic People:

  1. They care a lot about loyalty and relationships.
  2. They usually provide more details than people ask for.
  3. Do NOT give them too many choices or overwhelm them with ideas.
  4. Keep things fun and creative.
  5. Make them feel included.

To stimulate responses, you can ask this:

  1. Would you be comfortable with that?
  2. Can you relate to that?
  3. Would that work for you?

4. Digital People:

  1. They enjoy solving complex problems.
  2. They can be spotted for constantly coming up with new strategies.
  3. They love details and can see all the details in the big picture.
  4. Like kinesthetic people, digital people are very loyal.
  5. They don’t let people into their inner circle right away.
  6. They like to be asked to do something, not told to do something.
  7. Like most people on first dates, they don’t volunteer information unless they are specifically asked.

To stimulate responses, you can ask this:

  1. Does that make sense?
  2. What do you think?
  3. What are your thoughts on that?

That being said, once you create online rapport, play it cool, seem interested, appear to have value that you can bring to their life, and make a suggestive hint at meeting. Make them ask you…

Influencing behavior through online communications will never be as easy as they are through face-to-face meetings, but these methods can give you an inside track.

And once you do meet up with your online target (assuming it’s for pleasure as opposed to business), you should bring with you the new ice breaker board game created by Neil Strauss and me called Who’s Got Game?

It has revealing personality tests, fun physical challenges, social intelligence questions, secret persuasion missions (Neil Strauss’ favorite), handwriting analysis and palm-reading games, partner-based conspiracies, and more.

This post first appeared on NeilStrauss.com.

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