Marketing Bootcamp

The Psychology of Influencer Marketing

The Psychology of Influencer Marketing
Image credit: Damien Roué | Flickr

Editors’ inboxes are daily flooded with marketing pitches: "Our product is unique!" "Our service is innovative!" "Our [fill in the blanks] will rock your world!"

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There are so many pitches to choose from. So, the question becomes: What causes an editor to show interest? What moves one pitch to the top of the pile? The answer can be found in psychology. Fractl collaborated with BuzzStream to apply psychological theories to the campaign outreach process. And some interesting results emerged. Below are four key takeaways to give you a more persuasive edge when you work on your next pitch.

1. People want choices.

We are offered endless options daily; even something as simple as a cup of coffee comes in small, medium and large, with additional options for cream and sugar. Researchers at Columbia and Stanford universities found that the attention of 40 to 60 percent of their study participants could be captured when they were offered a variety of options versus only one. And consumers were 10 times more likely to make a purchase when provided with a limited number of options versus a more expansive number. These same principles can be applied during the outreach process. Some helpful tips:

  • Offer a choice of assets: Be sure that your content can be implemented in multiple formats so that you are offering more than one option (examples include static infographics and dynamic visualizations, such as animated .gifs or videos).

  • Encourage flexibility by providing raw data and including two or three suggestions for a story angle.

  • If you have multiple campaigns in production, include a brief description of any that might be relevant to an editor’s beat, to encourage collaboration.

2. Overcome communication barriers.

During the outreach process, it is incredibly rare to communicate in person with someone interested in your pitch. Researchers at Northwestern University School of Law found that online communication has a limiting effect on persuasion but that understanding the theory of confirmation bias can give your pitch a more persuasive edge by reaffirming an editor’s existing ideas.

Confirmatory bias is the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions, but this tendency may lead to statistical errors. In a study on the subject, researchers at New York University found that participants presented with information that confirmed their own beliefs were more likely to agree with and positively review material. This same principle can be applied when pitching: To increase the likelihood of placement for your campaign, make sure you offer an editor content that reaffirms his or her audience’s ideas.

Related: Rookie PR Mistakes: Why Email Blasting and Harassing Editors are Major No No's

3. Tap into emotions.

Making an emotional or personal connection with an editor may be the biggest factor that determines whether or not your content will resonate. In a previous study, Fractl asked 60 viewers to list an emotion activated by a set of images shown. The researchers then categorized the results using Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotion. The findings revealed that positive emotions resulted more consistently than did negative emotions in highly viral campaigns. Viral success was still possible, however, when negative emotions ignited a sense of anticipation and surprise.

This same idea can be applied within your pitch. When offering content, expand on an emotional response a reader might have. For instance, the data might reaffirm something an editor already believes -- an easy, positive connection. Or the data might go against a norm, likely leading to a negative response containing the necessary “shock” value.

4. Keep in mind that you want to sell your content.

Look at editors as potential consumers of a product -- the product in this case being your content. A quick lesson in AIDA can help you figure out the best way to maximize your placement rate, or your version of sales. AIDA is an acronym commonly used to describe the linear progression of persuasive techniques in sales. Here’s how you can apply those techniques during your campaign outreach process:

Attention – Gain an editor’s attention through an intriguing but brief subject line containing 35 characters or less.

Interest – Attract interest through original data and unique visuals.

Desire Trigger a desire by including emotional content that most closely reaffirms your audience’s existing beliefs.

Action – Be sure that the end of your pitch includes an explicit call-to-action.

The biggest takeaway from our research? Basic theories of psychology, applied to pitches, can help your promotions team optimize its placement rates. Numerous conscious and subconscious thoughts affect our daily decisions, and by understanding these theories, you can boost editors' interest in your content.

Related: How These 10 Marketing Campaigns Became Viral Hits