The Surprising Conversion Power of Priming and Conformity

The Surprising Conversion Power of Priming and Conformity

Reader Comments (32)

  1. So would the questions at the end of these blog posts be considered priming since they influence readers to comment? Great post, btw.

    PS: As an Authority user, it would be nice to automatically be logged into the blog to post comments. I assume these related-sites aren’t sharing the same user profiles.

      • Yes, I understand that. Which is good for guest commenters. But for those of us who read the blog all the time and are already logged into Authority or My Copyblogger, I think more people would be encouraged to comment on blog posts if it didn’t require all the extra info (which Copyblogger already has).

        Think of it like Facebook Comments. If you’re already logged into Facebook, you can comment on any website that uses Facebook comments simply by posting. Commenting on Copyblogger is already super easy for guests, but a single user profile would make it a little more convenient for people already in the Copyblogger ecosystem.

        Attaching a nice avatar (like you guys have) would be cool, too!

  2. I had an old sales job where we referred to this as “planting the seed.” We looked at it more on a micro level — priming early in a sales pitch, akin to a waiter mentioning dessert specials while taking an order — but this macro, longer-term view you’ve described here works great too. There is nothing wrong with letting people know what their options are. Too often we cost ourselves conversions simply by not remembering to prime and plant the seed.

  3. Priming works well in the life/critical illness insurance business. I’ve seen sales rep ask some pretty blunt questions like…

    Would you be financially stable if your husband died tomorrow? What if he didn’t die but couldn’t make a living because of his critical illness?

    By planting the seed you get them thinking.

  4. One of the subtle ways blogs and other online sites use priming is to show the number of subscribers on their main page. While this is technically a little different than priming, it still serves to ask the question, “x number of people have subscribed, are you planning to?” Or, “Look at all these people who have subscribed. Should you?” That question can take on many forms but I feel like it is a form of priming.
    Thanks for the great article. I wonder how I can apply this as a fiction author.

    • No, subscriber counts still falls into the social proof/conformity category … however, it would interesting to see if you could boost subscribes by asking “Over 2,200 people have subscribed to my blog. Have you?”

  5. Ha, this is brilliant Demian, and now that you mention it, I see it all around me… no wonder the car dealership where I bought my last car keeps phoning me to ask if I’m planning on buying a new car soon… LOL

    Great examples, and I can certainly see how this would work… on me… 😉


  6. I love the concept behind the “mere measurement effect.” A lot of times a simple reminder is necessary for well-meaning people who want to take action, but forget to. I tend to be one of those people more often than not (though it’s not something I’m crazy proud of). In hindsight, I’ve been primed into taking action many, many times. Great piece.

    • I absolutely agree, Justin. A quick email asking someone how their testing of your product is going or a phone call reviewing the past year with a subscriber can prod them to make a purchase they otherwise would have forgotten about. It is absolutely crucial to not pressure them, obviously, but -like you- have found that I tend to forget things I really wanted to do because life gets in the way.

  7. Another great post! What can you tell us about critical mass? I’m a Christian who blogs as an ally to LGBTQ. I see support growing, and it seems that the more walls of condemnation break down, the faster they break down. Any thoughts? Thanks!

  8. Thanks for contributing this wonderful post: it was a pleasure to read it.

    There is a fine line between manipulation and encouragement, which you have spelled out in your thought-provoking article.

    A waiter sharing information can be confused with a waiter making a sales pitch to win over customers and make more money for the restaurant and for himself or herself in terms of tips.

    In political science they have a theory too, that there is a difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter. How you perceive that individual depends on which side of the fence you are on. It can be subjective and relative and yet we strive to value objectivity. Have a good one.

  9. I must be the only person who would have answered this question differently:

    “Hi, I’m with Gallup Research. Can I ask you a quick question?”

    “No,” you say as you shut the door and lock it.

    It’s fascinating to me that priming and social proof actually work because they have the opposite effect on me. I do understand that most people are susceptible to them I just can’t relate.

  10. The first part of the blog reminds me of the Jimmy Kimmel segments where someone goes out and ask people their opinion on event that hasn’t happened yet. There are quite a few that actually give an opinion. I can guess that quite a few of them do it in order to conform.

    Priming and conforming are indeed a powerful combination.

  11. Hi Demian,

    This is such a great post. Thank you very much for sharing this. I have learned something new today. Thanks to your post! Mere-measurement is very interesting and I like the concept behind the mere measurement effect.


  12. This was interesting information – thank you.
    I have to say, though, that my reply to the last two people who knocked on my door was, “I don’t want to talk to you.” One was taking a political poll and the other wanted to give me a religious flyer and asked if I thought corruption in the world would ever end.

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