Article by Aaron Gaul, UrbanTrans North America
You have this great online tool that helps plan, track, and create transportation behavior change. Now, you just need to get people to use it. Tough gig.
Not necessarily, if you understand how to harness “influence”. To understand influence, you must understand Cialdini. Let me explain. The Principles of Influence (aka Principles of Persuasion) were created by Robert Cialdini, Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University. He published them in 1984 in his book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.” And ever since, Dr. Cialdini continues as a leader in analyzing how we can influence human behavior. Cialdini identified the six principles through experimental studies of marketing, psychology, economics, anthropology, and social science. The principles were also developed based on extensive research of what he calls “compliance professionals”. This even included some undercover work in some compliance professional industries. Example industries include door to door sales, car dealers, fund raisers, recruiters, advertisers, and marketers. What do they have in common? They are all jobs that have a goal to persuade/influence.
Back to RideAmigos and how to apply influence for your program. The six principles are explained below and provide an example of how RideAmigos can help support that principle.
Across all cultures, eras, ages, races, and sexes— reciprocity is a unique human attribute that exists and has existed universally. According to social sciences, humans have been built and taught to “treat others as they are treated”. Therefore by tapping into this natural instinct, we can influence people to conduct tasks or behaviors they typically would not—with one simple caveat. They must receive something in return for a benefit.
RideAmigos’ Incentive Platform is the foundation for the principle of reciprocity. Simple to use forms allows you to build, customize, and update your incentives whenever you’d like. By providing a direct benefit and/or chance for a benefit, a commuter will have a reason to conduct a task they would not otherwise (i.e. telling a stranger how they get to and from work). The key is to understand, test, and measure what makes for an effective incentive. Use the tips from this previous article to ensure your incentives are working for your program.
2. Commitment (and Consistency)
Cialdini’s work has shown that a human has a very deep desire to keep their life harmonious or consistent. Based on this need, once a person commits to do something they are far more inclined to actually follow through.
This is a simple example of how to ramp up your fresh new incentive that you started building in principle #1. To add commitment and consistency, we simply need to think through our language choices. In this case, in the incentive description field, we conclude the brief incentive explanation with a request of commitment. By simply reading the words “Will you take part in March Commuter Madness and log your trips?!” The reader must answer to themselves. That internal dialogue of “yes, I’m in!” will work to increase the participation rate of your next incentive. Sounds too simple, right? Give it a try.
Humans provide people in positions of authority (or perceived authority) with an unusually high degree of respect and trust. A simple example: why do people often say how they are attracted to people in uniforms? It is because the uniform represents an authoritative, respected figure to that person.
In the world of TDM and RideAmigos, the most prevalent and accessible authoritative figure is the employer. Create incentives and challenges that tap into those authority figures and your ability to influence participation will be improved.
For the example new incentive, we’ve added a strong dose of authority by repeating the employer’s name (Company X) and adding the following “COMPANY X is committed to encouraging our employees to find the most sustainable and convenient mode possible.”
In short, this principle is all about time, or lack thereof. Scarcity says that things are more attractive when their availability is limited. Humans are persuaded to act when the window to do so is constrained. In marketing, “limited time only”, “don’t miss this sale”, “this weekend only”, “while supplies last”, and other messaging inundate consumers on a daily basis. These are all examples of scarcity and tapping into the human desire to not miss out.
With the example new incentive, the RideAmigos platform forces us to build in scarcity with beginning and end dates. Couldn’t be clearer, right? Wrong. Be sure to build in enough scarcity. Too short and people won’t have time to learn about the incentive. Too long and people will deprioritize the task for more time-sensitive opportunities in their lives. So be sure to build the right amount of scarcity to make the campaign worth it but also tapping into this key motivator.
5. Social Proof
This principle deals with a human’s uncertainty. Social scientists have proven that people fundamentally want to “fit in”. The idea of fitting in has a surprisingly strong connection to our place of employment. Studies have shown that we are more likely to dress similarly, use similar lingo, and be the same weight as our coworkers over our friends and spouses. This showcases a clear opportunity for social proof in commuting. If I want to fit in at work, I need to see other people are getting to work using transit, carpooling, biking, walking, etc.
For the RideAmigos platform this means creating opportunities to showcase social proof. There are a number of ways to use the data generated from RideAmigos to tap into social proof. But within RideAmigos’ functionality there are also plenty of opportunities for a system admin to generate social proof. This includes better utilization of the leaderboard function. The standard leaderboard is a solid way to create a benchmark of social proof, but the reality is that most people won’t know who the individuals are on the leaderboard. So why not take it a step further and create challenges within just a single worksite? This way the leaderboard can be customized to tap into the co-workers natural desire to “fit in”. Participants will want to shine amongst their work peers and generate ongoing dialogue about who is winning.
Cialdini found that humans are influenced more by people we like versus people we don’t like. Sounds pretty basic. However, likability is very hard to concisely define. It can be found (or not found) in nearly all attributes of your commute programs. The key is to understand that you, yourself, don’t need to be liked by each participant on your RideAmigos system. But it does showcase the importance of providing an environment, dialogue, and opportunity that participants will “like”.
How can RideAmigos help increase your likeability? I would off the cuff that their continual focus on platform improvements/enhancements is key for your participants to like your program today and tomorrow. But that answer doesn’t help you. When it comes to the user, you can provide likeability through constantly updating your incentives and testing new ideas. While perhaps your organization received a free gift certificate to a local restaurant to use as an incentive, does your target market want to reciprocate with that as a gift? By simply asking yourself if your target market “likes” that restaurant, you’ll have a much better sense of the value of that free incentive. You might end up realizing that spending your own budget on incentives is a much more efficient method to get your participants to like your program. The key is to understand what your target audience likes, and that is often a much tougher question to answer.