What can you tell our readers about your new book Webs Of Influence?
Webs Of Influence uncovers the secret strategies that make us click online.
Whether you want to boost your business, reach more people, or simply understand how to engage more persuasively, this book provides invaluable insights into how to build your brand, customer base and profits online.
The explosion of the online marketplace has offered British businesses of all shapes and sizes a truly global audience to interact with, but many are struggling to seize fully the opportunities on our virtual doorstep. This is especially true when you consider that everything from the colour of your website to the promotional images you display can affect the delicate online relationship between your company and your consumers.
By learning and applying the science of persuasion, however, businesses can fully understand how their target markets think and can proactively optimise their web and social media presence to influence brand perception and consumer behaviour – the world over.
This book draws from the worlds of cross-cultural psychology, neuroscience and behavioural economics and is packed with the latest techniques, big ideas, and fascinating developments in the world of online persuasion - all wrapped around three key principles: know who you’re targeting, communicate persuasively, and sell with integrity.
Written and illustrated with the general reader in mind, Webs Of Influence explains the theory behind the practice, and outlines the steps to success, backed up with a wealth of evidence-based research and real-world case studies.
Whether you’re a business-owner, designer, or consultant, if you’re serious about succeeding online, this book is for you.
You are a Web Psychologist, so tell us about what that job entails.
My job involves two main roles – one as an educator, and the other as a consultant.
Since coining the term Web Psychology in 2011, I spend much of my time delivering lectures and seminars on the subject at universities, business schools and conferences, both in the UK and internationally. I also run a bi-monthly blog at the web psychologist, and write guest articles for national publications such as the BBC, Web Designer Magazine, and the Guardian.
On a day-to-day level, my job entails much more of a hands-on approach. I work predominantly with larger businesses, applying and testing evidence-based principles to psychologically optimise their online engagement. This is a broad area, which can involve anything from incentivising members within an organization to adopt a new intranet system, to using psychological principles to design more persuasive content and platforms online.
In a nutshell, I provide businesses with a psychology-based process they can use to evolve their online strategies for deeper customer engagement.
You have a background in psychology, tell us a little bit more about how you have got to where you are today and when did your interest in psychology begin?
It all started at college. I was already taking A-levels in art, English literature, social biology and physics, but when I came across the subject of psychology I was so intrigued that I dropped my biology class and immediately switched over.
My passion really ignited because of one remarkable woman - my teacher, Annette Vergette - who really brought psychology alive. She was passionate and lived what she preached, using psychology principles in her classes to help us study smarter and achieve our goals. It was the first time I had seen the impact you can have when you apply psychological principles in the real world, and I was hooked.
Upon leaving college I dived straight into a Psychology BSc, and (having had a passion for art since I was a child) went on to study Fine Art at Central St Martins in London. It was during this time that I started gigging - I was classically trained in violin from the age of 3 to 18, and had started teaching myself guitar at 16. I ended up recording a couple of albums in the US (Atlanta, Georgia), and it was at this point that I thought it would be smart to learn HTML and Dreamweaver, just so that I could design my own website without having to rely on anyone else. After a while other people started asking me to design their sites, and so I fell into the role of freelance designer.
It wasn’t until October 2010 that the idea of Web Psychology was conceived. I’d been thinking about applying for a web-design role at an agency, when a good friend of mine, Richie Manu (also a designer and now an international lecturer), introduced me to the digital, tech and entrepreneurial community in East London. It was then that I met Araceli Camargo, founder of The Cube (a fantastic community and co-working space) who asked me to run a lecture on the psychology of innovation.
That was the spark that got me thinking about how else psychology could be applied, and, assuming that someone must already have put the two together, I set about looking for a book on the subject of Web Psychology.
It didn’t exist, and so I decided to write it.
A whole year’s worth of research, four months of writing for 6-7 hours a day and a whole lot of illustrating and pixel-pushing later, and the book was born.
Who has had the greatest influence on your own work and development?
I would have to say that there are two great influences from which I have gained inspiration: Social Psychologist Robert Cialdini, and Nobel Prize winning behavioural economist, Daniel Kahneman. The first, for his groundbreaking work in the psychology of persuasion; and the second, for his game-changing contribution to our understanding of human behavior, and his insights into why we so often behave in irrational ways.
If you want to know how to be more influential, and you’re fascinated by the inner workings of the human mind, theirs are the two books you simply can’t do without: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. R. Cialdini (Harper Collins, 2006) and Thinking, fast and Slow. D. Kahneman (Penguin, 2012)
You have a large online following so how have you acquired this?
It may not sound sexy, but acquiring a genuine, engaged and (eventually) large online following starts with you. You have to understand who you are, what core values you hold dear, and why you want to create a following in the first place.
I’m a firm believer that all good online relationships are based in authenticity – if you bring into your online relationships the same qualities that you value offline, those of warmth, respect and trust, your following will grow organically from strong roots, and will weather the inevitable storms that cross your path.
Even though it’s important, it’s not just about emotional connection. Sharing information you find inspiring will generate interest and attract like-minded people into your sphere, until eventually a community starts to form. There are three essential tips I’d recommend, whether you’re just starting out or you simply want to engage with people at a deeper level: be authentic, own up when you make a mistake, and relate to people personally, where possible. We all want to feel valued and appreciated, so if you can nurture your online relationships you’ll naturally attract and grow a strong following.
I must add though, that when it comes to online influence it’s not just about the number of people you have in your network – it’s about your ability to connect with the followers you do have that’s important. Numbers can be gamed, authenticity and a sense of real community, can’t – it takes time for a reason, and that reason is because valuable relationships require effort and commitment.
Why is it important for businesses to optimize their online engagement?
If you don’t understand what makes your customers click, how can you engage with them in any meaningful way?
We are increasingly living our lives online, and businesses are having to fight harder than ever before to attract and keep new clients. Customers these days will form first and often long-lasting impressions about a company based on their website and social media presence. As this has become a replacement shop-front, vital for establishing trust and putting new customers at ease, it’s crucial that you make that initial visit (and interaction) count.
If you understand how certain subconscious drivers shape our behaviours online, you can use these to design persuasive strategies, platforms and content to gain more customers, boost your reputation and compete more effectively in a crowded market.
From your website or app to your customer service and social media, any online strategy you care to name should be based in a solid understanding of Web Psychology. It's no longer good enough to just rely on your best guess and expect to succeed. Any decision you make about your online strategy, presence and design is meaningless in the absence of a wider, psychological context.
Not understanding the need for this process is like thinking you can go clay-pigeon shooting blindfolded. Sure, you might hit something, but wouldn't you rather see what you're aiming at?
Tell us about a normal day in your world.
No day is the same as the next, and I split my time between consulting (usually with large businesses) and lecturing (at universities, conferences and business schools).
Most days I’m working on client projects - researching their target customer base, recommending which psychological principles to apply where, and testing these principles in action to develop their strategies accordingly.
On a normal consultancy day I usually get up around 7.30am, make some coffee and check my emails, then go about my morning ritual of skimming through my favourite psych blogs to set up my tweets for the day. I start work around 9am, which often involves auditing clients’ websites and design collateral, and I’ll break for lunch around 1.15pm to go for a walk, play some guitar, and grab a sandwich from our local deli.
I start work again around 2pm and work through till 5.30pm, writing reports on recommended actions and conducting any further research that’s relevant to the project at hand. After work I’ll either go out with friends for dinner and drinks, or cook dinner at home and watch Dexter on the sofa with my beau.
Even though every day, week and month is different, I tend to have a natural rhythm that works for me and love the variety and stimulation that comes with knowing I could be working on something completely different in a month’s time.
What is next for you?
That’s a tricky one! I’d love to go over and work in the USA, as well raise greater awareness about Web Psychology in the media so that all kinds of business can benefit from this approach.
I’m also a strong believer in education, and would love to get involved in helping aspiring entrepreneurs to learn how to pull in knowledge and expertise from disparate fields of study.
Innovation comes from taking creative and cognitive risks, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and connecting with people who challenge your way of thinking. I’ve been lucky enough to find a community that does this for me, and want to make that kind of enriching experience more accessible to those who need it most.
What is the easiest way of establishing that a business is not using their online presence to its greatest potential?
If the business has a website and social media channels but isn’t generating any real results from them – i.e. no traffic, no followers, no sales – you know there’s something seriously wrong.
Most businesses don’t have this kind of extreme problem, so for the majority of us the clues often lie in the volume of visitors who view more than one page when they reach your website (known in SEO parlance as ‘bounce rate’), and the type of social media chatter around your brand: how many people are talking about you, what they’re saying, and how you’re responding to them.
You don’t need to have a huge customer base to be successful online (after all, ‘success’ will mean something different from one business to the next), but whatever customers you do have, if they’re not coming back to you for repeat business, or they’re not recommending you to their peers, it can be a sign that you’re not using your online presence to its greatest potential.
Female First Lucy Walton