April 5, 2010
What is conformity? Well, basically it is the word that denotes the way a phenomenon blends with its surroundings. In this blog post, conformity will denote the way we as humans tend to be influenced by our surroundings in making our decisions. Those of you who are business owners considering social media, user generated content and link building, you should continue reading.
Those of you who are already a part of the online community should also continue reading cause I will talk about something that is highly important to me. Stand out. Dare to walk against the stream. Always assume that when there is a genuine feeling that there is a truth, there is almost always another truth that is contradictory, yet also correct, but from another perspective.
Business value of conformity
There are plenty of reasons to study how you can work with conformity in the way you develop your converting landing pages.
- How should you use user reviews
- How should you use user cases
- How should you co-brand your products in order to always be in fashion
- To what rules does your target group currently conform
- In what ways are you limited by your internal conformity
Start out by watching the video below.
As you can see, group opinion has an effect on the Parietal or the Occipital brain lobe. This means that there is a possibility that you can use group opinion to actually distort the perception of a fact. This means that people don’t only imagine or are influenced by creative thought. They actually use their rational parts of the brain to evaluate your product or service in a way that is a part of the group opinion.
Business downsides of conformity
The downside for the individual is that group opinion can sometime suppress our free will. We make decisions that we would not have done otherwise. However, as it is our rational self that has negotiated with the group and with our perception of your product, we will probably feel happy with our purchase. However, the variety and diversity of products and services might be limited as a result as a sufficiently large minority can repeat their opinion enough times for it to become the perceptive truth of the majority.
It might also limit your development, and it might limit the creation of new ideas within your company. So, how do you stay away from conformity yet utilize this knowledge in order to improve your business. Well, basically you should start rewarding diversity all through the line. Then you display conformity in times of decision making, such as on a converting landing page.
So what’s the best level of conformity for your company
The simplest case of helping people conform to a group is to display a top list. The top list should contain at least two different displays. One which shows the most popular purchase and one that shows the highest rated purchase. List the highest reviews on top and the lowest on the bottom. Then show the average in an good position. This will enforce peoples decisions.
Put it in copy such as “People who bought this product felt a sense of satisfaction within 3 hours of their purchase.”. Lame example, but you get the point. Put a time limit to the decision making process. That way you induce action there and then and not a wait and see.
The Social media natives and conformity
I sense that there is a willingness to conform to the goods of social media. There are rarely any facts published in blogs or in surveys. Most of what is being posted is regurgitated opinion. Look at the eMarketer or Nielsen. They present data as though it was fact, yet most of what they present is opinions by marketing directors or user surveys. They rarely ever present any test results or conversion figures. Opinion, not action is determining most of the agenda in the social media debate.
That’s why people such as Brian Solis and Seth Godin have managed to end up on top of everyone’s mind when trying to find the answer to “why social media”. They to can conceal opinion delivered as though it is facts. Brian Solis through his endless talk about optimizations, whilst really talking about planning. Seth Godin when he talks about tribes, whilst never showing any empirical support to his opinions. And as long as it is not proven to be correct, I will continue assuming that they are wrong.
The same goes for smaller Social Media communities
In Sweden, where I am from, there are about 9 million inhabitants. About 300 000 of those people are social media consultants of some kind (opinion, not fact). Now, although that is an exaggeration, the true numbers are staggering. However, there is a high level of conformity within this subculture. There are a few voices that tend to lead the debate, and the rest regurgitate what the leaders say. I agree as well, but the “roof is very low” (a Swedish expression when it is difficult to voice a deviating opinion). I sometimes talk myself into becoming the nemesis, I want to find the hole in the argumentation.
But, as long as they stay on the road of discussing philosophy, there is no correct answer. There are only opinions. Considering I only have one set of argument skills when debating (not the best one… I get rude and angry), I have so far not engaged in trying to break the high fives going on.
However, there is a question that is burning my head from the inside out and that is “how something this new can lack variety to such an extent that almost everyone seems to know what’s right and what’s wrong”?
But then again, conformity might also be good in the beginning
Well, I might just be a negative, but there are so many reasons in which we should break out of the conformity we are currently in and join another movement, then get our followers to conform to the new set of rules of engagement. And yes there is always a reason to question the status quo, but there are also several reasons why not to question once you believe the “lone nut” is correct. Conformity as it happens. And perhaps this is exactly what it means.
Although this might sometimes break into what is seen as the uncommon and the movement towards improvement might not last, the situation in itself might lead to a break in the conformity you are currently being limited by. Dare to stand out, but more importantly, dare to follow those who stand out if you believe they are right.
Cause I am not saying that it is not okay to follow. That’s how we structure society and it would be difficult to work otherwise. All I am saying is that when the lone nut stands out, then try to separate yourself from the group for a moment to reflect on whether or not your opinion is indeed the opinion of the group or the lone nut with the idea to break the conformity.
I also want you to have a look at yourself in your current situation and think back in time what it was that convinced you that social media is the solution to world hunger (yeah.. metaphor). Was it the repetition of opinions concealed as facts, or was it your gut feeling to follow the lone nut?
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