Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mass Interpersonal Persuasion

In a new paper, BJ Fogg writes,

"A new form of persuasion emerged in 2007: I call it 'mass interpersonal persuasion' (MIP). This phenomenon brings together the power of interpersonal persuasion with the reach of mass media. I believe this new way to change attitudes and behavior is the most significant advance in persuasion since radio was invented in the 1890s."

That's a provocative way to begin an article!

So what is this "mass interpersonal persuasion?"

Fogg writes that "mass interpersonal persuasion" is best exemplified by ability of users in Facebook to distribute applications. He describes six components that were bundled together to create this new process:

  1. "Persuasive Experience: An experience that is created to change attitudes, behaviors, or both.
  2. Automated Structure: Digital technology structures the persuasive experience.
  3. Social Distribution: The persuasive experience is shared from one friend to another.
  4. Rapid Cycle: The persuasive experience can be distributed quickly from one person to another.
  5. Hugh Social Graph: The persuasive experience can potentially reach millions of people connected through social ties or structured interactions.
  6. Measured impact: The effect of the persuasive experience is observable by users and creators" (p. 4).
The primary example described in the paper the use of Facebook as a platform to share "web applications" among people on Facebook. Fogg and his colleagues conducted a class of students to create applications for Facebook that would be designed using feedback from Facebook users. The results were that the students were able to develop widely used applications. He reports that at the end of the course, over 16 million people had used student's applications and at one point over 1 million people each day used an application the students created.

So what does Fogg make of this?

He writes that the persuasive experience and automation has been put together before. Research in his lab and reported in his book, Persuasive Technology, has demonstrated that people's attitudes and behaviors can be changed using computer-guided systems. The new aspect created by social networking technologies is that these "automated persuasive activities" could be easily exchanged among a large, networked group of people. The last element of "measured impact" provides feedback to users and creators about which "persuasive experiences" are working.

Here are the questions I find myself asking:

1. Can you change behavior or attitudes with these efforts for the long-term or is this mostly a short-term behavior change strategy?

2. What particular persuasive techniques or strategies work in social networks?

3. How does network size affect the creator of the persuasive strategy?

4. How does mass interpersonal persuasion work within various age groups?

There are many interesting questions and issues to consider in regards to the components of "mass interpersonal persuasion."

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