The Influence of the Crowd

As I filled out my application to join an adult girl scout troop, Troop Pearl, I thought about what an effective manipulation strategy these women had used on me. Last week I taught a workshop about Influence and reviewed several ways you could subtly or not so subtly influence others. Then I went to the first ever Troop Pearl event and I watched a master at work. Coconino County Supervisor Liz Archuleta hosted the event in her art gallery downtown. By the end of the night, almost every women in the room had paid $75 and been pinned as an official member of Troop Pearl. Most importantly, Liz had used her powers of influence for good, to create something beautiful and powerful for this community of women. I had been persuaded to do more for my community and I had no regrets!

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Here’s are the powers of influence I witnessed:

Reciprocation

Liz provided a great spread of food and wine, including Girl Scout cookies! Free food and alcohol is always a good way to get people feeling generous. This is why stores offer free samples and charities send you thank you gifts before you have donated. Receiving something for free make you feel obligated to give something in return.

Commitment and Consistency

Kerry Blume led us in an introduction exercise in which we each shared what we wanted for girls in our community. After the introductions, we were given the opportunity to make a difference in girls’ lives by joining Troop Pearl. Since we had each just spoken about how much it mattered to us to help girls become strong women, we were psychologically bound to follow through and be consistent with that value by joining the effort.

Social Proof

Probably the most commonly understood form of influence, social proof refers to our need to do what others are doing. In particular, if we see that other people are “like us” we want to be more like them by following the trends or going along with the crowd. Here’s a famous clip from Candid Camera that shows how powerful the rule of social proof can be.

Liking

As mentioned above, we connect most with others who are “like us”. Therefore, if you are trying to influence someone, it is important to show them how similar you are to them. At the Troop Pearl event, the introduction exercise helped us feel connected by shared values and goals for helping girls in the community.

Authority

Everyday we defer to authority figures to make choices for us. We pick toothpaste that is recommended by doctors or look to models and actresses for trends in what to wear. Troop Pearl was hosted by County Supervisor Liz Archuleta who is a well known leader in our community. She spoke from a place of authority on how to lead and make a difference on a local level. The meeting was also attended by other prominent leaders such as Mayor Coral Evans, Kerry Blume (former CEO of United Way), and Lisa Campos (Director of Athletics at the University).

Scarcity

If you were on the fence about joining Troop Pearl that evening, you got the final push through the knowledge that if you joined that night you would be pinned with the inaugural group of members. This was a one time opportunity – a limited time offer! Sure, you could join at the next meeting in a few months, but then you would not be part of the founding group. With ongoing community building work it is often difficult to create a sense of urgency at any single point in time. I was impressed by how the pinning ceremony created a milestone within a larger movement.

Well done Liz and the rest of the founding group of Troop Pearl! I am proud to be a member and hope to be able to influence others for good in the future in such a masterful way.

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