Using Dynamics of Social Groups to Build Customer Loyalty

Continuing our discussion of social influence and how ideas spread, today we look at Dynamic Social Impact Theory (DSIT), a followup to Bibb Latané’s original social impact theory work. Latané’s DSIT looks at how ideas spread through groups, especially since groups are not static audiences that never change. In DSIT, there are four behavioral characteristics that groups exhibit which you can take advantage of as a marketer and communicator:

  1. Consolidation: Over time, opinions, attitudes, and actions of a group tend to become more uniform. In cases of differing opinions, the majority opinion spreads to the minority.
  2. Clustering: Overtime, people interact with clusters of other group members who share similar opinions, and interact less with people who have different opinions. Minority opinions are thus preserved and clusters of people who share a minority opinion may eventually leave the group and form their own group.
  3. Correlation: Over time, individuals’ opinions on a variety of issues converge and correlate, even about issues that are not discussed by the group.
  4. Conservation: A degree of diverse opinion is conserved in the group if minority opinion members cluster together or if majority influence is weak. However, the larger the majority opinion or more isolated the minority members are from each other, the less diversity of opinion is conserved.

How do these principles apply to your social media marketing, PR, and communications? Think of these four characteristics as ways you can help to get your ideas to spread. Let’s say you’ve got an audience of mostly unfavorable opinion about your brand, products, or services. Conservation means that there will still be some diversity of opinion, which means that there are still some diehard fans in the crowd. Find them and isolate them from the majority opinion! Doing so will promote clustering and protect the minority opinion. From there, determine what it is that those fans still love about you and determine how easy that will be to spread to the next cluster of people who are neutral in feeling about you. Once you’ve acquired and clustered the fans and the neutrals (winning them over), you can march on the majority opinion with a significant minority that you’ve strengthened and get your point of view across.

Let’s say, as a different example, that you have a loyal audience, a loyal following, perhaps a loyal customer base. In order to strengthen the opinion of you (and insulate your audience from competitors), you need to follow the same DSIT principles but reversed from the example above. Create a customer community, whether it’s a Facebook group, a LinkedIn group, your own customer portal, etc. to provide as many interactions and as many touch points for that audience to reach each other. Remember based on the original theory that the more people concentrated together, the stronger the influence generated. Provide as many unifying themes as possible so that similar opinions can mesh faster, and make sure to provide social outlets so that group members can share other passions, interests, and ideas. The goal is to use the DSIT principles to consolidate positive opinion in your favor and make it self-reinforcing.

Public relations and social media can be powerful tools to repair your brand or increase its strength. Pair the tactics you already know with dynamic social impact theory for maximum impact!

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