Applying the Psychology of Persuasion to Community Management: Q&A with Nathalie Nahai

By 
David Spinks
May 19, 2014
January 29, 2024

When I first learned of Nathalie Nahai's work on the psychology of community management, I knew we had to get her to come out to share her work at CMX Summit.

Our conversations about how to build community for business so often revolve around tools, tactics and metrics. Less common is a discussion around the very thing that makes our jobs exist, the human mind.

By leveraging our understanding of how human beings think and why we've naturally formed communities since the beginning of our existence,  we can be much more thoughtful, strategic community builders in our everyday work.

Nathalie Nahai, author of  Webs of Influence: The Psychology of Online Persuasion, will be taking the stage at CMX Summit to dive into the psychology of persuasion and how community builders can apply it to their work. In the meantime, we asked Nathalie a few questions to give us a taste of her work.

1. What does a web psychologist do?

Well, as I made up the term in 2011 and am the only one out there with this title, I can only tell you what I do! I read, distill and make accessible the myriad research papers and studies being conducted in the various fields of online behavior. As a consultant, I help businesses understand how our online environments influence our actions online, and I advise on how to use web psychology to design persuasive experiences, websites and marketing content.

In terms of the day-to-day, much of my time is spent delivering training to design, marketing and e-commerce teams, and I also give a lot of talks around the world on the subject. I write a monthly column for Marketing Week and also host a podcast on the psychology of persuasion, called "The Good, The Bad and The Dirty."

2. How can community builders apply psychology to their work?

A strong place for community builders to start is by understanding the psychography of the individuals they're targeting. They need to become familiar with the psychological principles underpinning the behaviors of their community members.

This means understanding:

  1. Universal psychological traits (such as the need to belong, social validation and social proof)
  2. Culture-specific traits (your country, sub-culture, etc.)
  3. Individual differences (personality traits, age, gender, etc.)

If you can ground yourself in this foundation of knowledge then you can start to make more informed, strategic decision about how to attract, incentivize and retain a strong community.

3. What's exciting to you about the direction the web and technology is going?

For me it has to be the fact that the more tech advances, the more intuitive it becomes to use - I'm excited to see gestural interfaces and wearable tech, though I'm concerned as to the invasion of personal privacy that this may well entail.

4. What scares you about it?

I think that, after our initial excitement where we all threw caution to the wind, we're starting to see a more measured, conscious approach to how we might use technology so that it serves us as a tool, rather than our tech dominating us (through addictive habit-forming behaviors that simply don't serve us).

I'm also concerned about the possibility that we are rapidly approaching a point in time in which to be un-tracked, or anonymous, becomes such a rare commodity that it's the exception rather than the rule. For me, personal freedom is hugely important, and so is the ability to fall off the grid, unplug, and live a private life.

5. What does community mean to you?

It means a sense of belonging, having inspiring, exciting and dynamic relationships with people all over the world. It's about a feeling of localized belonging, across a global network of amazing people.

6. What's one simple piece of advice that you'd give to a community builder?

Start with your psychology, and with your core values: What moved you to build this community? What kind of people would you like to attract? What's your vision?

--Photo cred: 20to30

David Spinks
Founder of CMX, VP of Community at Bevy
May 19, 2014
January 29, 2024

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