Book Review: Webs of Influence: The Psychology of Online Persuasion by Nathalie Nahai
I read a lot of marketing books, but it’s rare to find one that so closely matches my own interests. Nathalie Nahai’s Webs of Influence focuses on the intersection of web design and persuasion psychology. It’s safe to say that if you like Neuromarketing and/or Brainfluence, you’ll find lots to like in Nathalie’s book too.
One of things I like most about Webs of Influence is that all of the discussions and recommendations are based on scientific research. It drives me crazy to read a business book and see statements like, “When meeting a client for the first time, wear a blue suit or shirt. Blue inspires trust,” when there’s no basis given for that “fact.” Nathalie’s describes the research, usually briefly, and provides a reference if you want to dig deeper.
Another handy aspect to the book is that each section closes with a “Make this work for you” discussion that emphasizes the takeaways and offers suggestions as to how they could be implemented on a variety of sites.
The first third of Webs is devoted to the customer, starting with his brain and how decisions are made, and finishing with differences between cultures as well as individuals. One section looks at the differences in time-frame-orientation between different cultures. Asian cultures tend to focus on the long term, while US/UK people have a much shorter focus. Latin American cultures aren’t homogeneous, and vary from long to short. These kinds of differences can make a big difference in what kind of copy and design elements will be effective.
The second section is Communicate Persuasively, and focuses on design and content, including colors, images, videos, and even social media.
The final section is Sell With Integrity, and includes a wide range of persuasion techniques. One chapter focuses on pricing and some of the quirky ways human brains interpret prices. Nathalie devotes a chapter to the behavior chain model developed by BJ Fogg and D. Eckles. This model is aimed at “persuasion over time,” beginning first with a discovery phase. Superficial involvement follows, and, if everything works, the process ends in true commitment. Nathalie does a nice job of translating the theory into practical suggestions.
Much of the research in the book may be known to devoted students of web persuasion, but Nathalie has unearthed plenty of lesser-known nuggets. And, she presents even familiar material in an engaging and actionable way.
Webs of Influence should be on every web marketer’s bookshelf. My virtual friend Mitch Joel of Twist Image said, “what [Nathalie] has to say should change the way you think about marketing, advertising and communications online.”
For more web psychology insights, including some research-based advice from Webs of Influence, check out my interview with Nathalie on the Brainfluence Podcast.