Respect my Authoritay! How Authority Helps you Convert

The word “authority” may instantly make you think of a boss like figure, celebrity, or Dr. Oz.

If you’re like me (and awesome), then you will probably think Cartman from South Park:

Southpark - Authority

But what does Authority actually mean?

Authority is the act of being persuaded by others who seem more legitimate then you. They seem more authoritive because of celebrity status, credentials, wealth, status or other various reasons.

Shock Therapy Never Hurt No One.. Errr…

People will tend to obey authority figures, even if they are asked to perform objectionable acts. That’s exactly what Stanley Milgram learned after conducting a study back in 1961 where he measured the willingness of participants to perform acts that conflicted with their own judgement. He was hoping to uncover the reason why so many were willing to play a part in torture during Hilter’s regime:

The result? Surprisingly people were willing to shock a complete stranger even though they knew it was horrible.

Even though people could see that someone was in “pain” on the other end of the glass, they still performed the shock 60% of the time. 

What does that say about us? 

We can be compelled VERY easily… and we have a lot more authoritative power than we think. 

How Does Authority Work on the Web?

Newsflash: You’re experiencing it! 

Just reading this blog may make me seem smarter than you (hah. jokes on you!). The fact that I may speak at a conference or hold a certain position in your eyes may make me seem more important than I actually am. 

“Well that’s silly” you say, “You’re a bum! I totally don’t believe anything you say! I’m even going to stop reading this JUST to prove it to you”

Ahem… welcome back.

Now, think of the industry people you follow. Is there a blog you read faithfully? What if you met the author in real life? Would you be nervous?

I was. 

Yesterday I had a scheduled appointment with Peep Laja from Conversion XL. I have to admit, I was super nervous. I sat nervously while he inspected my site sick at the idea he might call me out for being a fraud. 

Why was I nervous? I read his blog all the time! 

In fact, my whole talk  at #TLE2014 and journey into conversion rate optimization derived from his post on  how to use Cialdini’s 6 principles. I was so impressed by it I read everything I knew about persuasion and a year later I was speaking to the same event as him! 

Was He Horrible?

He was just as awesome as planned, and humble to boot. Just as authoritative in my eyes, but some of the scariness wore off. Now one more “celebrity” to go.. Princess Ariel/Michelle Tanner from Whatshouldwecallme,  I’m looking at you! 

So, What’s the point?

You can be an authoritative figure to those who share your job OR can make your company the leading provider of whatever… it’s your job to elicit the same emotions that you get whenever you see those “celebrities” in your world. 

Lil’ Exercise

Grab a pen & paper, evernote page or Google doc and answer 1 of all of the following questions:

  1. List all the people/companies you are afraid of / think of as an authority (Seriously, dig deep.)
  2. What makes them scary? What makes them an authority figure in your eyes?
  3. What makes them seem bigger and better than you?
  4. What can you do to R&D (Rip off & Duplicate) it?
  5. TEST IT!


Want to learn more?

Questions? Comments?