Whitewashing this fence sure is fun

How can you change people’s perceptions?  Show them (or hint to them) that other people feel differently.  Think of the classic Tom Sawyer, making whitewashing look so appealing that soon he has half the town bribing him to take their turn at it:

“Like it? Well, I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?”

Scarcity makes things more appealing.  A couple weeks ago, there were Girl Scouts camped out near the BART exits on Market Street – with commuters lining up to buy boxes.   I know, because I was one of them.

Feeling like other people know something you don’t – also makes things more appealing.


IBM banner ad with a "replay" prompt

I was flipping between browser tabs yesterday when I saw this ad.   I hadn’t seen what played previously and I don’t particularly care about travel congestion or IBM.  But that “replay” call to action jumped out at me immediately – did I miss something? There must be some reason why I’d want to watch this!

It’s funny that this would work on me (yes, I clicked replay and watched the ad) – because I’m testing out the same concept in Loomia’s recommendations module.

I know that “popularity” is a strong driver for people to read an article or watch a video – but I’ve also seen through A/B testing that a predictive algorithm that takes context and similar readers’ behavior into account is a stronger driver.  What if we could combine them?

people_viewed_thisFor all articles over a certain “popularity threshold”, we added an X People Viewed This annotation.

What this implies: not only is this probably something you want to read, but lots of other people read this.

What users think: 25,000+ people can’t be wrong.  What if I’m missing out on something useful?

The potential social cost of not being “in the know” outweighs the time cost of reading the article.

2 thoughts on “Whitewashing this fence sure is fun

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