Yesterday, I hosted the second in my series of Online Persuasion Webinars. I covered The Contrast Principle and Decide-O-Phobia.

In my next webinar, I’ll be covering the Principle of Reciprocation. We, as a highly social species, are naturally wired to return favors. But you may be asking, “How can this possibly apply to my website?”

So let me give you an example.

In a recent study*, experimenters compared the effectiveness of two strategies for gathering contact information from a website’s visitors.

  • First was a reward strategy: Visitors were told that if they provided the requested information, they would be given certain technical information to help use the website.
  • Second was a reciprocity strategy: Visitors were simply given the technical help, then they were asked to provide their information.

The results should be a real eye-opener for those who run lead-generation and similar websites. Typically, such sites rely on the reward strategy and force users to fill out a form before providing much of anything.

As it turned out, although the reward strategy convinced somewhat more visitors to fill out the form, both the quantity and quality of the information they provided was much worse. Overall, the reciprocity strategy was — in this case at least — far more effective.

This is just one example of how you can use The Principle of Reciprocity to make your website more effective. Stay tuned for the date of the next webinar.

* Gamberini, L., Petrucci, G., Spoto, A. & Spagnolli, A. (2007). Embedded Persuasive Strategies to Obtain Visitors’ Data: Comparing Reward and Reciprocity in an Amateur, Knowledge-Based Website. PERSUASIVE ’07 Proceedings of the 2nd international conference on Persuasive technology. ISBN:3-540-77005-4 978-3-540-77005-3