Personal messages hit home

Messages aimed directly at the user grab attention. Messages that come from friends and trusted others have even more effect.

Examples

  • The most effective fundraising advert on Wikipedia features Jimmy Wales (the founder and public face of Wikipedia) and includes a trustable explanation as to why the donations are needed. Thus, it comes as close to being “personal” as is possible from a person that donors have probably never met.
  • Social networking sites use pseudo-personal messages in an attempt to drive viral adoption. For instance, Google+ tells you your friends have invited you, so you feel like it’s a recommendation from them to use the service. All that actually happened was that your friend added your e-mail address to their Google+ Circles.

Principles

This is social proof in action. See the Repeat positive messages pattern for a description.

How to make it personal

  • Prime users to do what you want by showing how other people have already done that thing.
  • Make sure that these “other people” share characteristics with your users so that users identify with them as much as possible. Using someone’s friends or contact list has additional influential power.
  • If it’s likely to benefit you, show what other people did in a similar situation. Case study white papers, Amazon.com’s “people who viewed this also viewed these” and “n% ended up buying…” widgets are good examples.
  • Encourage Likes and +1s, comments, retweets, and responses to your social media activity. The social proof provided by a large number of recommendations can be highly convincing.
  • Social proof works best if the social group used as the proof closely matches the current user. Use your users’ profile information to craft a story that matches their needs well.

Blog posts about this pattern