Trends Technology

Digital Manipulation a Successful Trending Technology

Stephen Howard

Online manipulation and persuasion are two different things.

Most university classes dealt with morality, at least for those in the social sciences and humanities. But, particularly in communications and marketing classes, the line was drawn between propaganda and persuasion.

Online ethics aren’t as discussed, but for whatever reason. We’re all in the business of persuasion. At least, that’s what we want people to do with our products.

The Facebook controversy: A contemplation on ethics
While ethics in experimentation is not well-defined, the internet has made it even more complicated.

The Facebook scandal is something that we all remember (hopefully). Facebook altered the content of more than 600,000. Users to see if it could affect their emotions. The idea was to manipulate the number of positive and negative items in random users’ newsfeeds, then analyze these people’s future posts. What did you get? Facebook can influence your emotions.

A.V. Club stated, “Result: They Can!” This is good news for Facebook data scientists who want to demonstrate modern psychology. But, unfortunately, this is less good news for those who have their emotions secretly controlled.”

These results were published, which caused a lot of backlashes. Although people consent to Facebook to conduct such an experiment, it was still shocking that such large-scale emotional manipulation would be tested. As a result, it quickly became one of the most talked-about topics in online manipulation.

What is “Skinner Box Marketing?”
Remember B.F. Skinner, from psychology 101? May you remember him from psychology 101? According to The Atlantic, it is essential.

Digital market manipulation
A digital market manipulation concept is behind the ascent of Skinner Box Marketing to the internet.

The original theory of market manipulation supplements and challenges economics and law with extensive evidence that people don’t always act rationally in their best interests as traditional economic models. To borrow Dan Ariely’s phrase, “predictably irrational,” better describes human behavior.

This theory is augmented by digital marketing manipulation, which focuses on the remarkable capabilities of digitization to increase firms’ ability to influence consumers at an individual level.

M. Ryan Calo argues that companies will be able to exploit the vulnerability and irrationality of consumers through emerging technologies. For example, the internet allows you to manipulate emotions and personal feelings on a personal level.

All of this is to point out that companies have and can continue manipulating consumers in many ways. These are often called “dark patterns” on the internet.

Copywriting for black hats
Advertising is not immune to ethical challenges. You can read any advertising history book to see all the manipulative tactics they used to manipulate their readers. However, manipulative copywriting is still possible on the internet. It’s also easier to do.

Instead of searching the internet for fake claims (of which many there are), here are three copywriting tricks that are very specific and rarely discussed:

  1. Testiphonials
  2. False scarcity
  3. This is a damning admission.

It is not always possible to trust all testimonials.

They are not. Although testimonials are more common in A/B testing (at least those that are trustworthy), they are not always done ethically.

When testimonials are authentic or perceived as accurate, they can increase the credibility of your offer through engaging in social proof. Unfortunately, faking or embellishing testimonials is more common than you might think.

False scarcity
Online marketing is full of false scarcity. It can also be frustrating and backfire on consumers who catch onto it.

Regular scarcity works (a pillar in Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion), but when forced like this? This email screams sleazy. It was about a digital course that somehow had sold out of the monthly pay-as-you-go levels but still had annual memberships. It’s funny how this works.

The damning confession
This is a common one in info marketing. However, it can be applied to many other fields.

The purpose of damning admission is to lower the guardian of the consumer and make your offer seem more genuine and credible.

The above statement implies that the admission of guilt is not always ethical. However, it’s an excellent example of authentically and truthfully describing your product. Blackhat copywriting is when the strategy is used to justify a false claim.