If They Don't Like You, You're Screwed!
May 31, 2016
When we like someone or something, we have a favorable opinion about them. It's human nature. We have many predispositions hard wired into us. We are biased toward certain things. And there is one cognitive bias that we need to be aware of in particular if we want to be successful; the liking bias. Sometimes it's referred to as the similarity bias. It has an immense influence over our thinking.
The liking bias is our tendency to gravitate toward people, products or brands that we like. We become willing to overlook the flaws and the imperfections of the people and things we have already decided to like; we simply favor those that we like, love or have admiration for. It seems obvious when we actually think about it and maybe that's the point. When we stop to think about this type of behavior it's unmistakable, however it's an instinctive bias that occurs without us being aware that it's happening. We constantly - and continually - fall prey to the liking bias without even knowing it.
Many smart people would say that being aware of our biases doesn't make it possible for us to change them. Psychologists would say; that's how we are wired, we can't truly prevent ourselves from behaving that way. That may be true, who knows for sure. The point I would make is that the liking bias is happening inside each and every one of us. Each of us are drawn to people and brands that we like. The more we like someone the more inclined we are to champion, support, help and even buy from them. That's powerful to know because it scientifically proves that likability plays a significant role in us performing at our best and us achieving success.
What does it even mean to be 'Likeable?' According to research we see people as likeable if:
- They are outwardly attractive.
- They are similar to us. Maybe they come from the same place, have the same interests or even the same type of personality.
- They liked us.
Advertising agencies are aware of the liking bias and have been using the knowledge in their campaigns for years. They deliberately avoid casting physically unattractive people in their work as they know we find that unlikeable and so instead they cast super attractive people. When advertising agencies are not using those jaw-dropping good looking types, they focus on people who appear to be similar to their target audience...similar in opinions, personality traits and/or lifestyle. They work to display people who are just like us in their campaigns because they recognize that similarity creates an instant bond between people. Deploying either of these tactics is enough for us to start liking the advertiser's product before they sell us on its actual benefits or price. That's pretty scary!
Also, you now have the answer as to why we are all so susceptible to compliments. We are drawn toward people who compliment us because they make us feel liked. That mere feeling that someone may like us is enough for us to like the other person. It's hard to dislike people who like us. Feels almost manipulative to compliment someone now doesn't it?
The liking bias in other people is constantly judging you and your actions. This should inform us on how we choose to interact with them. We should be focused on making sure the other person likes us. That doesn't mean we have to behave in a unified way but you must be focused on being liked by your target audience in order to succeed. You need to take every opportunity to behave in a way that increases your chances of being judged positively by those who matter most.
How may on-air talent use or influence the liking bias?
- You need to showcase how similar you are to the target audience. You need to continually demonstrate that you have the same lifestyle as the audience. You understand how they live their lives because you do the same as them. You need to share experiences from your life so the audience can see you are just the same as them. The best talent have always done this. Talent who don't live the same lives as their audience become irrelevant fast (and faster today than ever before).
- You need to be authentic. You need to ensure you are showcasing your genuine opinions, thoughts and feelings with the audience, every time the microphone is on. Let them in so they can assess whether there are similarities in the way you think and behave. Every moment you're sharing content or your life regardless of the platform you're doing it on, you are marketing yourself to the audience. Let your true personality shine through. Be who you are. Don't try and be something you're not. You need to be open for people to see you.
- You should actively take every opportunity to interact with your audience. Interaction leads to familiarity and familiarity leads to liking. This means that you need to be invested in having meaningful conversations with your audience. When someone reaches out to you, you need to reply - personally. It's not just about answering the request line while the show is on. It's about taking the time to reply to the emails, tweets, Facebook messages. Etc. Your mission should be to engage in dialogue with your audience whenever they reach out to you. And take every genuine opportunity to compliment the audience for their contributions - if they send a funny meme, tell them. Praise goes a long way to being liked.
- Visibility is important. Your audience needs to see you; both in public and also through social media. In 2016 we can't hide mysteriously behind a microphone like we could before. We have to be in front of people...often! Be kind and courteous in public. Go out of you way to be kind and helpful to people. Compliment people when it feels appropriate and genuine. Make sure social media reflects the lifestyle, opinions and thoughts of your target audience.
- Appearances matter. Sadly not all of us were blessed with good looks, but our appearance is important to being liked. How we choose to present ourselves publicly matters. If people don't find us physically pleasing, we are missing an opportunity to be liked. Make some effort and be well dressed. Be well groomed. That wrinkled and poorly fitting t-shirt is actually harming you at that station event. How we choose to present ourselves makes a difference if we want to be liked.
What else? It would be interesting to brainstorm ways for you as an individual talent, your show and your station to be more liked by the audience. I'm curious as to what we all may do differently.
Success comes to those who are the most liked. It's that simple. If you work harder on and off the air to be liked by your target audience than your competitor (and you're good) then you will most likely win. Now I appreciate that this is not ground breaking news for most talent. Who doesn't know that you need to be liked? However, I would bet money that most talent aren't aware of the reason why it's so important. When we appreciate that the liking bias is real and that being liked creates an advantage - even if it is unfair - we can be more strategic in building our likability. Being liked is essential for success. Being disliked is death. Now we know why.