Game of Cults: How a Simple Poll Can Enhance Reader Sentiment and Book Sales

My reader poll results

I recently ran a poll of readers where I asked my audience to rate my content. Maybe you responded, and if so, thank you! Want to hear the results?

With sixty-four respondents, the response rate was 1.6 percent. Not bad for an email poll.

The general opinion is that, on a scale from zero to ten, readers value the content at 8.7.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents have had at least one article provide something that made their business more profitable.

One hundred percent say they’ve had an article that has made them think differently about publishing.

Fifty-six percent agree or strongly agree that their business would suffer without this content.

Is this how you feel about the content I’ve provided?

Did it help you to hear that other successful authors feel this way about the material?

Polling  can serve two purposes.

First, when done right, it can help you see the general opinion on a subject.

By asking the consumers about their preferences, for example, you can peer through the fog of the market and get clarity.

Of course, there is always the concern about how the responses could be skewed just by the way you ask questions.

Then there’s the second purpose. What if the poll’s purpose wasn’t to elicit your opinion but to influence your opinion?

One Princeton experiment polled students to identify how much peer influence changed the respondents’ opinions.

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On paper, the poll related to policy changes at the school. The real experiment measured peer pressure.

When interviewed later, seventy percent of respondents said that other students were influenced by the opinions of others, but they were independent in thought.

The survey shows an entirely different result.

When student opinions were shared with respondents, they were four times more likely to vote in line with that opinion.

We feel we are independent but act in accordance with the group.

This idea isn’t new. Solomon Asch conducted conformity experiments as early as 1935. (You can click the video here to see.) His most famous was recorded to show how easily people conformed to the group. In the Asch conformity experiment, seventy-five percent of the subjects conformed at least once, and thirty-two percent complied entirely with the group. Only twenty-five percent never complied.

This is similar to the monkey experiment in which researchers took a group of monkeys and placed a ladder with grapes at the top. Whenever a monkey climbed the ladder to get the grapes, the other monkeys were sprayed with cold water.

Eventually, the mob of monkeys would attack any monkey that climbed the ladder.

The experimenters then stopped spraying the monkeys and introduced a new monkey to the group. When he climbed the ladder, he was attacked.

Over time, the entire population of monkeys was replaced with monkeys that had never had the experience of getting sprayed with water. Still, anytime a monkey tried to climb the ladder, the mob would attack.

Peer pressure can indoctrinate behavior even when the group doesn’t understand why they’re doing something.

This brings us back to my poll.

Am I influencing the outcome by asking certain questions?

I hope so.

Does seeing these results of the poll influence your opinion of what I offer in a positive way?

That was my plan.

Does opening my kimono and sharing these Jedi mind tricks make you less susceptible or more intrigued by what I’m doing?

Only you can answer that.

You now see how a poll can become subversive social proof.

When readers see results from a poll, they take the poll as they read the results, consciously and unconsciously framing how they feel about the answers in confirming or opposing existing beliefs.

Consider how polls are used during elections. Some are nonpartisan, but most are not. They are tools to influence you about the key issues in the election and how you should feel about them.

Take a page from the propagandist and use polling to frame what is important and how you want your audience to feel about an issue.

One more thing…

How can you use polls to shape group opinion?

Have you ever polled your audience?

Focus on two goals when you poll sentiment and read-through of your backlist.

The first is defining and reinforcing group sentiment about your brand.

The second is extracting greater value from your email list. I’ve yet to see a survey come back where one hundred percent of the readers have made it through the backlist. There is an opportunity to sell existing customers’ existing products in most cases. Selling to an existing customer is four times easier and is key to scaling an author’s business. Solve the backlist visibility issues you may suffer from by asking a few questions about what they have read and then pointing your readers to the products they’ve missed.

Read: How Reflexive Control and Disinformation Undermine Mainstream Media