How Businesses Can Overcome Fear of Video Syndrome – Video Psychology 101

How Businesses Can Overcome Fear of Video Syndrome – Video Psychology 101

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Do you know someone that is experiencing “fear of video” syndrome? Do they need help overcoming it? I interviewed Director of Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab, Dr. BJ Fogg, about why many businesses and marketing professionals today are still fearful about getting involved with online video, and the ways he’s teaching companies to overcome those fears with exercises and workshops in “persuasive technology.” Learn how academic psychology may be one of the solutions for companies to overcome their fears with doing video and move forward with their business.

Psychology 101 (for Dummies)

I figured most of our audience is like myself in that we don’t necessarily have the clearest definition of what psychologist is, or what its relation to online video marketing may be. So hopefully you can excuse my “poor-man’s amalgamation” of what I was able to pull up from the top search results on the term:

Psychology can be defined the science (i.e., the study) of the human mind and behavior. It is meant to help us better understand and explain thought, emotion, and how we behave with ourselves and each other. Psychology’s purpose to improve our understanding of humanity and society, which is done both by discovering general principles and exploring specific cases. Applications of psychology include mental health treatment, performance enhancement, self-help, ergonomics, and many other areas affecting health and daily life.

What Does Psychology Have To Do With Online Video Marketing?

Director of Stanford's Persuasive Technology Lab, Dr. BJ Fogg. (© Brian Smale)

I originally interviewed BJ back in July of this year at a video commerce conference in Seattle, where he gave a presentation about the field of psychology he is well known for: “Persuasive technology.” It’s a term originally coined by BJ back in 2002, which is broadly defined in Wikipedia as “technology that is designed to change attitudes or behaviors of the users through persuasion and social influence, but not through coercion… and may potentially be used in any area of human-human or human-computer interaction.”

Our original discussion focused on how there have been so many revolutionary advances in technology (especially with online video) in recent decades, yet human behavior has managed to remain the same for thousands of years. BJ explained that they key to being effective with a lot of the technology in marketing today is to first understand what habits (i.e., what we do over and over without thinking about it) are common with your own audience, and then figuring out the multiple ways of creating new habits in people. BJ described online video as one of the most, if not the most, persuasive technology for achieving changes in behavior and creating new habits.

What I learned from BJ at that conference was about the positive psychological influences that online video has made on society and our business culture (including marketing), and also about the negative psychological influences as well. What I mean by that is the “persuasive technology” that is online video hasn’t yet managed to influence all it should. That’s something most people who do online video marketing have likely struggled with many companies on. Many businesses that would be well-suited to benefit from doing online video aren’t doing it at all; and that can be a source of shared frustration for outside vendors as well as some of the people inside those companies who have their hands tied.

Psychological Bottlenecks – Why Businesses That Should Do Online Video, Don’t

The #1 reason is FEAR.

“It’s really true. Fear is the thing that freezes companies up (with doing video)” Says BJ. From a professional standpoint, BJ explains that this fear comes down on two levels:

  • Personal Fear / Job Security. BJ explains that on one level, people are afraid of appearing dumb. “They are afraid of looking stupid to their peers and bosses, thinking they are going to get fired or lose status in their company. There is a personal kind of fear like, ‘Oh… my… gosh.'” He says.
  • Brand Risk. “This is what businesses will often explain it as, and it’s true I think, even stronger than personal fear.” Says BJ. “Businesses will often say that ‘we can’t put our brand at risk.  Everything our brand goes on has to go through all these approval channels.  It has to have this level of quality and so we are afraid of hurting our brand.’”

Here are some other other reasons I’ve often come across as why people in business who, even when they believe they should be doing online video, “psyche” themselves out and end up not doing it:

  • Self-image. Many people are still very self-conscious about how they appear on video, either cosmetically or audibly, despite how well they know their content.
  • Anonymity. Some people simply don’t want to attract any attention to themselves.
  • Control. Anything that is recorded and posted online is something that can always be used by someone else indiscriminately. Even if someone doing a self-recording, they are still having to relinquish control once that video shared with others. There’s also another element with control, and that’s NOT wanting to share. (It goes to the old mentality of some people in management wanting to hoard information for themselves. They less you share with others, the more you think people will need to be dependent on you.)
  • Perception. Some business people still have the perception that admitting that you’re unable to keep up with the rapid pace of online technology and video (which practically everyone can’t), would make them be perceived as no longer qualified to be in the position they currently hold. In a cutthroat business world, others may perceive admitting to what you don’t know as a sign of weakness.

These are all rational fears that business people have with online video. I would add one irrational fear to the list, and that is the fear of CHANGE. In technology, change is constantly taking place. That’s especially true with online video, which has contributed greatly to the progress in search, social media, as well as creating new paradigms for marketing and business. But it is also this rapid change that scares a lot of businesses. Their models of business have long been built on clinging to old practices – before online video, social media and search – even when what they stubbornly cling to has long been proven to be unsuccessful for maintaining the business they had before.

Whether a company is dealing with rational or irrational fears like these, they all build up a negative work environment where progress isn’t made, customers are less satisfied, and “willfully ignorant” decision makers within a company hold their employees back. So what does it take for these people to finally accept that change in how we do business, and how consumers relate to business is inevitable. How can the accept that if they don’t learn to be open to, and embrace, persuasive technologies like online video, they stand to become irrelevant and may eventually collapse? That may be where getting a teaching lesson –the kind BJ Fogg provides – can be a good way for companies to start.

Becoming a “Video Coach” – How a Psychologist Teaches and Motivates Companies About Online Video

“Often when companies come to me, they don’t come to me because they are winning.  They come to me because they are in trouble.” Says BJ, sharing an example. “Two months ago, I was working with a company that had a hundred year tradition and a very strong brand. They saw that their business model and the kind of services that they are providing are going away, thanks to the Internet.”

BJ’s specialty with companies is showing them audience and customer habits, and how to use persuasive technology like video to create new, desirable habits. “I went in and did a one-day workshop with them, helping them see the new opportunities; and especially seeing how if they knew how to change customers’ behavior they could make the new opportunities reality.”

BJ explained that he first worked with the company team on selecting the target behaviors that they wanted from their customers. Then they decided on the multiple types of conversion funnels to achieving their goals. Through a combination of card sorting and visual mapping (a lot of it done on a floor with big pieces of paper that company members move around), BJ explains that “what we saw on some of those paths was video played a critical component in making that path interesting and exciting. As we looked at the paths that included video in the conversion funnel or in the chain of behaviors people would have to do, watch the video and then take action based on the video, part of that was helping them to realize, hey this video doesn’t have to be ‘super-polished!’  It’s you sitting with a Flip Cam or your web cam and just recording it.  The video just needs to be genuine and to the point.  Get it done.”

According to BJ, The result of the workshop was that the company realized they could explore any one of those paths within about two to eight hours, and could figure out if it was going to work or not, instead of two to eight weeks, or months. “Businesses realize with having it all mapped out for them, they kind of go, “Oh my gosh!  We really can try this stuff, and it doesn’t take huge budget or time or special resources! We can really try all of this.”

Video Improves Our Understanding of Psychology and Behavioral

BJ says that his Lab’s #1 focus right now is to find ways to help people to create daily habits that make their lives better, and that includes understanding how video can inspire people to create the daily habits or help them maintain them or help them expand them.

“I really think the quality of our lives depends a lot on our daily habits, and I believe it’s not as hard to create daily habits as people think. Right now I’m creating 17 daily habits at the lab just to show that it can be done.  People freak out at that, but it’s working.” He says. “There’s going to be various recipes for creating habits – there’s not just one – and video is a big piece of a number of those recipes.  So being able to prescribe those or having people identify what’s the right recipe for achieving their goals, in this case new habits, that’s the Holy Grail somewhat.

It’s easy to see with examples like these why BJ professes to be a huge fan of video, both with teaching it for his students as well as companies. “Online video is one of the channels for persuasion.  So it’s one of the technology channels, and it’s one of the most powerful if not the most powerful of channels… We still don’t understand all it… at least I don’t think I do… but I don’t think anybody does…all the opportunity and implications of online video.”

Business Epidemic: Fear of Change. Treatment: Video

So I would conclude that if my fellow video enthusiasts are going to be successful in bringing our clients, our colleagues, and even more consumers into joining us into the online video realm for sharing and doing business, we need to follow what BJ says about understanding psychology first. That is the basis for where we can decide what have been both the motivators for businesses not to change, and the habits that have built up from that. The best place to carry our influence using “persuasive technology” is with businesses and professional people who do accept that change needs to happen, and us helping them figure out many ways they can mostly easily work with online video in developing new, progressive, positive habits.

Lastly, I would be amiss not to mention that the Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab’s Website recently had a major website makeover. Check it out below, and check out their Website! (You can brag to your friends that you’re going to an Ivy League school.) And if you want  out BJ’s Persuasive Video Course on Facebook. You may end up feeling more “smarter-er.” (Doh!)


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