Social Hacking: The Personal Touch

by | May 24, 2019

Have you ever heard of social hacking? Learn how to apply it in business development and reach your goals with other people.

Social Hacking is somewhat of a buzzword referring to how you can apply social influence and psychology to reach your goals with other people.

An example could be leaving USB sticks lying around and waiting for someone to plug it in, deploying malware to gain intel. Or for a more positive example, offering favors establishing rapport.

As business developers we are always in contact with people. We heavily rely on human relationships and social hacking can be a powerful ally.

Read below how to use social hacking to make connections in our hyperconnected world. All starting from a psychological point of view!

How does our brain work?

Our brains are well equipped for dealing with the social intricacies in a stone age tribal society. However, they are not well equipped for meeting hundreds and thousands of people online and offline in the information era.

So many messages, comments, and contact requests go by and slip out of memory.

Evolutionary psychology provides explanations for how certain mechanisms in human behavior evolved. In essence, it argues that the way we behave now was probably beneficial for survival in early human history.

For example, the way we cooperate was beneficial for survival and that’s why we keep at it. However, evolutionary psychology has its limitations.

How can you really prove a mechanism stemmed from something that took place thousands of years ago? Despite its shortcomings, evolutionary psychology still offers some very interesting insights.

In fact, given that we haven’t biologically evolved in at least ten thousand years, we can safely assume our brains are roughly the same nowadays.

What can it tell us about conducting business in the present day?

I spend nearly 10 years studying how psychology impacts the business world. Considering that every product or service is meant for people, understanding how people behave is essential to be successful.

An interesting fact I learned is that humans have a limited capacity to hold a lot of individual people in our heads. It was enough to keep track of a few tribes in the past, but our societies now are too big.

It doesn’t take much effort to think about the personal characteristics of ten people. However, crank that number to ten million or even just ten thousand and you’re going to struggle.

If our brains can only hold a hundred or so connections in our heads at a time, to make an impression we have to make it personal. Making an impression to score a client, in turn, is essential to establish a lasting business relationship.

I dread making phone calls and cold approaches but it’s infinitely more impactful than sending emails. If I got a euro for every email that didn’t get a response, I would make that my job.

An email is easy to ignore. It barely even feels like there’s a person sending it – and in some cases, there isn’t. Emailing does serve an important function: it allows to reach out to people you can’t possibly reach otherwise.

However, it does miss out on giving a personal impression. Since it’s more difficult than ever to leave a lasting impact, it’s easier for emails to be ignored. It’s bad business of course but nonetheless something very human as well.

Is text good for anything? This article is in text and someone might be reading it. It can be very informative. It might not make a personal contact with everyone who reads this but it may entice a reader.

You could become interested in establishing a business relationship in the future even though we haven’t established a personal connection yet. Reading and writing are certainly more indirect than a personal connection. It’s amazing for mass communication – or as we call it, marketing.

But when it comes to doing business 1-on-1 it’s definitely less effective.

Social hacking: what’s the takeaway?

Make the contact as personal as possible. Meet face-to-face, use video calls, or even just a phone call. Everybody is forgettable, more so if their only representation is a piece of text.

Ironically, I’m writing this instead of shouting it in front of an audience, but here the compromise becomes apparent too. With text you can reach more people that you feasibly couldn’t otherwise. Prefer personal for specific contacts, text for broad announcements and enticing people.

Are you already using social hacking in your business development role? Share your experience in our community.

Continue reading: Top communication skills to boost your business development career.


Ray Pohjanheimo

Cyberpsychologist (MSc.)

I spent 10 000 hours studying psychology so that I could give you the most important behavioral insights for business development in one hour or less.

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