Updated: Mar 29, 2019
Marketers understand the power of rhetoric. They are masters of the strategic art of communicating and persuading. They know how to use the rhetorical tools of ethos, pathos, and logos where ethos is an appeal to credibility, pathos to emotion, and logos to logic. From celebrity endorsements and testimonials, language that arouses an emotional response to statistics, data and qualitative language, rhetoric has long relied on the premise that style is more important than content (i.e. how you say something is more important than what you say).
However, social media is turning traditional marketing rhetoric on its head. With consumers demanding to be communicated with rather than sold to, this is the age of consumer-centric rhetoric. Consumers are actively taking control of creating and distributing marketing messages. And now, thanks to the Internet, skeptical consumers can easily fact-check any claims an organization makes. Persuasion on social media is in the hands of consumers. Consumers are now also marketers and influencers.
To re-establish their relevance in the brand-consumer arena of influence and persuasion, marketers must put consumers at the center of rhetorical strategies. Marketers must rethink the art of persuasion:
Ethos: Build credibility and trust (stay away from clickbait, deliver on any promises you make, be honest, cite trusted experts, clients or news sources)
Ethos: Be altruistic (use content marketing to solve a problem without selling something)
Pathos: Build on emotion and human connection (use emotional triggers to create a sense of urgency, a fear of missing out (FOMO) etc)
Pathos: Evoke emotions through vivid language and imagery (use words, images, and symbols to stimulate consumer responses~ emojis are ideal rhetorical devices)
Logos: Incorporate shared language and shared values (establish a collective identity with consumers to show that your organization is part of consumer communities)
Logos: Know your audience (do your research yet be prepared to provide a counter-argument, create scripted responses to defuse the harshest critics or hard to answer questions on social media )
Logos: Bring in someone to play devil’s advocate before posting on social media (solicit an unbiased reaction before posting on what can be a very unforgiving forum: social media)
The art of persuasion on social media means combining the three rhetorical tools (ethos, pathos, and logos). It is up to the marketer to use these tools to build a consumer-centric rhetoric that is meaningful and purposeful in its attempt to assist, enrich, influence, and yes…..persuade.