Being social creatures, we are driven by and obsessed with what other people think of us.
We yearn to be liked, admired and respected by our peer group.
And the truth is that we will do almost anything to fit in.
Social pressure, therefore, is a powerful tool that can be used either to reinforce positive behavior (like volunteering with a charity) or to correct negative behavior (like quitting smoking).
The pressure you apply can also be encouraging (a pat on the back and a “Well done, you are awesome”) or stigmatizing (“Hey a**hole, what’s wrong with you?”).
With an encouraging approach, aim to create a new peer group of people with whom your target group can identify, a group that will help them fit in and hold them accountable for their actions.
Think of peer coaches, real-life ‘buddy’ support systems and social-media support groups.
Think of social media campaigns that use Facebook and Twitter, like the ones that encourage people to save the rainforest or donate their clothes for earthquake victims.
Alcoholics Anonymous is an example of an encouraging peer support group that aims to correct a negative behavior.
If, however, you choose the stigmatizing approach, make sure that the stigma you create is targeted at the behavior and not the person behind it.
Secondly, ensure that what you are trying to change is indeed a voluntary behavior and not the result of some medical condition that the person has no control over.