Social scamming | Brian Brushwood | TEDxHartford

Social scamming | Brian Brushwood | TEDxHartford

beautiful people my name is Brian brushwood and I'm here to answer the real question that all of you guys had coming into this program I know this isn't gonna be some kind of pie in the sky high-minded theoretical stuff I'm gonna give you the boots on the ground real work on how to advance this frame if you there you go how to fake an erotic fiction bestseller that's what we're gonna learn first of all there's some things you got to know the story begins about 10 years ago and you should know that I used to look like this but now I look like this don't panic I used to tour all around the United States doing a punk rock blood-and-guts magic show I shoved nails in my eyes a fire that was my full-time job and I had an idea for a show because after each each of these programs the students at each of the college's would take me out and I would do magic for them and essentially I would teach them how to scam free beers and so I had the idea for what came to be known as scam school I pitched it the idea was be the most interesting person in the room capture everybody's attention provide so much value that when you get to some kind of unbeatable challenge or puzzle you end up getting somebody to agree to buy you a free drink ah so I would be 10 years later now we're at a point now scam school is now over a million subscribers it's a little bit hard to see let me see if I can enhance this enhance in a hat there we go ok good it's been a long journey to get there and there's been a few lessons I've learned on the way now keep in mind there's a few moments during this talk that I'm going to talk as if I know something I know nothing I'm an idiot who eats fire shoves nails in his eyes however I've read some really good books including robert cialdini's influence where i learned about the idea of fixed action patterns these are psychological backdoors that sit in the back of your mind something that caused immediate stimulus response actions we see them in mating behaviors of animals of all varieties and one of the most powerful ones is the psychological backdoor number one is liking the idea is when you like someone you're much more likely to grant them what they do some work for them or or give them something and I figured out that you can use the liking psychological backdoor to get out of speeding tickets I realized that a hundred percent of the time every time I've ever made a police officer laugh he's left me off the hook and most of the time that happens immediately because my Bly 'sons looked like this if they wanted to if they were continuing to press I would say they'd ask for the insurance I say oh I'm sorry officer this is a rental and I'll have my insurance but I'm told this will help and sometimes they would let you off the hook a second psychological back door is reciprocation turns out that as human beings we want to balance the scales whenever we're given something we want to pay people back even if we actively dislike the other party the Hari Krishna's figured this out back in the 1960s they made a lot of attention by banging on drums and and make it a lot of noise however they weren't able to get a lot of donations that way so they figured out that if they handed people flowers and said here's a gift enjoy this flower by the way would you like to make a donation people would often donate then they would go through the flower in the trash they would go pick the flower out of the trash and then they'd give it to someone hi here's a flower would you like to make a donation and pretty much that's the philosophy to score free drinks at the bar that we do on scam school reciprocation and liking liking because you're engaging with the other person you're looking them in the eye you're trying to make them smile and entertain them reciprocation because you're giving something of value you're giving a magic trick or performance and it ends up looking something like this after this prank I believe it's called lateral force but for some reason if you stick a quarter to your forehead like this and you hit your head on the table it will not I've never been able to do it in fewer than three hits it's not to the fourth time that it actually it actually will come off I mean I'll buy your drinks for the rest of the night if you're able to get the quarter to fall off in less than three hits and it will just go it will stick up alright you got it go for it go for three in lesson three go okay John you're almost there it's the idea is simple it turns out that those nerve endings on your forehead I have a bit of a lag and it feels like the coin is still there on your forehead so you could take advantage of that and be a total jerk but out of everything I've learned both in the stage show both in the launch of scam school and it'sit'sit's rise to prominence is that out of all the fixed action patterns of all the psychological backdoors the most powerful in my opinion is social proof social proof is the reason we pay attention to other people it's the reason we have laugh tracks on sitcoms it's the reason we pay attention to Yelp reviews it's the reason McDonald's brags about having billions and billions of burgers sold it's because there is a comfort in knowing this is a heuristic this is a shortcut that's not always right but right enough of the time that we rely on it because if everybody else is doing it odds are it's probably a good idea so I don't want to brag about scam school but pretty much the moment it came out everybody loved it right they thought that I look great they thought that my hairstyle was super rad ah no obviously none of that's true um but we did end up at this over a million mark so what happened if there's one moment I could point to that fundamentally transformed the trajectory of scam school it would have been when I performed for a show called diggnation there's a podcast that was very very popular called diggnation that I opened for this was two months after scam school started I was doing my stage show fire-eating Sheva nails in the eyes and all that and I stopped in the middle of the show because I realized what I lacked was a platform I didn't have a team on my side I was unknown but I needed to figure out the right idea to court them on my side and what to do with that energy I realized everybody out here loved new media they loved podcasting they loved YouTube they loved the idea that they are part of a revolution against old media so in the middle of my stage magic show I stopped and gave a PowerPoint presentation much like you're saying now the fact that all of new media was dominated by old media faces NPR Oprah 60 minutes all this stuff and I said wouldn't it be great if we could wrestle control the number one spot away from old media and I proposed a scam that we would all I guess I pretty much proposed a conspiracy I said let's all try to scam the itunes algorithm because at the time very little was known about the YouTube are they the itunes algorithm it was known that in general it seemed to monitor the number of new subscriptions in for our blocks so I said what if all of us by the way everyone follow me here Brian at slash would and then at one moment we are all going to hit subscribe at the exact same time and if this works we'll stick it to the man by making it into the top ten and it worked it worked uh we all hit subscribe but one time it's probably a thousand maybe two thousand people but it was enough that we hit the number three and number seven spots this was my first lesson in the power of social proof because at this point we thought hey we blew up the Death Star good good game team we high-fived each other and went home but the mere fact that we were in the top ten created its own engine of attention and one week later by virtue of having gotten to the top ten once we were still in the top ten number four and number nine so at this point uh we were on the Intuit we we had garnered the attention of the Apple staff we ended up being a staff pick up some poem moment later on we ended up getting picked as a top podcast of 2008 it's kind of hard to see let me enhance this there we go okay good there we go ah but the the attention itself ended up generating more attention and so this is the moment where the story gets a little bit weird 2012 by this point I had written a couple of books for his scam school the first book we had told everybody buy it at the same time and all that stuff everybody did a targeted strike we blew up the Death Star it was the number one bestseller on iTunes when it came to the second book though I ran into a problem because they happened at the exact same time as the cultural phenomenon of Fifty Shades of Grey now there's some fantastic articles breaking down why Fifty Shades of Grey was a dominant force there's all kinds of things from the the efforts that boots-on-the-ground efforts the community that was built by Yale James and all this stuff all I know is I was covered in naked jealousy and annoyed that this cultural phenomenon was keeping my book from being number one so a friend of mine who co-wrote the book said jokingly said well look at all these other books that seem to have the exact same motif as Fifty Shades of Grey maybe the next book should look like a fifty Shades of Grey book and we laughed I was like wait what if we wrote the Fifty Shades of Grey book and then we laughed and we thought wait what if we got our fans to write of Fifty Shades of Grey book and then we were onto something because I do a podcast every Tuesday night called Knight attack me and my co-host Justin Robert young we had the idea what have we set up the characters the situation and the places and then we just had the fans open up a Google Doc have the Internet write an erotic fiction book and see if we could steal the number one slot with which what clearly is a cultural phenomenon so we put together something called the Diamond Club the idea was simple first of all I had a cover that looked like in Fifty Shades of Grey book we and by the way none of this is new this is where pretty much ripping off the idea of naked came the stranger back in the 1960s there was a journalist who gathered together 20 or so of his best friend writers and they came up with a pseudonym and they decided to publish a erotic fiction novel about a woman who had sex with anything that we move and and so we wanted to do the exact same thing but naked came the stranger was very much of its time there were beatnik poets and all these artifacts of the 60s so we said well let's do the same thing let's make it very much of the mid or to early 2010's so we set it in Silicon Valley we made it about a woman who had co-founded a start-up only to be jilted by her lover and who found out that that he had married someone else and to get revenge she discovers a sex club called the diamond Club and we put together our own pseudonymous author Patricia Harkins Bradley by the way is a mash-up of both of our third grade teachers names and we told the internet to write uh we we had to cool a little bit of some of the saucer chapters that we got but we put together this thing we published it on an ebook platform but think back to that moment when I was able to pitch the idea of scam school being a number one podcast we needed energy we needed an audience that would have a stake in the game now a subscription is free anyone can click Subscribe and be part of a prank that feels good what we needed was people to spend ninety nine cents on this prank so we realized we needed to look for an audience that was feeling something and regardless of whether you understood try to remember in 2012 nobody really understood what was happening with the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon right there was this mass confusion so we went to those people and say do you not understand what's happening either great let's let's set fire to something so we put together a video that we pitch to the internet yeah I mean finish aids crazy that makes a lot of sense a lot of people buy it do you wanna know what else is on there butter books that just look like Fifty Shades of Grey they're just poorly written erotic fiction to cash in on an obvious trend so we developed a theory that we'd like to test today what are they in the Internet write a book we have not read the book and it was all just completely crowdsource and add little cohesion amongst the chapters and just delivered on all right so that was our pitch to the audience we went out to the biggest group of rapscallions on the internet reddit who apparently also liked the idea and and they bunch of people voted it up and sure enough when this thing launched it actually uh this photograph right here shows it at 4th place it actually hit third place and supplanted one of the eel james books at the time but at that point we're like high-five how cool we did it and we knew it was our people because all of the readers also bought were either books written by me or one of my co-hosts so it's like okay that's our people pretty cool we are able to generate a little bit of publicity it was fun to go on some shows and talk about the phenomenon but uh oh and by the way this is my favorite part we knew that a bunch of people would write five star reviews because they were into the idea of trying to you know scam their way into the top slot and we knew that there would be some reactions of one-star reviews of people saying hey guys this is all big prank don't stop enjoying this book but our favorite were the three star reviews that said I mean it delivered on what I wanted wasn't great so sure enough though the power of social proof was so compelling that what this is when when everything launched everything was our books and our friends books one week later very different set of users had also bought so in this case we had made our way into the pantheon of erotic fiction through no fault of our own in fact we our favorite moments was discovering real fans of fictitious Patricia Harkins Bradley it was it was it was a fascinating experience and I will go to the mat claiming you know people are saying oh there's a fake book does a fake this fake that if you look at that that that five-star one-star curve I'm gonna guarantee you it's identical to Fifty Shades of Grey and all of the negative reviews are identical to the complaints about Fifty Shades of Grey but if there's one thing that I if there is some way that I've come out ahead we we did a run about a hundred physical copies of the book just to make this program I went and looked and apparently those physical copies are now being sold for $10,000 mission accomplished [Laughter] so whatever it is you do and make sure to take advantage of those psychological back doors liking reciprocation and authority and of course never underestimate the value of social proof thank you very much guys [Applause]

46 thoughts on “Social scamming | Brian Brushwood | TEDxHartford

  1. God damn it Brian… Didn't we already have this conversation? STOP!!! DOING THOSE WEIRD SPAZ UNCOMFORTABLE HAND GESTURES WHENEVER YOUR FILLING DEAD AIR WITH BLATHER, especially at the beginning of your performances/videos! That's twice Brian, I really hope I need not tell you a third time.

  2. Really? You advertise being a heartless manipulator? I do not think scamming is a thing one should promote at all.

  3. Brian Brushwood cannot stop laughing at his own , what he thinks are jokes. Thats his thing. He is his own laugh track. I guess it might work if he was ever funny but he just isn't. The guy tries way, way too hard. At his age if he hasn't made it ….he probably won't.

  4. He seemed more legit with the spiky hair and no beard than he does now. With the spikes he looked like he was somebody and somebody with confidence and somebody who might have done something important. How else would you walk around with spiky hair like that if you didn’t do something important. Now he looks like a car mechanic and someone without a lot of money. Like somebody that made less than a car mechanic. Great guy though.

  5. What, were there 5 people in that crowd? What happened here? The audio was choppy, when he was showing things important to the talk, we never saw them, and it looks like whoever put this video together just did not care at all. That's not fair to Brian.

  6. Protip: When your speaker very clearly makes a point that something "Looked liked this": [insert painfully obvious allusion to prepared image of "this"] it's probably a good idea to show what "this" is at that time.

  7. Now that's what I call rigging the system. Nice work, Brian! It's amazing to me the power of social action. You demonstrated it well!

  8. Can't believe a 3 month old video on a channel with 10M subs has 5K views and 200 likes as well as only 5 comments before mine

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