You know the feeling when you are in an unfamiliar situation or environment and you don’t know quite what to do. Inevitably, you look around at the other people to determine the right course of action or behavior. You probably do this at least once a day, if not more, and most likely you don’t even realize this psychological phenomenon has a technical name: “social proof” or “ informational social influence”.
There are 3 mechanisms that contribute to the social proof phenomenon:
- Multiple source effect happens when people give more authority to ideas that are stated by multiple sources.
- Uncertainty about the correct conclusion uses uncertainty as a major reason that promotes the use of social proof. Most likely you will incorporate the opinions of others when your own experiences are non-existant or ambiguous.
- Similarity to the surrounding group is when you identify yourself as similar to the people around you. In this instance it is likely that you will adopt and perceive as correct the observed behavior of these people.
There are a few real world examples that social proof can help in business applications. Theatres sometimes have planted audience members; the “plants” are given directions when to clap or to give a standing ovation. The general audience usually follows the planted audience members’ lead as a sign of performance quality. Social proof is also very common in social media. A user of a social network is perceived to be more trustworthy and reputable when they have millions of followers than a user who only has a few thousand followers. In business social proof is used extensively in the marketing and sales of products to consumers.
You can see how social proof can easily affect a great number of people. How can you harness this phenomenon for your own business? Nowadays, the medium for social proof would be the internet/social media. It has such an incredible reach and a diverse audience. Why not try some of these effective social proof strategies:
Testimonials: due to the objectivity of testimonials, someone not involved with your company does the talking. This makes it seem so much more credible. Learn more about the power of testimonials at http://www.onhold.on.ca/the-power-of-testimonials/.
Ratings and Reviews: ratings use a scoring system, most commonly a 5-star rating system. It’s a quick way for us to see how good a product or service is based on how many people have rated and reviewed it.
Influencer Endorsements: having a well-known person that your audience respects give you an endorsement will enhance the perception of your brand’s value. be sure to display the endorsement where it will have a large reach (e.g., your website).
Media Logos: fall into the “as seen in” media showcase. When well-known news media outlets feature, review or mention your products, make sure you get their logos to display on your website.
Subscriber Counts: displays your number of subscribers; that helps people feel comfortable joining the crowd that knows your business.
As you can see it can be very easy and helpful to start planning on using social proof when developing your marketing strategies for your company.
“When you say it, it’s marketing. When your customers say it, it’s social proof.” – Andy Crestodina