Let’s talk about the power of social proof: why it’s important, how businesses are using it, and how you can start using it to your advantage too.
Business psychology professor Robert Cialdini coined the term “social proof” in his book Influence (1984). The concept of social proof is simple: When we don’t have enough information about something, we base our decisions on how others decide and act.
We follow the masses and feel most comfortable conforming to a group decision.
Psychologist Solomon Asch conducted a conformity experiment in 1951. Eight male college students (participants) were put in a group with two other people (influencers) who were secretly in on the experiment. Each group was shown an image of a line and then another image with three different lines. They were asked to choose which of those three lines matched the first line. The influencers always gave their answers before the participant. In 12 of the 18 trials, the influencers gave wrong answers, even though the correct answer was obvious. On the other hand, 75% of the participants gave the wrong answer as well. In the other six trials where the influencers gave the correct answer, the participant gave the wrong answer less than 1% of the time.
Asch determined that these participants followed the consensus because they wanted to fit in with the group. Some even believed that the group was better informed than they were.
Why is it essential for businesses to pay attention to the power of social proof?
Think about how we decide on which smartphone to buy. Most of us will do the research. Some will take a careful look at the specs. But not everyone will have the tech know-how to understand everything. So, we look to other people to fill in the gaps for us, such as family and friends.
If it’s a new product, you’ll probably join a forum or tech group to ask around, see what people know about it. You’ll also probably scour YouTube for review videos from the tech experts—AKA tech influencers. If they say that it’s a good product, you’ll be more likely to buy it when you get the chance.
This is why many brands work with influencers, who create content and review products. In doing so, they prime the mass market and influence them to buy the product when it gets released.
We tend to trust well-known people who have earned our confidence more than actual brands.
Let’s talk examples.
Ever wonder why restaurants have such small waiting areas inside the building? They want you to have to wait outside where people will see you. If you drive by a restaurant that has a large group of people waiting in front of it, you’re going to take a mental note that this restaurant must be fantastic. So, you’re more likely to come back to it. It’s hard to be impressed by an empty restaurant because our instinct is to assume that it must not be any good if nobody is there.
Another aspect of social proof is our want to be a part of a community. Canva plays on this with their sign-up landing page. It says, “Join over 10 million people designing on Canva.” This call to action is especially effective because it’s framed as an invitation rather than a statement. Sure, having 10 million customers is notable. However, people will want to sign up because they can join that large number of users and become part of their community.
Subaru has included a “Reviews and Awards” page on their website that shows potential buyers they’ve gone above and beyond the industry standard and have been recognized by institutions that matter. They also have a “Dear Subaru: Owner Stories” page set up like a collage. This personal touch lets customers see real people who have had wonderful experiences with Subaru.
There are stores and country clubs that use the idea of exclusivity as social proof. Whether they need a waitlist or not, they’ll use one to give the impression that their establishment is so popular and extraordinary that they must limit access.
Social proof is one of the most accessible marketing tools for small businesses.
You can utilize customer reviews in nearly every type of marketing collateral. Social media posts, blogs, sales pages, product descriptions, landing pages, and more can all immensely benefit from the addition of positive customer reviews.
People tend to check 2-3 review sites, like Yelp and Google, before deciding about a brand, so it’s best practice to get positive reviews on as many different sites as possible.
What’s even more powerful than reviews? Testimonials. These show the big picture, a whole experience rather than simply stating that a product worked. The key to great testimonials is value. The best ones address common objections and overcome them, giving viewers confidence in the product or service.
We trust authentic, peer recommendations far more than paid advertisements, so don’t be afraid to reach out to past customers for testimonials. You can create a short survey for them to take, ensuring that you get the exact information you need.
If you want to work with an influencer or a celebrity to promote your brand, finding the right match is crucial. The person you team up with will only help your conversions if your audience knows them, likes them, and trusts them. You’ll be out a lot of time and money if you choose the wrong fit.
Social media is ground zero for social proof. If you see a customer tagging you on Facebook or Instagram, acknowledge the post and share it on your feed or stories. Encourage your customers to tag you on their social media posts and reward them with engagement.
Remember that people are more likely to buy or do something when they know that other people are doing it, too.
How about you? How are you using social proof in your business? Got a question? Don’t forget to COMMENT below and SHARE your thoughts.