What Is Social Proof?
Social proof is the way that people can measure the value of a product or a service or a business, or even someone’s social status. If you are looking for a place to have breakfast and you’re driving along the street and you see one place that has a line that’s going out around the corner, and you see another breakfast place right next to it that has nobody in it, it’s completely empty even though it’s open for business, what do you think about the two of those places? Which one do you want to choose?
The line that’s around the corner—it shows the social proof that this is the place you want to go to have breakfast. We are not just naturally drawn to those places, we’re actually hard-wired in our brains, as part of our genetic makeup, to be attracted by social proof.
5 Categories of Social Proof
- Expert Social Proof: Approval from a credible expert, such as an industry blogger or other authority
- Celebrity Social Proof: Approval or endorsements from celebrities, especially those that are unpaid
- User Social Proof: Approval from current users of the product/service, such as customer testimonials, case studies, and those all-powerful reviews
- ‘Wisdom of the Crowds’ Social Proof: Approval from large groups of other people (Our traditional examples above would fit nicely into this category of social proof.)
- ‘Wisdom of Your Friends’ Social Proof: Approval from your friends or people you know
A little history… Social proof has its origins going all the way back to the year 1713, when a Swiss mathematician by the name of Jacob Bernoulli discovered what is now known as the Law of Large Numbers. He did an experiment where he had hundreds of people guess how many beans were in a very large barrel.
It’s very difficult for any one person to guess this number of beans but he took the average of all of those guesses and what he found was stunning. He found that the average of the guesses was actually very close to the actual number of beans.
Now, this experiment was repeated over and over again and it still works to this day. The law of large numbers is actually also known informally as the “herd mentality”.
From this perspective, following the crowd is usually the most efficient and best way to survive because the crowd is usually right. It turns out that our brains, human brains, are actually hard-wired to follow the herd and that’s actually a good thing.
Usually the herd leads to where the most food is. Usually the herd knows how to find the water. Usually, the herd is waiting in line at the best breakfast place.
Then, we fast forward to the 1960s, when psychologist Solomon Asch did a famous experiment where he showed that people are very likely to make the same decision as the rest of the group.
He brought seven people who were part of the experiment into a room, plus one test subject. Everyone was shown two lines, a short line A and a long line B, and everyone was asked to state out loud which one was longer.
Well, the seven people all said that line A was longer when it was actually much shorter. This was done in order to see how the test subject would react, and in almost every case, the test subject went along with the crowd and gave the wrong answer even when he knew it was wrong. When asked why, he said
“Because everyone else did.”
The point here is not just that humans are susceptible to peer pressure. It’s that because our brains know that the large numbers, or following the crowd, is almost always the smartest, most efficient way to go, the herd mentality is what makes social proof so powerful.
We’re actually hard-wired to follow the crowd.
And the very best way to use this hard-wiring, or to encourage your customers to tag along with the pack, is to provide your business with some serious social proof.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you are looking for baby clothes online and you come across the following two pages on Facebook:
Now I’m not saying you or everyone goes on Facebook when they are looking for a baby clothes, although I did. However, with regard to social proof, which one are you more likely to trust?
Notice I’m not even suggesting that a page with more fans means the product or service is better; however, the mere fact that over 42,000 people have liked the Cute Baby Products page gives them instant credibility, through social proof.
Better still, if you are actively looking for baby clothes and one of your friends has liked the Baby’s World KE page, you will see it in the Like box on their Facebook page, which will give some level of instant trust, depending on your relationship with your friend.
If your friend who liked the Baby’s World KE page has cute photos of her kids in her profile and has had a positive experience with their clothes, you are far more likely to select the Baby’s World KE page than Cute Baby Products.
That’s social proof!
Social proof isn’t the only thing that you need to have and it doesn’t automatically mean that you have a great product or a great service. However, when we’re talking about the herd mentality, social proof is very powerful in getting new traffic, gaining instant credibility, and in some cases, instant trust.
We’ve got two competing restaurants, both selling tasty Chinese food. Taste of China, VIP plaza has 172 Likes and Mister Wok Chinese has 677 likes. Which one do you select when reserving a table for a nice Chinese dinner?
I would be much more inclined to select Taste of China because its superior social proof, they have over 1000 people who dined there, Average of 4.5 review rating from 69 people and they don’t even have a Facebook Business Page. This means happy customers happily left these reviews without ever been told to.
That’s how Social proof can give your business massive leverage to attract your tribe, customers and boost your sales.
So how do you use Social Proof to Increase revenue and grow your business?
Simple: Use them everywhere!!
- Social Media Business Pages
- Your Website
- Newsletters, Emails and Print
- In Your Advertisements (offline and Online)
- On Content Guest Blogs, Articles, Videos & Photos
- Classified Directories & Local Listings Pages
Related Articles you will love on social proof
- 7 Things You MUST Understand When Leveraging Social …
- 10 Ways to Instantly Amplify the Social Proof of Your Marketing
Share Your Thoughts
Have your been using Social Proof in your Business? IF so Comment below on what’s working well (or not so well!) for you these days!