Social proof is the basic human tendency to trust in the actions of the many. From Consumer Reports to Amazon stars to trendsetting Instagram accounts, people need more than facts about a product or promises from a brand to try something new.
According to psychologist Robert Cialdini, the definition of social proof is:
“…people are especially likely to perform certain actions if they can relate to the people who performed the same actions before them.”
Social Proof Examples
Imagine you are shopping online for a new hand lotion. You see an ad for Crabtree and Evelyn brand lotion, and you notice three of your friends have liked this brand on Facebook.
First is your Aunt Karen, who has excellent taste. She always has premium brands in her fully stocked guest bathroom. Next is your sister, Liz, who is a socially conscious vegan. Liz would never use a product unless it were Non-GMO and cruelty-free. Lastly, your Co-worker, Michael. Michael doesn’t pay much attention to brands. If HE liked it, it must be widely available.
Just from these three likes, you know Crabtree and Evelyn are…
- Available at major retailers
Now without ever reading any product information or sales pitches, you know a lot about a potential purchase. Better yet, you don’t have to wonder if the hype is real because it’s coming from people you trust who don’t stand to gain anything from their endorsement.
Informing customers via trusted social media voices is the very definition of social proof.
Social Proof in Marketing
Social proof in marketing can come from something as simple as likes and comments from customers or be as big as a celebrity endorsement. No matter the source, social proof is an essential part of any digital marketing campaign.
The most common social proof in marketing comes from customer interaction. Comments, social media shares, and customer testimonials will naturally occur. By offering incentives, sharing affiliate links with other blogs, or partnering with influencers, you can give those authentic customer impressions the spotlight.
For more insight into social proof and how it meshes with digital marketing, check out this guide on how to use social proof.
When and where you choose to display those organic customer responses makes all the difference. Blog posts or site pages that are informative rather than persuasive are natural settings for testimonials or endorsements.
What Social Proof Isn’t
Social proof is NOT an ad copy. The impact of social proof in marketing comes from the fact that the brand does not directly control it. Social proof can’t be faked.
Knowing the importance of social proof in marketing, you might be tempted to do anything you can to ramp up testimonials and endorsements. Remember that the power of social proof is in its genuine, organic nature.
Potential customers use social proof to learn about your product from a non-biased source that they trust. Granting coupons for shares or giving freebies to influencers may seem like an easy way to boost interaction, but it can quickly become a bought-and-paid-for infomercial if overused.
If your potential customers feel they are being swindled or misled by false reviews, all the social proof in the world cannot outweigh the sense of suspicion that follows from just one fake endorsement.
We all live and consume media in a commercial culture. Your customers know a sales pitch when they see one. There is a time and place for sales language in any digital marketing campaign, but it should be kept separate from social proof.
When you present a white paper or highlight social proof in marketing, that is NOT the place for traditional ad copy.
The Social Proof is in the Pudding
Social proof is an essential part of any marketing campaign. As they say in show business:
“ten thousand fans can’t be wrong.”
It’s human nature to assume that the crowd knows more than we do. Social proof in marketing relies on these key features:
- Organic generation
- Number of responses
- Qualitative, informational responses
To learn more about social proof in marketing, the definition of social proof, and how it relates to digital marketing, check out the science behind the concepts in Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.
If you have other questions about social proof that you’d like answered, get in touch with Geneva.
Have unique experience with social proof? We’d love to hear it! Share your social proof experiences below.