If you haven’t heard the term ‘Social Proof’ before, don’t worry. Most of us haven’t. That said, if you are in marketing, and you haven’t heard the term ‘Social Proof’ then go bang your head against a wall for a while. Social proof is a simple yet powerful concept. How powerful you ask? Well many great marketers will cite Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini as the most important marketing book ever written. And Cialdini devotes over 50 pages just to social proof.
In his book Cialdini explains what it is, and the science behind it. In short, social proof is when you use the behaviour of others to help you make decisions. We see this every where in business. Interviews with guys that are supposed to be John Q Public (people we can relate to) who are raving about the product, McDonald’s famous “Over one billion sold” signs, testimonials and a million other things too.
On the internet it’s even more prevelant. Lets play a little game. Count the number of social proof items there are on this page along. I’ll give you a minute to go ahead and look around. Are you done? Good. I count ten. Starting from the top of the page, the number of comments, the number of FB likes, the number of tweets, and the number of LinkedIn shares, the links to my community on the right, the “What People Are Saying” section, the FB like button at the bottom, the FB Fan Box on the right, the commenting section at the bottom, and the blog grader on the right. All of these things are intended to show you how many other people like my site. And if other people like my site, then you ought to as well!
This is not revolutionary. You can see this law at work all over the place. Bartenders ‘salt the tip jar’ by adding a little paper money before their shift starts to show people that tipping with paper instead of coins is the norm. Pan handlers do the same. Night clubs hold the gate to create long line-ups so that passerbys will think they are busy and thus popular.
As a society of individuals who are by and large terrified of uncertainty, social proof helps remove that. It tells people that it’s ok to buy what I’m selling, because other people just like you have come to the conclusion to buy.
Where Do You Get Social Proof?
Most of the time, you just ask for it. You can solicit social proof by asking people to check out your product or service and give their opinion of it. It’s that easy.
If you have people who already trust you and are prepared to buy your new product or service or have already bought products you have, you can get social proof from their testimonials. Send them a free copy. Have them take a look and provide you with their comments.
Aim for big-name people, if you can, or widely recognized businesses. Those people have already built up such trust among their audience and clients that their word is extremely valuable. Piggyback on their existing social proof and get some of it for yourself.
Even if you don’t know any big names, or you can’t get them interested, or they don’t have the time, you can use this technique of asking with any person you know who’s willing to try out what you want to sell. They get it for free, and you get some valuable social proof that what you’re offering is pretty great.
Use statistics as evidence of social proof. If 50% of your clients refer other people to you, that’s great social proof. It shows that your clients like you so much that they want other people to enjoy the benefits of working with you.
Do you need to mention the names of all those people? Not at all. Social proof is simply showing that someone out there likes you – the more someones, the better.
Any time you have an example of someone who has done what you want someone else to do, point it out. Show a case study. Post a list of recent clients. Put proof that other people have gone before – and they’ve enjoyed what they bought.
So let me ask you a favor… if you found this post to you even a little bit useful, won’t you please leave me a little social proof?