Web Marketing Influence: Social Proof

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Social Proof in Web Marketing & Social MediaWhen we are uncertain of how to behave or react, we look to others to guide our reaction. This is a powerful tool for web marketing and social media.

The first two tenets of Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, are reciprocation and commitment & consistency…two items that are hard-wired into us. The next tenet is all about external forces: Social Proof.

From laugh tracks to tip jars, we are influenced by the actions and reactions of others. This is especially true when we’re unsure of how to behave in a given situation.

In Cialdini’s chapter on social proof he includes a number of examples of social proof gone haywire, from Jonestown to the murder of Catherine Genovese and the lack of action or reaction from 38 witnesses.

There are a number of variables that impact social proof’s influence over us.

One is how much we are like the other people we are witnessing. In one story, Cialdini’s son wouldn’t give up his “floaties” until he saw another three-year-old swimming without one. This after multiple lessons from his dad and a 6’2″ swimming coach. Once he saw his friend without floaties in the water he knew a three-year-old could do it.

Another variable is how many people make up the social proof: “The greater the number of people who find any idea correct, the more the idea will be correct.”

You can easily demonstrate social proof yourself. Just get a few people in a crowd to start looking to the sky. It won’t be long before the entire crowd is looking up.

So how can you use social proof in your web marketing and social media?

If social proof seems like an obvious fit for social media, you’re right. In fact, so much of social media marketing is based on social proof. Here are some suggestions to get you started on using social proof in your web marketing and social media:

  • Seed your share buttons on your blog posts. You should always start by liking, retweeting, and otherwise sharing your blog posts with any sharing buttons you put on the top of your blog posts. Get co-workers and friends to do the same. This isn’t any different than the bar tender who drops a few singles in his tip jar before his shift starts or the always annoying laugh track. (Interestingly enough, Cialdini rails against bartenders who “seed” their tip jars with bills. Having tended bar in college I’m going to have to disagree with him on this one.)
  • Encourage likes, comments and video responses on YouTube. Like many social media platforms, YouTube has an algorithm that looks at social proof. To encourage this, ask for likes, comments and even video responses by including a verbal call-to-action within your video, and do the same using annotations.
  • Use testimonials from “typical” customers. Add text and video customer testimonials, especially from a customer group that you’re targeting. When people see people “like” them, they’re more likely to respond.

Do you have any examples of how you can use social proof in your web marketing and social media? Please share them in the comments below. People just like you are adding comments on posts like these, and you want to be like them, don’t you?

Next Weapon of Influence: Liking

Rich Brooks
My Social Proof is My Mirror