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What is Social Proof?
What is Social Proof?
Yosi Dahan avatar
Written by Yosi Dahan
Updated over a week ago

According to Robert Cialdini, Professor of Psychology and Marketing, social proof is one of the most powerful concepts in persuading people to take certain actions, such as buying your product or service.

By reading further you’ll understand how using social proof effectively in your marketing is a powerful sales tool; you’ll discover how an automated and easy to use solution can increase your sales, and you’ll find some useful tips on how you can phrase your social proof statements to maximise your results.

In principle, it’s simple. People tend to do what other people do.

Yes, some of us are contrarians.

Hipsters tend to rebel against the mainstream and see themselves as valuing counter-culture.

Innovators and Early Adopters start using new products and technologies as soon as they become available, regardless of what other people do.

But, most of us follow the herd. We do what other people do. In 1969, Milgram, Bickman and Berkowitz conducted an experiment on how passersby were affected by a crowd of people standing and looking up at a building at a busy New York street. The research is astonishing in its findings.

Simply stated – when 2 or more people were looking up, 60% or more of passersby also looked up. As the “stimulus crowd” increased, more and more of people stopped and joined the crowd, looking up.

Many products and services do not move beyond the innovator or early adopter stage. Snapchat’s Spectacles are a case in point. Despite huge media coverage, being sold on Amazon, in pop-up stores and vending SnapBots (a vending machine for Snapchat’s glasses), version 1 of the glasses only sold 220,000 pairs. The innovators and early adopters hated them and told everyone, and the reviews were terrible. Nobody bought them.

We do what other people do – whether it is deciding to buy, or deciding not to buy.

Have you ever watched a film on Netflix or in the cinema because someone told you that it was a great movie?

Have you tried a restaurant just because someone recommended it?

Have you ever bought a product or service because your friends on Facebook recommended it, or you saw positive independent reviews?

That’s all SOCIAL PROOF.

We do it all the time, subconsciously.

You are surrounded by social proof and are influenced by it, all the time.

Innovators and early adopters talk about new products and services, reviews appear, and more and more people buy as they see others enjoy it. This drives more conversations, which leads to more sales.

Word of mouth is still recognised as one of the most powerful methods of promotion. It’s pure social proof.

Amazon was one of the first companies to use social proof effectively online. “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” is a classic and made a huge impact. According to McKinsey, “35% of what consumers purchase on Amazon and 75% of what they watch on Netflix come from product recommendations”. These recommendations are based on trends and analysis of transaction data, and the results are used as social proof.

Nosto claims that companies on average have a 12% increase in sales when using their Onsite Product Recommendations. From my experience, I’ve seen increases larger than 12% with some of my clients.

BrightLocal has published a “Local Consumer Review Survey 2017” which shows that positive reviews make 73% of consumers trust a local business more. Also, “85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations”. This data strongly suggests you can influence buying decisions using online reviews.

Copywriters know the secret of social proof. Read any effective sales copy, and you’ll see testimonials and quotes from happy users.

How To Effectively Use Social Proof To Increase Your Sales

ProveSource allows you to easily display a small notification showing how many people have recently visited, bought or signed up for your service. It can also show who has recently bought your product or service – although ou may need to think about privacy issues for this particular use case.

The proof box is the digital equivalent of the 88Johnson Box** in a Direct Mail context. People have reported up to 40% increase in response rate when used effectively. The eye is drawn to it, and the message tends to be read by most people.

Before you rush in and start using it, consider how you can get maximum benefit from these small displays of social proof.

This will be part of your sales copy. Don’t accept the default; truly consider and test which wording can give you maximum benefit.

For instance, try “X visitors just like you decided to receive useful tips & tricks by signing up for my weekly newsletter in the last 24 hours” vs “X visitors signed up for my newsletter in the last 24 hours”.

In Pre-suasion, Cialdini describes an experiment by Mandel and Johnson, 2002, how fluffy clouds as the background of an e-commerce website influenced purchasers to select more comfortable sofas. When using pictures of pennies as the backdrop, price became the primary factor, and people bought more inexpensive sofas.

Your wording in the proof box will have a direct impact on your sales. Measure your results without a proof box. Measure your results WITH a proof box. Measure your results with different wording in the proof box. Use the one that makes the most positive impact.

As a “pre-suasive” digital Johnson Box device on your site, conveying a strong social proof message to potential buyers, ProveSource’s proof box can potentially raise your conversion massively. Not using a proof box could be a big mistake in your website marketing.

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