Picture this: You’re at a new restaurant, scanning the menu, trying to decide what to order. A tantalizing mix of different aromas wafts through the air, and you can’t help but notice how delicious all the dishes coming out of the kitchen look. There are too many options and you’re on the verge of analysis paralysis… until the person at the table next to you loudly raves to their dining companion about how AMAZING their meal is.
You steal a glance their way. Their food does look really good, and they’re clearly thrilled by it… Then you look around and see other people with this dish, seemingly loving it just as much.
And just like that, you know what you’re going to order.
Thank you, social proof.
Yes, this a silly, oversimplified example. But it’s also illustrates just how pervasive (and effective) social proof is. We’re subtly, and sometimes not-so-subtly, influenced by social proof every day.
Here’s what you need to know about implementing social proof into your own marketing strategy — in a way that’s authentic to your brand.
What Is Social Proof?
Back in 1984, Robert Cialdini came up with the term “social proof” in his book Influence, describing how people decide to copy what others are doing because, you know, monkey see, monkey do.
At its core, social proof is the force that compels people to follow others. When we see people adopting a particular behavior, whether it’s purchasing a product or endorsing a service, we’re wired to think, “If everyone else is doing it, it must be good!”
The Psychology Of Social Proof
When done right, social proof can give your business all kinds of legs up.
In a world inundated with choices, consumers often turn to the experiences of their peers to make informed decisions. When they see that others have had positive interactions with your brand, trust is built, and barriers to entry come tumbling down.
Humans are social beings, and our behaviors are strongly influenced by those around us. Social proof taps into this psychological phenomenon, shaping consumer behavior by leveraging the power of conformity. When people see their peers making a choice, they’re simply more likely to follow suit.
Influence on Behavior
People inherently seek validation. In fact, validation is built into many buyer journeys. Even if a potential customer is interested in purchasing from a brand without initial exposure to social proof, more likely than not, they’re going to check out the company’s reviews or ask around if anyone they know has interacted with the brand before. In this way, social proof serves as a stamp of approval.
FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
Yes, FOMO plays a huge role in marketing. Social proof capitalizes on the fear of missing out by showcasing the positive experiences of others. Whether it’s a limited-time offer or a trending product, the fear of being left out by the crowd drives people to join the bandwagon.