90% of readers would recommend this article.*
Last year I was lucky enough to be given a book called ‘Yes! 50 secrets from the science of persuasion’ by the lovely people at London Blog Club for writing my blog post about a talk by author Steve Martin. I’ve really enjoyed dipping into it and gleaning little snippets on information, so I thought I’d write a blog post about it:
Firstly, what is social proof?
You’ve may have noticed that the snippet in the photograph above is from Wikipedia, I’ve reproduced it here:
“Social proof, also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon that occurs in ambiguous social situations when people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior. Making the assumption that surrounding people possess more knowledge about the situation, they will deem the behavior of others as appropriate or better informed.”
Social proof works on the basis that people will look to others around them for guidance. As Wikipedia explains, this can lead to herd mentality where people act together as a group without planning their behaviour. According to an article on PsychCentral it only takes 5% of a group to do something and the other 95% will follow. Seen as quite innate, animalistic behaviour, it was first analysed in humans by philosopher by Nietzsche. Largely we act with a group because we feel safer even if we don’t necessarily agree with the groups actions.
In ‘Yes!’ Goldstein, Martin and Cialdini highlight a large number of small ways to increase your power of persuasion, many of which harness the power of social proof.
How can social proof persuade people?
Dean Rieck explains the phenomena here (and check out his list of ways to use it to further your business prospects):
“Why did I begin acting that way when it’s clearly not in my nature to do so? Simple. Because everyone else was doing it. So many others were doing it, in fact, and doing it so loudly, I found it impossible to just sit there.
That’s the Rule of Social Proof in a nutshell.
All of us look to others to help us decide how to act, to guide our behavior, to determine whether something is right or wrong. The more people doing it, the more correct it seems.”
So if we can prove, or suggest to people that a large number of people are participating in an activity or subscribing to a certain view, then following the idea of social proof, we should be able influence them using only a small action or harnessing the power of 5% of the crowd. We can persuade people to do something they wouldn’t normally do. Getting hold of the part of your audience who isn’t interested in your product.
How does social proof relate to social media?
Social media managers spend a lot of time trying to prove a return on investment for the brands they work for. This means, showing an increase in brand awareness through numbers of followers that are engaging with your brand and joining the conversation (whether you’re participating or not). Social networks work on a herd basis.
We’ve seen time and time again how people move from one network to another (Myspace to Facebook for example), influenced by the recommendations of others and sheer numbers: “My friends all use Facebook, maybe I’ll like it too.” Imagine the power of that times 500 million (number of users on Facebook). The majority of people are influenced by trends and that’s incredibly powerful.
How can you use social proof to increase awareness of your brand on social media?
Marketeers spend 100% of their time persuading people to buy a product. That’s the whole point of their existence even if they do it in a round-about way. Here are three ways marketeers influence people using social proof:
- Using numbers
“100% of people you know bought this product” Wow, if you heard that wouldn’t it be hard to say no to it. By introducing this kind of information into your outgoing messages you’re endorsing a product.
*At this point I must apologise for lying to you at the start of this article, ‘90% of readers would recommend this article’ it’s completely untrue but did that statement encourage you to read it?
“100% of people who viewed this product bought it” Also a good tactic, now used effectively by Amazon. It gives those people who reach a product page another reason to buy it.
Also, advertise the number of people engaging with your product. The more people who follow or ‘like’ a product the better because there’s a greater herd effect. Plus, if you share milestones it may suggest that if someone isn’t following you then they’re missing out.
- Encourage reviews
People are influenced by other peoples decisions, so ask people to show their support by reviewing your product. Good reviews or even ‘likes’ are encouraging and bad reviews tell you where you could be going wrong. As P.T Barnum said: “All publicity is good publicity”.
- People like you
This isn’t just about Facebook ‘likes’ but rather showing people the actions of other individuals like them. You can show your support to a brand by ‘liking’ it and if other friends do the same you become part of the same herd. If brands can encourage one person to like them then according to the 5/95 rule it means that they could influence 15 other people to follow the same brand. Of course that takes the right individual, but by creating something people want to share, something ‘cool’ we can encourage more and more people to join in.
7 other persuasive tips from ‘Yes!’
- Point out the worth of free gifts so people understand your sacrifice, and what you mean to them.
- Offer more expensive items first in order to sell more in the mid-range.
- If you highlight a potential problem for a customer, then offer a solution.
- Make your messages personalised to get more attention.
- Ask for small favours before a large one.
- Smile and be positive to encourage those around you to be the same.
- Offer approval for desirable behaviour. Just adding smiley faces can do wonders.
Rather than spoiling the whole book I’ll leave you to read it, but here are a few links to explain further:
- Are you using social media as social proof?- Corbett Barr
- Noah Goldstein: Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, UCLA
- Inside Influence Report: Proven science for business success blog