Social Proof, also known as Social Influence, can make or break your business.
What is Social Proof?
We humans are social. There’s no way around it. Back when we were sharing Wooly Mammoth roasts over the fire in our cozy caves, we knew it was key to our survival. We helped one another stay warm, protected our tribe from danger and understood that hunting was safer in numbers. Those of us who survived to reproduce also learned the benefit of paying attention to the emotional state of others – after all, when Zog’s eyes widened and he took off running, failing to immediately follow his cue likely meant being eaten.
Although we rarely have need to run from a Saber-Toothed Tiger any more, we still take our cues from other humans. We use those cues to give us an instant insight into the correct behavior for any situation.
These days, Social Proof is more useful to us in our daily lives to decide which restaurant to visit, whether we risk looking like a fool by being the first to jump in the middle of the dance floor, or which garage sale might have the best stuff.
Why is this important to you?
If you have a business, you need people to feel they are making the right decision by choosing to visit or even purchase from you online.
Let’s say a group of college friends decides to get together to catch up on old times. They want to go somewhere fun, where the cocktails flow, the food is great and it’s lively. This group begins their search for a restaurant. They walk up to the front door of a beautiful restaurant that advertises a cool pub, draft microbrewery beer and tons of appetizers. When they walk in the door, however, there are only a few people eating. It’s quiet and fairly deserted.
Across the street is a pub with lively music and laughter can be heard whenever someone opens the door. The place is packed with smiling people having fun.
What do you think our group does? Whether they realize it or not, they are psychologically influenced by seeing other people having fun.
It doesn’t matter that the food and drinks are better at the first restaurant. Our college friends subconsciously make the decision to go where other humans like them are enjoying themselves.
Smart marketers use this to their advantage. If you are creating a video or doing a photoshoot for your restaurant, always make sure there are people in those shots who look like they are having the time of their lives. People just like those you want to attract to your restaurant.
Marketing is about creating desire and then delivering on your promise. Do you think everyone needs a Red Ferrari? Almost 95% of our purchasing decisions are emotional. We may back them up with logic or rationale, but if your need was simply a ‘car’, you’d logically purchase the most energy efficient, least expensive model that got you from one place to another. You wouldn’t even care that it was pea green, a color you have hated since your Grandmother made you eat split pea soup when you were ten.
Social proof takes our desires and gives us permission to act on them. Did your best friend just splurge on a huge flat screen tv? You can now learn all about it from your friend, go home and justify a purchase to your wife. You are experiencing desire. It’s not that you need a giant television, but you want one. Now that your friend has one, you want one even more. The television manufacturer who understands this psychology is the one that will get your business. The best new flat screen tv commercials are those that show people like you whose lives have been incredibly enriched after their purchase of a new tv that likely would not have fit in the living room of your childhood home.
Some things to remember about using Social Proof:
- Don’t try to fool people. They’ll catch on quickly and it will be the kiss of death to your product. If you have a busy, fun restaurant, get candid shots. No posing, no models – just people with whom your ideal customer identifies.
- Don’t over promise and fail to deliver. You might get your prospect to visit your business once, but they’ll feel betrayed if you fail to live up to your promises.
- Getting loyal customers to share their stellar experiences is the best Social Proof you can use – these can be in the form of written or video testimonials, reviews, ‘check-ins’, and photos.
- Did we mention the power of using video? (click here for our article on why video is a powerful tool for business)
- Beware using ‘negative’ Social Proof. If you say ‘We’ve lost customers because of our old manager, but we now have a new one’ you can expect that people will shun your business like someone there is spreading the Plague. Instead, say ‘Meet our new manager, John Smith, who has loyal following of people who love him’.
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