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Follow the leader - Photo by Pablo Heimplatz

The power of social proof for your online marketing strategy

A Dutch saying goes “als een schaap over de dam is volgt de rest” (meaning if one sheep gets over the dam, the rest follows). We are probably not as dumb as sheep (although they are more intelligent than you think) but as humans, we also show a certain way of herd behaviour. Especially in ambiguous and social situations, we tend to follow the actions and thoughts of the majority of the group. This ‘sheepish-behaviour’ of ours is what Cialdini calls social proof. Social proof is driven by the thought that the surrounding people know more about a given situation than you do. We determine appropriate behaviour for ourselves by examining others. Are you not convinced? Keep reading, we will give you some examples!

Likes, pins and tweets

No matter how independent you think you are, everyone is conditioned by the people around us. Social proof exists in different forms and shapes and mostly without us noticing. A very simple example is the internet. Likes (Facebook, Instagram), tweets (Twitter) and pins (Pinterest) are all forms of social proof because they show us in what degree the world around us thinks a photo or thought is cool, good or funny. In return, this will affect how we perceive this online feed. If you want to go out for dinner, it is an idea to look at reviews of that Italian around the corner. Are the reviews not too good? Maybe look a bit further, people that have been there already probably now better than you.

iTunes uses social proof in the form of recommendations: when you’re listening to an album, related music will be displayed simultaneously. If you’re interested in buying Adele’s album, but suddenly see that others also listen to Amy Winehouse, you might think twice about which one to buy. The choice of others – apart from the fact that this might just be a marketing strategy for iTunes – has a major impact on your own.

Even Apple uses social proof in iTunes
Even Apple uses social proof in iTunes

A social boost for your product

Test social proof with gaze follow
Gaze follow; try it yourself by looking at the sky

If you think about it, the force of social proof is pretty amazing. One easy experiment everyone can do is called gaze follow. Try it yourself by randomly looking at the sky: even though there is nothing to see, other people around you will also start looking. We show this behaviour because of curiosity and the thought that there must be something worth looking at. Why otherwise would this person look at the sky?

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Because social proof is so powerful in both online and offline environments, companies use it frequently in their marketing strategies. What can you do to give your online platform a social boost? We will give a few creative tips and tricks, depending on your product:

  1. Reviews;
  2. Celebrity endorsement;
  3. Existing clients;
  4. Bestsellers.

Show reviews with a helpful/not helpful grading system

Netflix created a review platform where watchers can choose if a movie review is ‘helpful or ‘not helpful’. Helpful reviews will eventually appear at the top and not helpful reviews will disappear to the bottom. This creates a better and more valuable overview.

Use celebrity endorsement when showing your product

George Clooney drinking his Nespresso, Michael Jordan wearing his Nike shoes and Kate Moss putting on her Rimmel lipstick. Adding a familiar face to your page can have tremendous effects on your sales. We want to do what others do, but if George does it, we want to do it even more!

Show your existing clients by displaying their logos in a fun way

Create your own infinite client logo carousel that displays your satisfied customers in a fresh, modern way. It’s also possible to let a specific client (e.g. a CEO) write a little review with their picture, to make it more personal.

Add a best sellers page when showing favourite choices

Amazon has a Best Seller Book page, showing books that are already a favourite choice. This page will make them even more popular, resulting in a positive spiral of sales that feeds itself.

Choose wisely

Adding these strategies to your website or online store will not be the most difficult thing to do. Combined with scarcity this can really improve your revenue. The difficulty is to choose the right one, so it really gives that boost and it does not backfire. Displaying the number of followers when this number is 5 can have a negative consequence. Think about it: why would you follow this page, if there’s a comparable one with 5000 followers?. A Youtube video with 100.000 views is way more impressive than one with 10 views. If you run a restaurant, a few negative reviews can literally kill your online business page. Choose your strategy wisely and experiment with different varieties to see which one is most effective for your context.

Curious how you can increase online sales with social proof and other psychological principles? Get in touch and we’ll figure out what’s best for you!

Milou Odekerken

A passion for writing combined with fascination for the brain to give you the best neuromarketing content!

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