I am trying to cover each principle by Robert Cialdini that he explained in his book Influence: Science and Practice. This is the third article of the series in which we are going to talk about social proof, and also how digital marketers and SEOs can benefit from it.
Many big and small brands take advantage of the power of social proof in formulating and implementing their business strategies and tactics. Later on in this post I will discuss in detail what exactly social proof is and what experiments Robert Cialdini performed to prove its success. I will also discuss some ideas related to digital marketing where social proof comes in to play.
What is Social Proof?
According to Wikipedia,
“Social proof, also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation. This effect is prominent in ambiguous social situations where people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior, and is driven by the assumption that surrounding people possess more knowledge about the situation.”
This means people in general intend to learn more from the action of others, so if a person has no idea what to do in a particular situation, he/she will most probably look around him (friends and people surrounded by him), observe and perform according to what he/she has observed.
Muzafer Sharif, a Turkish-American social psychologist, performed an in-depth study on social proof in 1935 where his subjects were placed in a dark room and asked to look at a dot of light about 15 feet away. They were then asked how much the dot of light was moving. In reality it was not moving at all, but due to the autokinetic effect, it appeared to move. The result of the light appearing to move varies from person to person but is generally consistent over time for each individual.
After a few days, he performed the second part of the experiment where the subject was paired with two other subjects and asked the same question. Even though the subjects had previously given different estimates, the groups would come to a common estimate.
Experiments on Social Proof
The third rule of influencing people by Robert Cialdini is social proof. In order to prove this, he ran several experiments like the one he did in the movie theaters or dramas houses. According to him, theaters sometimes plant special members within the audience whose job is to clap or even give standing ovations on certain situations. Usually these are the ones who start clapping initially and then rest of the people follow.
People in the theater initially don’t understand how to react to the situation and when they see people around them clapping they follow them.
Facebook, the social media king, does something similar with its users. If you have ever noticed Facebook’s paid ad section, looks something like this:
So, Facebook is informing me that this ad is liked by two of my friends and this may compel me in a way to click on the ad, I might even like it too to join the crowd.
What Does Social Proof Mean For Digital Marketers?
Digital marketers are already using social proof in their day to day life in order to produce better results in terms of conversions.
- Ecommerce Businesses
There are tons of ecommerce businesses operating out there and many of them are already using this tactic. The idea they follow is to include “Who else likes this?” feature by Facebook on product pages. When visitors land on the product pages, they are in a state to decide whether they should buy this product or not.
When they see their friends or a person within their circle has liked the particular product they tend to buy it. Other people’s preferences influence our buying decisions as consumers.
- Service Businesses
This rule can prove to be equally helpful for businesses offering services (or software as a service) to one particular niche or different niches in general.
Distilled is one of the finest names when it comes to SEO and digital marketing services, like any other company they need business too. When a potential customer is in the process of deciding if they should contact them or not, they usually find a testimonial page.
As a consumer when we are confused and have trouble making buying decisions, we seek advice of the people around us. These testimonial pages help the consumer make smart decisions and the positive reviews encourage him to buy.
As digital marketers you can use this social proof rule and apply it while formulating your business strategy to improve conversion rate of your campaigns for different businesses. When using social proof rule try to make it as relevant to the potential client as possible.
For instance, detect the visitor’s location and show the testimonials from the companies that are relevant to that area or in case of ecommerce let him know who else in his friends circle has already bought or liked this particular product. The more assurance they get from this, the better the conversion rate will become.