Social Proof : What is it and How Brands Use it

When browsing through any online forum for shopping, what is it about a product that draws you? When looking for an eating joint, what is the first thing you notice about it? Chances are, a big part of what gives you the confidence to spend your money on a product or service is the ratings, the testimonials, the reviews or the amount of crowd that has come before you.


Have you ever thought about why you are lured to make your own decision based on somebody else’s experience? The answer is that there is a distinct psychological technique at play here that tugs at you, known as ‘Social Proof’.


Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.






This is visible in all aspects, big or small, of our day to day lives. We often are more likely to copy actions that the masses are doing, or more personally, do as our friends or family members see fit due a preconceived notion that their actions or behavior are correct. In fact, this is how ‘trends’ work, perhaps the most well known phenomenon in popular culture.


Brands left and right recognize humans’ wish to follow the herd and leverage it for their marketing. The following article details some of the ways in which brands successfully use the concept of ‘social proof’ to their advantage.


1. Calling on experts


Consumers always want the best of the best. But how do we know what’s best? Surely we can’t possess the knowledge needed to differentiate between good and bad about every product and service under the sun. So, more often than not, we are not experts on which product to buy. The next best thing? Trust someone who is.


Colgate calls on professional dentists to advertise their products. A testimonial from an expert on the issue stating how they recommend it to patients and see results, works well enough for consumers.




2. Celebrity status


Nearly every brand shelves quite a bit of money on acquiring celebrities for their advertisements. Every other print or television advertisement includes actors or sportspersons. The owner of one of the most googled fashion brands, Fashion Nova, states that getting the social mogul Kylie Jenner to promote for them drove up the sales by $50,000.


Not just this, half of social media is steadied on the shoulders of ‘influencers’. Influencer marketing has been considered the fastest-growing consumer-acquisition channel. This is because we associate them with niche celebrity status and apply the same principle of social proof i.e. we relate the products they promote to the positive attributes we see in them.





3. The power of the masses


Brands are now more than ever concerned with numbers and they aren’t afraid to show it. Brands showcase the number of visits to their sites, the number of followers they have on their social media profiles, how many people have bought a particular product or service all to compel customers to follow the choice of the masses.


There is a knowledge that following on social media pages is much tougher to go from zero to say the first thousand, whereas the next thousands come easier. This is also an instance when social proof is in play. It is our natural instinct to possess a ‘herd mentality’ and trust the voice of the crowd.






4. The stamp of approval


Oftentimes, brands display and flaunt if they’ve been featured on some news article, or some listicle by print media, that certify them as being good at what they do. Restaurants advertise the number of Michelin stars they have, the certifications they’ve received, the good press they’ve received for the same reason.


In fact, certification has taken a whole new level in the world of social media ‘blue ticks’. Blue ticks of verification on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook etc. make an account seem more legitimate and popular and attract a higher number of followers.




5. User testimonials


Testimonials and reviews from customers help enhance sales. This is a technique called user social proof. User social proof is when current users recommend products and services based on their experiences with a brand.


Nearly all brands display user reviews, ratings, testimonials on their shopping forums. They also reply to user’s comments, address their complaints and engage and interact with users in public to showcase their above par customer service.


Brands also repost all mentions and tags that their brand receives on their own account. This acts as a mirror of all the people enjoying and sporting their products/services, urging customers to believe that if other users are pleased with the product/service, it is worth a try.




Conclusion

The psychological technique of social proof is visible in various shapes and forms in our day to day lives interacting with brands. As a way to influence customers into believing that other people’s experiences will mirror their own, this technique works well for marketers to attract a bigger following.


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