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Social Proof: Your Magic Bullet For Success Online

Social ProofIf you don’t know what social proof is, it’s one of the key influencers that people use when making a decision who to do business with. People look to what others have done when making a decision and that’s why testimonials and celebrity endorsements have been so powerful for businesses.

When you scroll down your Facebook News Feed, the stories that catch your eye are always the ones with the most likes, comments and shares. It’s that same crowd effect that compels people to see what all the commotion is about.

According to Wikipedia:

Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others 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.”

Basically, people have a tendency to base their decisions from the reactions and decisions of their peers. Nobody wants to be the guinea pig because it takes too much effort on what’s perceived as a risk. It’s nice to be able to gain wisdom through the second hand experiences of those we trust. If there’s buzz, it’s got to be good…right?

Leveraging Social Proof For YOUR Benefit

Social media is potentially your greatest tool in gaining social proof and massively increasing your credibility with your target audience.

Each network has different methods of communication and therefore has varying techniques for driving your social proof through the roof.

Social ProofThe Power of The Referral

A few years ago I learned an incredible secret to leveraging LinkedIn recommendations that has gotten me over 75 recommendations. If you have less than 10, it doesn’t look as credible as someone that has a lot more.

In fact, social proof is one of the main reasons why social media itself became so popular. We saw our friends, family and other professionals using it. Social proof can make a huge difference in your success with social media.

When done right, social media success grows exponentially over time.  Your time and money investment – unlike other most traditional media, – becomes more and more profitable over time, and those numbers and the benefits grow exponentially. That is why it’s so hard to track accurate metrics, if you’re ONLY looking at the short-term financial return on investment.  The longer you have been using social media and the more strategic you are about the time you put into it, the more results you get from it.

Social ProofSocial Proof is extremely powerful.  For example, imagine you’re a business coach and your prospective client is evaluating a business coach with 5,500 Twitter followers against you with only 45 followers.  Or they find you through your LinkedIn profile and see you have 77 connections and no recommendations, versus one of your competitors that has 500+ connections on LinkedIn plus a dozen recommendations. Who do you think they’ll consider as the better coach? Do you think that will have any impact on their decision who to do business with? According to the proven theory of social proof and human nature, you better believe it will! They can only be expected to make the best decisions with the information that is readily available for them.

The Magic of Reviews & Testimonials

Here is some more interesting information, Amazon discovered that people were not buying products because of their marketing copy or the manufacturers write up on a product, but rather their decision was being influenced by all of the reviews that people left about the product. That’s a prime example of social proof.

Would you be inclined to want to learn LinkedIn from me if I only had 38 connections and 1 recommendation? Don’t I appear as more of an authority on LinkedIn with 14,500 connections and 75+ recommendations? When you do your own research and see my profile and notice I have recommendations from people like Mari Smith (one of the worlds most well known social media experts), doesn’t that even further boost my credibility? That is social proof.

Social ProofThe Busy Restaurant Must Be Good…Right?

Here’s something every one can relate to as an example of the power of social proof.  If you walk into a restaurant with only two customers in the place, the common perception is that maybe the restaurant isn’t that great.

Now contrast that to a restaurant where you have an hour wait to get in the door! What’s your immediate perception of these two restaurants? This is just human nature and that’s why social proof is so important.

Top 8 Undeniable Social Proof Drivers
1.    LinkedIn Recommendations
2.    Reaching over 500 connections on LinkedIn (once you reach over 500, it only shows “500+” to everyone else)
3.    Testimonials and video testimonials on your website from satisfied customers (the power of 3rd party credibility is irreplaceable)
4.    Facebook Likes, Comments, Shares
5.    Twitter Followers, @Mentions & ReTweets
6.    Email list subscribers
7.    People sharing your blog posts
8.    Comments on your blog posts

These are just some of the ways in which social proof is extremely powerful with social media.

For more information on the power of social proof, I highly recommend that you read, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Dr. Robert Cialdini.

Comments

  1. Chris says:

    Hi Melonie,
    you are right, and you aren’t right 😉
    Social proof is very important – and I totally agree with that.
    But even having 500+ connections on LinkedIn, 50k+ followers on Twitter doesn’t ensure professionalism and authority.
    Today I read that less than 30% of Fortune 500 CEOs have profile on social networks… I don’t know, if it’s true, but we must be very careful with our opinions. Whole article you can read here http://therealtimereport.com/2012/07/12/less-than-30-of-fortune-500-ceos-have-profiles-on-social-networks/
    Thanks for sharing and have a nice wekend!

    1. @Chris: Thanks for your comment. CEOs aren’t responsible for connecting with potential clients. This advice applies to entrepreneurs, biz owners, sales people etc. Those that can generate leads and biz thru social media.

  2. Louise Myers Graphic Design says:

    This is terrific info on social proof, Melonie! Re my recent post on raising your Klout, I’ve had a few people ask me, what difference does it make? And social proof is really the answer!

    So, when are you going to share that LinkedIn secret for getting dozens of recommendations? 😉

    1. Hi Louise, here’s the link to my blog post where I share my strategies for getting LinkedIn recommendations! http://topdogsocialmedia.com/4-rules-to-successfully-getting-linkedin-recommendations/

  3. David Prandi says:

    Hi Melonie!
    In veterinary practice, people rely basically on word-of-mouth.
    And they ALWAYS (or almost always) ask their friends how they solved a particular health issue with their pet.
    They want to “scan” what other people have done in a similar situation.
    The counterparty is that “experts” advice is loosing credibility in favor of social proof.
    What do you think about my last statement ?
    Thank you for sharing knowledge!
    David Prandi

    1. @David: I think social proof is significantly strengthened when someone has enough positive signs of expert credibility. Personally, I will ask a couple people and do a quick check online to see reviews, testimonials and a Google search to see what comes up. It’s the combination of the two that helps me make a decision and I think a lot more people are understanding how empowered they are through technology to make those decisions easier and faster with confidence. You bring up some important points, David. Thank you for your great comments!

  4. Thanks Melonie. I’ll check out book mentioned. Hope it has an audio version as I have lots of listening time while driving these days.