What is social proof, and why should small businesses care?

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Social proof is one of the most potent weapons of influence when it comes to marketing. Social proof is, quite simply, the tendency to see an action or behavior as appropriate, if others are doing it as well. Remember in those cheesy sitcoms of the 80’s, with the canned laugh tracks? Saved by the Bell? Three is Company? Producers used these tracks to convince their audiences the show was funny (perhaps funnier than it actually was).

It’s why bartenders put their own money in the tip jars, to signal to others it’s appropriate and encouraged to leave tips. Churches when passing the collection tray, in similar fashion, will place money in the pot to get the ball rolling, so to speak! Whenever we scroll through the twenty similar items on Amazon, ever notice we are drawn to the one that says “best seller” or “largest selling?” It happens to the best of us, without even noticing. Taglines can use the social proof concept very effectively as well – I heard a great one the other day, “Point Bank – your neighbor’s bank,” and according to their president it has been very effective.

In regards to marketing and business, this basic human behavior pattern (social proof) is used with great success. Reviews and recommendations carry a heavy weight when trying to decide which shampoo is best. Will you go with the brand that has 100 5 star reviews, or 3 2.5-stars? Many websites often boast of past and current clients, even placing their logos as a badge of past successes. And there is NOTHING wrong with it! It’s authentic, unpaid support for the quality of your products or services. Hence why it works so very well. If others like it, chances are you will too.

Whether its on YELP, Google, or anywhere else reviews can be collected, ALWAYS ask for reviews. I am even a fan of how a business deals with negative reviews – not everyone will be happy, and showing how you deal with their dissatisfaction can also go a long ways to impress potential clients.

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