In our modern, connected world, opinions are often made as explicitly public as possible. From Google reviews to movie ratings to song rankings, people seem to want to know what others think about a product or service.
It is also increasingly common to hear phrases like “TikTok made me buy it” or “Instagram made me do it.” In other words, your actions can influence the actions of others, and vice versa, especially if people trust you. If you are looking to boost conversion rates for your business—whether to get more sales, drive donations, increase visits to certain landing pages, or improve sign-up numbers—social proof might be the key to success.
Social proof: Looking to others for cues on how to reflect correct behavior
Also known as informational social influence or herd mentality, social proof refers to the phenomenon whereby people assume the actions of others in order to demonstrate that they also know what is expected of them in a given situation. This is particularly prevalent in new or uncertain situations where we presume that others have more knowledge than we do.
Social proof was first introduced as a concept by Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. He found that we are likely to perform the same actions as others before us if we can personally relate to them.
For example, Cialdini references an experiment using a door-to-door charity campaign. Researchers found that people were more likely to donate if they were shown a long list of prior donors. This effect was amplified if the solicited person recognized the names on the donor list—for example, the names of friends and neighbors.
In the realm of digital marketing and ecommerce sites, social proof is evidence that other users have had positive experiences with a business’s product or service. This opinion is reflected in things like product ratings. Would you be more inclined to buy a product that has a 5/5-star rating or a 3/5-star rating?
When it comes to online purchases where potential customers cannot physically see or touch the products they’re looking to buy, social proof is likely to become the deciding factor in the eventual buying decision.
Statistical evidence of social proof: A psychological phenomenon
The numbers don’t lie: Social proof is extremely important when it comes to purchasing decisions.
- 95% of customers read online reviews before buying a product.
- 77% of customers rate the advice of family and friends to be the most persuasive when looking for information on new products and services.
- Micro-influencers (social media influencers with 5,000 to 100,000 followers) convinced 45% of their followers to try their recommended products or services.
- 57% of customers visit a company’s website after reading a positive review.
Five types of social proof (with examples!)
An expert endorsement is when an industry specialist mentions your product or service, or they are openly associated to or linked with your brand. This could happen if an industry expert mentions your brand in an Instagram post or does a Twitter live stream with your business.
Getting a stamp of approval from an authoritative figure or an industry thought leader is an effective way to validate the quality of your product, build your credentials, and boost your brand’s popularity.
Fitbit, a fitness tracking technology company, has an entire page on its website just for press mentions of its smartwatches. It includes big names in tech, business, and wellness, such as Mashable, Business Insider, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, and Men’s Health.
Showcasing the support from these trusted sources is a great form of social proof. Doesn’t it sound impressive that all these outlets recommended this brand?
If we were to criticize one thing, it would be that all reviews date from 2020. The company’s expert social proof might improve if they updated these reviews.