Social Proof

Social proof is one of Robert Cialdini’s six principles of influence.

As a short cut for decision making, in situations where we are uncertain what to do, we look to others to set the example.

If you do as others do, then it must be the right thing to do.

But if you do different things, say different things, wear different types of clothes, then you can feel awkward and even wrong.

Imagine you are in a strange city at night and you are hungry. You walk around looking for a restaurant and you find two that you like – nice things on the menu, good location and the prices seem fair.

One is nearly packed out.

The other has two tables occupied by people finishing their meals and plenty of space.

Which do you go to?

Most people will go to the busy restaurant because it is so popular. The assumption is that the food must be good or they wouldn’t have so many diners.

That’s social proof in action.

Rolling Back The Restaurant Example

The restaurants are very similar and about the same quality – either one is fine.

One hour earlier both restaurants had two couples at tables.

A fifth couple came along and made an arbitrary choice. It didn’t matter which.

The sixth couple saw that the first restaurant was a little busier and thought that must be the better one.

A seventh couple thought the same and as each couple sat down, the social proof became stronger.

Canned Laughter Makes TV Shows Funnier

What happens when you hear someone laugh?

You think something must be funny.

It’s an automatic response.

At the conscious level canned laughter on TV shows can be irritating but at the unconscious level, it puts us in the mood for laughing.

Manipulating The Tips Jar

If you’re in the tips business and have a jar on the counter, then I’m sure you’ve discovered that it’s a mistake to empty it completely.

It looks as if no one values your service.

But if the jar is two thirds full, then it gives the impression that everyone is tipping and creates pressure to do likewise based on social proof.

It’s not just the level that matters either. Everyone looks for guidance on what is an appropriate tip – copper coins will attract more coppers, silver coins will attract more silver and notes can attract notes because of the power of social proof.

The Crowd Looking At The Roof

You may have tried this as a child.

If you go into a busy street and start staring up at the roof of a building, other people will assume you’ve seen something interesting. They will stop and look and eventually a sizeable crowd can gather, all wondering what you saw.

Again it’s social proof in action.

Social Proof In Business – Testimonials

Customers want to buy proven solutions so use testimonials to show that you have plenty of happy customers and clients.

It’s just like the restaurants.

A lack of testimonials creates a doubt in the buyer’s mind while many testimonials – what Dan Kennedy calls a preponderance of proof reassures and takes away the doubts.

Especially if the testimonials are from people the buyer knows or who seem just like him or her. Even better if they meet the buyer where they are with objections with the felt/found method.

“I wasn’t sure that this young website designer had enough experience to put together my ecommerce website but he seemed to be the best of the suppliers I approached. I decided to give him a try and am I glad I did. I found his design flair, commercial nous and speed of getting things done exceptional. he was so easy to work with and delivered on every single one of his promises.”

Some times you don’t even need testimonials. Businesses can boast about the number of customers or that they are the leading brand. The business coaching franchise created by Australian Brad Sugars, ActionCOACH always refers to itself as “the world’s number one business coaching firm” as a way to differentiate itself and get around the franchising stigma.

Trainers use social proof by getting people to hold their hands in the air or even better, to stand up.

Network marketers have plants to stand up and tell their story. The more they were where you are, the more you can relate to their success and imagine yourself doing the same.

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