Social Proof : Expectations vs. Reality

Mar 2020
According to psychology, people want to be seen as socially correct and because of this In order to follow through with this social correctness, people would look to the behaviors and choices of others to draw reference.

"The Psychology of Marketing: 18 Ways to Use Social Proof to Boost Your Results" by Business2Community.

This phenomenon of socially referencing other people in order to be guided is what is referred to as social proof or informational social influence.

This theory can be supported by the fourth level of Maslow’s hierarchy of need which shows that humans have a deep sense of need to be accepted by others and be seen as acceptable. This need is what compels us as humans to get drawn into following the road towed by most and refuse to take the road less traveled.

There is also the fact that as humans we tend to feel safer when we know that our actions are in line with that of many other people especially those who seem to have certain amounts of influence.

Social proof is something that can prove to be rather very effective in terms of helping us to figure out certain things in situations that can be confusing or where we are skeptical. An example of such a situation is one where a person happens to be in a new town and is looking for somewhere to eat, a simple search through the reviews of the local restaurants would help them to narrow down a likely suitable place to eat. Or perhaps in the same situation, rather than look through the internet, simply looking at the number of people in the restaurant might be an indicator of how good the establishment is.

While physical social proof is helping in a lot of situations that are uncertain, the truth is that social proof is more of an important phenomenon on the internet than in real life. The world that we live in today just happens to be one where we are skeptical about almost everything from where to go, what to eat and even what to like. It is for this reason that we tend to look for social proof on things that we want to see as acceptable.

The theory of social proof is basically an idea that helps to guide people and it affects people in different degrees. Many times the level to which a lot of people are influenced by social proof has to do with the number of people who are in support of a particular thing.

The expectation of social proof is that one would have a better understanding of what is acceptable in society and be guided accordingly. For instance, in a situation where a person is new in a gathering or a social setting, simply following the obvious social proof would be a guideline on how to act, comport oneself, and even how to talk. In situations such as this, the shepherding act that social proof provides is an excellent guide into social graces. However, the reality of social proof is that it most likely leads people to make choices and decisions which they ordinarily would not make or choose.

Social proof is very important when it comes to marketing, both online and offline. In this respect, it gives you a proof of how popular, beneficial, and how widely used a product or a service is in order for it to get a certain level of both prospective and returning customers. It helps to convince you of the fact that a certain product or service is something that you should subscribe to or buy into.

Many brands and businesses use this as a leverage to boost their products and then publicize it. This is where social influencers come in. The expectations that brand have when it comes to making use of social proof come from the fact that as humans, we tend to behave as a pack does seeking safety in numbers and doing as others do. It is this exact psychology that is explored by marketers in order to promote the sales of products and services.

In marketing, the idea is to get customers to join the bandwagon that is their product or service by getting social influencers other influential figures to approve of it. This has been known to have tremendous benefits and yields fantastic results as everyone wants to tow the safe route. This is why brands construct their landing pages using social proof.

Social proof can come in different forms. It can be in the form of likes, retweets, follows reviews, tags, ratings, referrals, testimonies and even just affiliations with popular people. As a brand, having these on your website is one of the best things that can be done for your product or service.

Every social proof is not the same and what is even more important is knowing how and when to use it to your advantage. While looking to make use of the benefits of social proof for your brand, there are 3 elements to look at for effectiveness.

Social Proof Type

There are about 6 basic types of social proofs that are obtainable and perhaps even a few new innovative ones. The idea behind knowing the type of social proof to use is to find the best way to engage your target audience. Each industry reacts differently to different types of social proof for instance where a software business would be more inclined to look at analytical data proof, a more socially inclined business would be more inclined to look at the social media praise proof. This does not mean that either type of social proof won’t work in both industries however, one would be more effective in one of the industries than the other.

Social Proof Content

The thing with social proof is that you can almost never have enough. This means that when you get the first 3 or 4 sets of proof, it does not stop there, you have to keep updating your content with new sets of proof.

Social Proof Placement

Where you choose to place your social proof popup on your landing page is also important because you want people to see it, you want it to create conversation, you want it to encourage potential customers to keep looking through your page till and you want to convince your potential customers that your brand is what they need. You cannot tuck your social proof away at some corner or, at the bottom of your landing page, it needs to be visible enough.

When making use of social proof in the marketing of your brand, it should be noted that there is really no best type of social proof, there are only those that work best for certain industries. However, the idea is to test different types of social proofs with your brand to figure out which works best for your audience and your landing page even after having the knowledge of the industry you belong to.

People's trust in advertising and marketing online is on the rise and with this increase, the use of social proof becomes even more crucial for brands to explore in their marketing.


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