Social proof is based on a very common psychological bias which forms from our natural tendency to trust the behaviour, work, actions, and reactions of other human beings and often base our actions and belief on them. This is based on the inherent belief that the majority tends to know best and be right in most situations, which is why we follow majority behaviour when we are unsure about how to proceed in situations. An easy example of this is how your behaviour changes based on the people you are surrounded by in any particular environment. You will be quieter around a quiet group, louder around loud people, and more or less comfortable depending on the people you are surrounded by. It is an automatic defence which shows up every time you are uncertain about what to do in a situation. There are some activities and controlled experiments which have been carried out to try and understand how such behaviour forms, and the impact which social proof has for an organization. It is not surprising that most things which humans do have some sort of social proof that they consider a form of validation.
As a marketer, this is one psychological theory that is of utmost use to you throughout your career. Knowing that the decisions and opinions of others deeply influence people can be the key to forming your market strategy. If behavioural decisions so impact people, purchase decisions are a mere step away. Consumers can be influenced into buying commodities simply based on the reviews and actions of the people they come in contact with. This is the basic principle because of which word of mouth marketing usually has such a high success rate. Word of mouth has a higher chance of convincing potential customers just because there is a level of trust that they have upon the person giving them this information. In simple terms, you will have more faith in a friend’s recommendation of a product than an elaborately planned and directed ad which pitches it to you in a rosy light. The person in question could be a close friend, an acquaintance, a colleague, an Instagram or social media influencer you look up to or a celebrity that you are a fan of. All of these will have a more direct and personal impact than an impersonal ad campaign can achieve. Moreover, word of mouth has the added advantage of exponential growth since it forms a spider-web like the formation of communication where each person will market the commodity to more people, and so on.
Also, there are different sources of social proof that you can use when you wish to use this psychology for your marketing strategy:
- Celebrities: Celebrity opinion tends to have a major impact on how consumers view a product. People are attracted continuously to celebrity lifestyles and will think more favourably of any product that they can associate with a celebrity they like. Moreover, celebrities are constantly in the limelight and talked about, which means that products related to them have a higher chance of sharing this spotlight. Keep in mind that this form of marketing is costly and can have negative returns if you are not careful about the celebrity you choose and the reputation that they already hold.
- Experts: Getting expert reviews on a product is a tried and tested method to validate it instantly since people are more likely to trust their opinions and suggestions. This is one tactic you might have seen a lot in health, hygiene, and lifestyle products. It is less expensive, has more chances of being trustworthy, and is considered legitimate validation by the viewer since the experts are also fellow people and consumers, which forms a strong psychological bond.
- Friends and users: As previously discusses, this is the most valid of all social proofs because there is a powerful element of trust that comes into play. Moreover, conformity and herd mentality can also be exploited.
In the end, it is important to explore all these options and identify the best way that you can use such psychology to your advantage for advancing your advertising and marketing strategies. Good luck!