Learn why social proof is so darn powerful—and how it can help your marketing.It’s late Sunday morning—the coffee’s on, the rain is falling, and you’re in search of a good place to catch brunch. You head out the door, walk down the street, and notice that nearly half of the restaurants you pass are borderline empty inside. Something inside you tells you to venture on. You head a bit further down the street and notice that the restaurant on your left is completely packed. You head inside.
Like most people, we’re more likely to head into a heavily crowded restaurant than a quiet one, despite average wait times. In fact, despite what we believe, we’re actually drawn to crowds. But why?
Most psychologists, sociologists, and marketing connoisseurs call this psychological phenomenon “social proof.” The rest of us simply call it “following the crowd.”
Social proof is the psychological phenomenon where people adapt their behavior based on what they see other people doing.
In general, there are six different types of social proof:
Let’s go back to the restaurant example. The reason you chose to visit the restaurant with people in it instead of the empty ones was that you assumed the empty restaurants weren’t as good. After all, if they served good food, they wouldn’t be empty, right?
That’s social proof in action. We don’t know if the quality of food in the less crowded restaurants is worse—yet we assume, based on the number of people, that the more crowded restaurant serves better food. These natural human assumptions are great for businesses (like restaurants!) when trying to find an edge over the competition.
In addition, social proof doesn’t require intensive creative processes or hefty budgets—you simply rely on your own customers to demonstrate the value of your product.
There are numerous ways you can apply the psychology of social proof in your marketing efforts, but the short-and-simple approach revolves around inspiring trust. You want to show people that other people trust what you’re offering—and that they should too.
Some common forms of social proof as it applies to marketing include:
According to Nielsen, 92% of people will trust a recommendation from a peer, while 70% of people will trust a recommendation from someone they don’t even know. Other market research has found that: