The Power of Social Proof – What Makes You Irresistible

A lot of things go into a person’s decision to purchase a product, and social proof is certainly one of those important factors. Studies show that 70% of consumers say they look at product…

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The Power of Social Proof – What Makes You Irresistible

A lot of things go into a person’s decision to purchase a product, and social proof is certainly one of those important factors. Studies show that 70% of consumers say they look at product reviews before making a purchase, and product reviews are 12x more trusted than product descriptions from manufacturers.

Product reviews are just one example of social proof. However, these statistics do give us insight into the value of social proof when it comes to marketing.


Social proof is the concept that people will conform to the actions of others under the assumption that those actions are reflective of the correct behavior. Thanks to social media, social proof has gained steam over the past couple of years, but in truth, it’s been around for a while in marketing. Psychologists, sociologists and new media marketing experts call this powerful dynamic “social proof.” Most of us don’t call it anything. We simply choose to follow the crowd.

In 2016 and beyond, social proof will gain in importance because customers are becoming more informed all the time. With the power of the internet at their fingertips, customers can know an immense amount of information about your business before ever speaking with a salesperson. Check out these two statistics revealed by consumer research around American consumers:


Here are some examples:

  • Nightclubs and bars limit entry and make patrons wait in line outside. The visual of others waiting to get in increases the perception of the venue’s popularity. It is meant to entice a passerby to check out the club.
  • The way you sign up for most country clubs? You apply to a waitlist. The cost of joining aside, this furthers the perception that membership is an exclusive privilege.
  • McDonald’s restaurants include the line “Billions and Billions Served” on their signs.
  • TV shows play canned laughter or recorded applause to elevate the comical perceptions of situations in the plot. They want you to laugh along with them.
  • Five Types of Social Proof

    If you’re a digital company, building and highlighting your social proof is the best way for new users to learn about you. Engineering your product to generate a social proof, and to be shared through social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, YouTube, Pinterest, and others, can multiply the discovery of your product and its influence. Think of it as building the foundation for massively scalable word-of-mouth. Here’s a “teardown” on various forms of social proof, and how some savvy digital companies are starting to measure its impact.

    1) Expert social proof

    Approval from a credible expert, like a magazine or blogger, can have incredible digital influence. Examples:

  • Visitors referred by a fashion magazine or blogger to designer fashion rentals online at Rent the Runway drive a 200% higher conversion rate than visitors driven by paid search.
  • Klout identifies people who are topical experts on the social web. Klout invited 217 influencers with high Klout scores in design, luxury, tech and autos to test-drive the new Audi A8. These influencers sparked 3,500 tweets, reaching over 3.1 million people in less than 30 days – a multiplier effect of over 14,000x.
  • 2) Celebrity social proof

    Celebrity endorsements are a staple of advertising and can be parlayed to great effect online. According to Lee’s article (circa 2011), an endorsement by Jessica Simpson and aesthetician Nerida Joy helped Beautymint attract 500,000 visitors on day one of its launch.

    3) User social proof

    This is approval from current users of a product or service. This includes customer testimonials, case studies, and online reviews. User social proof is particularly effective when it involves storytelling. We tend to imagine ourselves in other people’s shoes when we read or hear a story. This is why stories are so persuasive and often more trustworthy than statistics or general trends. Individual examples stick with us because we can relate to them. Although statistics can be effective, it can be tougher to really see yourself in the aggregate the way you can with a personal account.


  • User-generated videos (UGVs) are a growing and important social proof phenomenon. Early visitors to Shoedazzle watched more than 9 UGVs on average, helping catapult sales; and user testimonials on YouTube drove a 3x conversion rate vs. organic visitors for Beachbody, the makers of P90x fitness.
  • Negative user social proof is also important to track. The first negative user review on eBay has been shown to reverse a seller’s weekly growth rate from 5% to -8%. It also hurts pricing; a 1% increase in negative feedback has been shown to lead to a 7.5% decrease in sale price realized.
  • 4) “Wisdom of the Crowds” Social Proof

    This type of social proof is approval from large groups of other people. It’s showing evidence that thousands, millions, or even billions have taken the action that the company wants you to take – making a purchase, subscribing, etc. Ray Kroc started using social proof in 1955 by hanging an “Over 1 Million Served” sign at the first McDonald’s. Highlighting popularity or large numbers of users implies “a million people can’t be wrong.”

    5) “Wisdom of Your Friends” Social Proof

    Social media has sparked dozens of different ways to provide this kind of social proof. Facebook widgets that show other Facebook friends that “like” a brand, Twitter’s display of people you follow that also follow another person, and the various ways that company offer rewards for referring others to the brand are all examples of this.


    It’s a powerful marketing tool. One study of 10,000 accounts at a German bank revealed customers who came from customer referrals had 16% higher lifetime value than those who came from other acquisition sources. Additionally, the customers churned 18% less.

    In the age of the social web, social proof is the new marketing. If you have a great product waiting to be discovered, figure out how to build social proof around it by putting it in front of the right early influencers. Engineer your product to share the love. Social proof is the best way for new users to learn why your product is great, and to remind existing users why they made a smart choice.



    Kissmetrics, Techcrunch, Fastcompany, Kissmetrics, Bufferapp
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