Social Proofing is an effective marketing tactic because it is a form of informational social influence where people ‘assume the actions of others’ in an attempt to ‘reflect correct behaviour for a given situation’ (Goldstein et al., 2012). The importance of this can be seen in the number of people looking at product reviews - over 70% in the US say they look at reviews before they buy a product. However, not all forms of Social Proof actually work.
1. Negative Social Proof has a negative effect on Behaviour Change
Golstein and Martin (2008) found that negative social proofing on signs meant to reduce the theft of Arizona Petrified wood – for instance, ‘Many past visitors have removed the petrified wood from the park…’ – actually, increased theft of the wood. This negative social proofing actually encouraged people to steal the wood because it ‘made them confident that stealing was okay’. This is mirrored in failed ad campaigns when they try and persuade you to not do something.
2. Positive Social Proofing > Saving Money
Positive social proofing is extremely effective at getting people to change certain behaviours. Surprisingly, it is more persuasive than telling people how much money they can save. One study (Simon, 2010) found that informing customers that ‘77% of their neighbours used fans instead of air conditioning’ (which uses more energy) was more persuasive than telling people that they could be ‘saving $54/month on their utility bill’. Saving money couldn’t beat group influence (Simon, 2010).
3. Social Proof < Social Proof + Pictures
Pictures and videos have been found to increase trust when paired with social proof message (Newman et al., 2012). For example, TalkTalk and their ‘This Stuff Matters’ campaign show a real family using TalkTalk broadband, TV and mobiles, pairing social proof (people using the product) and videos (scenarios when they use the products). They strategy is to increases trust in TalkTalk as a brand and make it appear more family orientated.
You decide if they achieve that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_RWgHqlvMY
4. Social Proof starts at home
Continuing with the example of TalkTalk. Good brand campaigns try and find people who encompass their ‘ideal customer’ because when viewers watch adverts and look at billboards they need to be easily able to picture themselves in that situation. TalkTalk use a large family with a young child, a university student, even a family pet – this means the message (and the social proof influence) can reach a wider audience.
To conclude, there are many more ways that Social Proof can affect and influence people in their every day lives, I thought that these four were the most relatable to advertising and marketing products.
Goldstein, N. J., Martin, S. J., & Cialdini, R. B. (2008). Yes! 50 scientifically proven ways to be persuasive Free Press, New York, NY.
Newman, E. J., Garry, M., Bernstein, D. M., Kantner, J., & Lindsay, D. S. (2012). Nonprobative photographs (or words) inflate truthiness. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, (19), 5.
Simon, S. (2010, October 18). The Secret To Turning Consumers Green. Retrieved November 11, 2016 from http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704575304575296243891721972