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Social Proof Explained

        posted by , May 19, 2013

I'm great! Why should you believe me?

Social proof is a form of information that people use to make decisions. It's a relevant commercial force that drives buying and hiring.

At the business level, social proof is fundamental to marketing, sales and leadership. At the career level, social proof is an important component of hiring, performance reviews and promotions.

Definition: Social Proof

Social proof is the use of social information in decision making.

Sources of Social Proof

People look for social information to support decisions from the following sources.

  • Trusted Advisers
    All social information is not created equally. People naturally form trusted advisors by topic area. For example, you may trust one friend about movies and another friend about technology.

  • Authority Figures
    Authority is a type of social status. If someone in authority recommends someone or something it tends to carry weight.

  • Experts
    Experts enjoy a social halo effect. If you're an expert in one thing people will trust your opinion in other topic areas.

  • Social Circles
    People are heavily influenced by their social circles. If everyone you know buys a particular mobile device, you may feel compelled to do the same.

  • Celebrities
    By definition, celebrities enjoy a great deal of social status. If you meet the President of The United States you'll be more likely to get a promotion at work. Strange but true.

  • Communities
    People are influenced by social signals from communities. For example, you buy a brand of motor oil that you know is popular, even if you don't know if your friends use it.

Why Is Social Proof Important?

People action social information all the time. Social proof has a significant impact on decisions. This makes it a factor in sales, marketing and professional reputation.

How To Establish Social Proof

Social proof is more than popularity. It's any social information that's used in decision making. This can include both positive and negative ideas and emotions.

  • Customer Experience
    Brands depend on their customer experience for social proof. If you impress your customers with your end-to-end experience they'll tell their friends. They'll talk about you in social media.

  • Celebrity Customers
    Celebrities can hold a great deal of social status. Paying celebrities to promote your products can build social proof. Even better, get them to use your products because they like them. It's common for celebrities to be showered with product samples at events.

  • Brand Ambassadors
    Look at your employees as brand ambassadors. Hire people who have big social circles to focus on generating social proof.

  • Employee Engagement
    People trust insider views of your brand. If your employees are negative about your business, it's hard to get anywhere with your customers.

  • Looks & Charisma
    Beyond celebrities — attractive people also hold some social status. The same goes for people with charisma, power and personality.

  • Virals
    Advertising and content that creates social buzz. For example, a funny commercial that gets everyone talking.

  • Events
    Sponsoring successful events generates social proof.

  • Networking
    One of the primary effects of professional networking is to create social proof.

  • Name Dropping
    If you know powerful people, dropping their name can help create social proof. Name dropping can also be an annoying habit (use this technique with caution).

  • Friendliness
    Friendly outgoing people tend to generate a good deal of social proof. Simply saying hello to everyone in your office makes you seem like a sociable, popular person.

  • Social Abilities
    Demonstrating social abilities adds to your social proof. For example, if you're skilled at public speaking or have a good sense of humor.

  • Trendiness
    Following popular brands and trends adds to your own social proof. This effect is often small. It's more important to focus on your personality and relationships. A charismatic person will generate more social proof in one day than a trend follower does in a lifetime.

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