• Barcode Ireland Team

Social proof psychology in marketing

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

Queue outside store providing social proof

One of the most powerful principals of persuasion - the affirmation of others.

Social proof is the concept that people will follow the actions of a large group despite any gut feeling to the contrary. The idea being that if so many other people behave in a certain way, then it must be the correct behaviour. Simply put, it influences peoples decision-making behaviour.

Say you are faced with a choice between two unknown restaurants, one that’s virtually empty and one that's packed with a snaking queue outside. The many customers choosing the busy restaurant must be right in their collective decision. Their choice of restaurant lends an air of gravitas and quality to the establishment and we are automatically inclined to take the risk free decision by following the wisdom of the crowd.

This is the effect of social proof.

Social proof, also known as peer pressure, FOMO, Informational social influence, Herd behaviour/mentality (Friedrich Nietzsche) and conformity, as demonstrated in the Asch Conformity experiment, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYIh4MkcfJA

In marketing terms, social proof is simply leveraging that innate psychological need for consensus and using it to your advantage.

When employed, social proof builds website/brand trust, credibility, simplifies the customer decision-making process, and validates their purchasing decision.

Social proof is about demonstrating to your potential customers that there are many trustworthy customers out there saying positive things about the quality of your product, service, brand.

Social proof manifests in:

Online reviews

Some 90% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Customers always look at reviews first before purchasing or booking so its essential to have positive ones prominently placed on your website.

Following a purchase, request customers directly for a review, or incentivise reviews by way of a discount, and always address negative reviews (buy offering a solution) thereby demonstrating care and trustworthiness.

User testimonials

Like reviews, testimonials provide real feedback on customer experiences. Whilst any customer can leave a review on say Google or Facebook, testimonials are curated, the business choosing where and how customer comments are shared.

Business credentials

Whereas reviews and testimonials attest to the quality of a product or service, business credentials build trust. Awards and certifications from leading industry authorities, security seals and affiliate brands demonstrate approval and legitimacy.

Expert social proof

This is the opinion of popular influencers or a voice of authority in your particular industry. This could take the form of them blogging, posting on social media, or being quoted or photographed as a product user.

Celebrity endorsement

Celebrity endorsements and partnerships can be incredibly influential and effective in creating social proof. They can take the form of a celebrity/influencer using a product and promoting it on social media.

Social media engagement

One of the simplest examples of social proof is our tendency to follow the crowd as in our earlier example of the choice between restaurants. A highly engaged audience, having lots of likes, comments, and shares on your social posts lends credibility to your brand, building loyalty and trust.

Media mentions

In addition to popular social media, traditional media, such as news sites and magazines are trusted sources of endorsement for many of your audience.

Wisdom of the crowd

The ‘wisdom of the crowd’ social proof appeals to customer FOMO when people are buying in their numbers encouraging them to follow the masses. Highlighting the popularity of a product, as in numbers sold, infers it is safe and affirms customer purchase decision-making.

Wisdom of friends and family

Friend or family recommendations are a particularly powerful form of social proof. Some 77% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from business when introduced by friends or family, and significantly, they spend more and convert more often.

Social proof can be used in virtually any marketing context and communications channel. Website, social media accounts, email campaigns, blogs, can all benefit from this powerful, social proof-driven content.

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