“Social Proof” is one of the many strategies and techniques that businesses rely on to win you over and convince you that their product or service is worth your hard-earned cash. It taps into a basic human characteristic – the need to be like others. In our desire to conform, we often succumb and buy whatever the business has to offer.
But wait a minute – Is social proof a sneaky trick or is it something that’s essentially human and all-pervasive?
Social proof in business is really just a modern name given to something that has existed since humans formed their first communities in the distant past. What’s at work with social proof is more than just the desire to conform or a marketer’s attempt to persuade. It’s a part of everything we do.
- Imagine if you’re trying to decide between two restaurants for dinner. One is nearly empty but the other has a line stretching around the corner. Assuming you’re not in a hurry, which restaurant would you naturally choose?
- Think of an article that’s gone viral on social media. More and more of your friends are sharing it every day. Don’t you start wanting to read it and seeing what it’s all about?
- Let’s say you’re shopping for a computer and you really don’t know about computers or what you want in one. You ask the salesperson and he or she tells you, “Well, this is the one most people buy and it’s gotten a great deal of excellent feedback.”
- You’re buying something on Amazon and you see that one seller has a 97% customer rating while another has yet to make a sale. Which would you choose?
- While you’re walking down the street, you see that nearly everyone else on the street is peering around the corner. Wouldn’t you quicken your step and curiously look to see what’s going on?
I’ve just provided you with five examples of social proof in today’s society. As you can see, social proof is ubiquitous and it’s part of everyone’s life. It’s a keystone of any marketing strategy and it’s a technique you should be incorporating in your business plans.
What Is Social Proof?
Social proof is a psychological phenomenon in which people base their decisions for the right course of action on what those around them have chosen. It is most powerful in ambiguous situations where you’re not sure what the right course of action is, or where you’re not confident about your decision. It works on the assumption that if others made a certain choice, there must be merit to it.
Social proof works on all levels of society. It’s present in any advertisement where you see that “8,356 people download this software program every week” or “this product is recommended by 9 out of 10 doctors.” But it’s also at work when a friend recommends a good chiropractor, you organize your workspace more or less the same way everyone else has, or you decide to check out a new drama on TV because everybody’s raving about it.
Unless you live in a cave or on a desert island, you’re influenced by those around you. It’s part of human nature. Even if you don’t listen to marketers’ pitches or you consider yourself a non-conforming cynic, there is some group of people that has an influence on you.
Why You Should Care about Social Proof
Social proof isn’t just a “marketing trick.” It’s a psychological tool that everyone uses, whether you’re a business trying to communicate your value to prospective customers, a charity organization trying to gather signatures, or simply a good friend trying to convince someone on a certain course of action.
It’s important for businesses not only because it’s powerful, but also because it engenders trust. When people are looking for a product or service, they are thinking to themselves, in a positive mode: “How is this product or service going to help me.” There’s also a negative side to their thinking. They’re saying to themselves, “Can I trust this business?” or “Is this product or service going to fall short of my expectations and let me down?”
Social proof in the form of reviews, testimonials, or statistics on customer satisfaction tells the prospective customer that this is a company they can trust. The product or service may or may not be perfect, but at the very least, the company has a great deal of customer satisfaction, so it can’t be all bad.
Imagine a dance party where it’s early in the evening and no one is dancing. If one person starts dancing, another will follow suit. Once you have a small group dancing, everyone else is sure to join. Social proof is like that small group of people dancing, telling the newcomers, “It’s okay to get up and dance.”
Apply this to Your Business
You can easily apply this concept to your residential cleaning business:
- Add your customer testimonials to your website
- Encourage reviews on your Facebook and other social media pages. Click here for help setting up Facebook for your business.
- Add your best customer review to your business card, eMail, and/or flyer
- Get published locally and add your customer reviews to the article
- Setup your LinkedIn page – an excellent way to build trust that people can see. Read my blog post on getting started with LinkedIn.
As you can see, it’s not hard to social proof your business – it just takes a little planning!