Why Social Proof Is Your Best Friend
Posted by Michael Dossett
Have you ever wondered why sitcoms use laugh tracks? Or why bars and coffee shops put money in the tip jar before they open? Why nightclubs gladly keep long lines of customers waiting outside even though there is more than enough room inside? Each of these are a representation of social proof, the powerful force that indicates we look to others to guide our own actions. It is highly beneficial to take advantage of this psychological phenomenon to increase customer interaction, brand awareness, and product adoption.
Many of the highest-traffic websites and blogs (including Mashable, SEOmoz, and Yahoo!) use social proof to generate buzz and portray an image of a popularity and success. By displaying their feed subscriber counts, the number of users who “Like” their page on Facebook, the number of followers they have on Twitter, the number of times a post has been shared, and so on, they are presenting a very calculated image to outsiders who have not yet experienced their brand. Strong numbers in these categories say: “We’re successful, everybody wants in on what we’re offering, so you should, too.” The true value of social proof lies in the fact that the higher the numbers, the faster the numbers grow. The faster the numbers grow, the more exposure, interaction, and recognition the site receives. This phenomenon of compounding exponential growth exemplifies the importance we place on social reference and the powerful influence it has over our decision-making.
The concept is playing a critical role in the implementation of social search, which Facebook is developing as a key part of their growth strategy. Today, it was announced that Facebook is including articles “Liked” by a user’s friends in search results. This is promotional gold for bloggers looking to increase their exposure and presence online. (Last week, I wrote a post about how Facebook needs to capitalize on Social Search if it wants to maximize its online dominance.)
While some dismiss these number displays as bragging points that don’t add any value, the site administrators who recognize the importance of user validation ensure they are a prominent element of their design and strategy.
Here are some great write-ups about the power of social proof: