Leveraging Social Proof on Your Website

If you’re looking to grow your user base, is there a best way to cost-effectively attract valuable users? I’m increasingly convinced the best way is by harnessing a concept called social proof, a relatively untapped gold mine in the age of the social web.  Wikipedia describes social proof as “a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others reflect the correct behavior for a given situation… driven by the assumption that the surrounding people possess more information about the situation.” In other words, people are wired to learn from the actions of others, and this can be a huge driver of consumer behavior.

Today social proof is utilized in many different ways in order to influence people’s behavior, especially in the realms of business and marketing.

  • Night clubs and bars make patrons wait in line outside. Seeing others waiting to get in increases the perceived popularity of the venue.
  • Comedy shows play laugh tracks to raise the comical perception of scenes and situations. People actually laugh more when they hear other others doing the same.
  • In one study, a restaurant increased the sales of specific dishes by 13-20% merely by highlighting them as “our most popular items.”

Positive Social Proof is More Influential than Saving Money

In a fascinating environmental study published in the Washington Post, researchers examined the effectiveness of signs (yet again!) on persuading customers to use less energy in the summer by turning on fans instead of air conditioning. Positive social proof should be placed prominently on your most important sales and landing pages. Use it when customers are getting close to making a purchase.

Furthermore, it is important to be authentic and congruent. People have a very fine sense for things that feel fake. If you make claims about your site or your product which you then can’t back up with actual numbers, potential customers and clients will be turned off quickly.

Lastly, take care that you tell the right things to the right people. There is a time and a place for everything. A professional network such as LinkedIn is probably not the best place to look for social proof if you have a site with funny cat photos.

People are Influenced by Similar People

Research surrounding the concept of implicit egotism has shown that, despite what we often say out loud, most people subconsciously like things that “resemble” them in some way. These studies have found that when it comes to valuing the opinions of others, our brains place more weight on those people we deem to be the most like us.

How to Display Social Proof on Your Website

Now that we know about the importance of social proof, it is time to take a look at how to actually integrate it. In the following list you will find a number of tools to establish trust with your visitors and show them that you are the real deal.

  • A Great Offer
  • Testimonials
  • Case Studies
  • Trust Symbols
  • Email Subscribers
  • Social Media Followers


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