Social proof strategy and how to use it properly?

Dalibor Šumiga Behavioral marketing/Neuromarketing, Marketing

From the very beginning, I’d like to share two pieces of information with you:

01) did you know that the “back” of a banana is considered to be the part that’s marked by an arrow in the picture?

02) did you know that 80% of people start peeling a banana from the back?

Information no. 1 is true.

Information no. 2 is false.

We gave the false information to a group of 3,000 respondents, wanting to determine whether, under the influence of that information, they would also start to peel a banana from the back.

The aim of this experiment was to discover which factor has a greater impact on people’s behavior – is it social proof, i.e. the impact of finding out that most people perform an action in a certain way or is it personal habit. So the question is, are you going to start peeling a banana from the back just because we gave you the information that 80% of people do it that way?

Most respondents, despite (false) information, did not decide, at least on a declarative level, to change their habit – they confirmed that they would peel a banana from the front, as they have done until now and as most people do.

Although this is a very banal experiment, it opens up a very broad field into consumer psychology, and that is  into thinking about the conditions under which we react after being influenced by popular belief, and under which conditions we are slaves to habits.

Acting under the influence of popular belief is called social proof.

Examples social proof being used are all around us:

  • 1000 people bought this product
  • The best-selling product by customers’ choice
  • This influencer has a million followers

So, from all sides we are influenced by the behavior of the “herd” – everyone does it, so I should be doing it too.

We need to look for the answer in evolution – man wasn’t created to stand alone and we all have a need to belong to a “tribe”.

If you want to know more about “negative social proof” you can find more information in my old article “60% of marketers will read this blog.

But social evidence also depends on the context…

As noted in the commentary by Dr. Sneha Singh on the above mentioned experiment with a banana: “People need a reason to change“.

Social proof won’t work if we don’t have a concrete benefit that can deliver something even better to the consumer.

You should take this fact into account when you’re using social proof in your marketing campaigns, optimizing your web shop and for all other situations in which you want to provoke herd behavior.

A phenomenal example of how social evidence works was given by Nishant Agarwal – social evidence helps when our brain is in doubt….

If he tells you that people are jumping from the top of the building, that doesn’t mean you will jump with them.

But if the building is on fire and you’re in it, that information may be the deciding factor for you to jump as well…