To understand the mistakes, we first have to know what social proofing is.
If you don’t already know, social proofing is nothing more than a tool used by the marketing industry to gain customer’s trust of their product, service, or company based on the word of others. It isn’t new, but the more our busy lives become reliant upon the internet, the more role social proofing plays in our decision making.
There are several…
Types of Social Proofs
• By the masses.
We see this in product reviews, YouTube comments, and Facebook “likes.” Proof is validated by the viewpoint of many individuals or companies.
For instance, if we are interested in purchasing a new microwave, and our research shows many product reviews of satisfied customers, we tend to trust them. You’ll find this on Amazon for instance. You’ll even see a note at the bottom of the page saying…
“Those who bought this product also bought…”
We find comfort in the views and actions of others. We assume at least some of those people did their research, bought the product, and now give their thumbs up.
Social proof tells us, after all, you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time.
• Expert’s endorsement.
Another method of trust is through an expert in a field. When looking for our microwave, if we saw an endorsement from a respected chef, a published nutritionist, or Consumer Reports; we trust their word.
Again, we may not know much more than to hit the coffee cup icon to heat a cup of water, but these other folks? They know their stuff, so we can trust them.
Closely related to an expert is an endorsement of a celebrity. Odd really, because years ago you’d see Michael Jackson doing Pepsi commercials and he never even drank Pepsi.
Actors, singers, politicians, or anyone in the public’s eye, provided they are well liked, achieves similar social proofing.
Whether they use the product or are just getting paid to put their face to it, it doesn’t matter. It’s what people perceive that matters.
Testimonies from individuals in similar life situations also works. For instance, one like…
“A single parent trying to raise three young kids on two part-time jobs… sigh… it’s nearly impossible to find enough time and money at the end of my week to put a decent meal on the table. I don’t’ spend it if I don’t have to, but my ten year old microwave died last month and I couldn’t go any longer without one. I bought this one and boy is it a life saver. It wasn’t as expensive as many out there, and it’s super easy to use, easy to clean too which I really like… not like my old one. Plus, I got some really good vegetarian ideas from the recipes that came with it. Got to go, one’s in the high chair screaming as I type.” –Bea Leever, Anytown, USA
This type of proofing carries a little less weight than the others, but somewhere out there among the many single parents out there identifying with trying to make ends meet, this testimony is selling a microwave.
• Friends and family.
Last in our examples are the people we know and trust. We will buy a particular product based solely on the fact someone we knew bought it, rather than its cost or even if it is the best of what we’re looking for.
We trust the person, so we trust their judgement. We drag our entire opinion, love, and loyalty of that person right into the product catalog with us.
Of course, if that person said they didn’t like the product, as with any of the above social proofing types, we won’t buy.
So, with that very brief description of social proofing, when doesn’t it work?
Social proof will not work if it has…
• Negative foundation.
• Little proof
If we were to advertise our microwave like…
“We may not have the most sales in the microwave market, not everyone quite gets it yet, but we have the best one out there, hands down.
Be the first one on your block to sport the industries quietest, sleek profiled machine while chatting with friends over Chicken Paprika or Italian Lasagna.”
Although we are enticed to be the first to get in on something, and are tantalized with a couple delicious meals, the underlying proof is…
We are told very few people want this machine just now. So, we begin to distrust it, or ask why aren’t they the largest microwave seller.
Market tests show negative social proofing has the opposite result. In Arizona’s Petrified Forest, there was a problem with people stealing pieces and destroying this natural treasure.
A sign was placed to please not do as so many have done before, taking pieces, and to please help preserve the park.
The result was, because visitors were told so many people had done it before, it must be alright, despite the plea not to steal.
Astonishingly, they found theft had not only continued, but tripled in the area of that signage.
In our little microwave case, we are sure to send customers running to the microwave manufacturer with the most sales. Let someone else be the first on the block to buy this one, right?
This one is not difficult to explain.
If you are on Facebook, you get a friend request, you go on-line to see who it is, and seeing they have ten friends of which you recognize no one…
Are you going to confirm the request? No.
If you see an awesome microwave on-line. It really has some convincing copy. It looks really good, but there are only two reviews, or worse, you see the… “Be the first to review this product,” notice on their home page…
Are you going to buy it? Not likely.
Very simple if there is little proof, people won’t reach in their wallet.
It’s better to side step social proofing all together until there’s enough backing to make it a credible trust factor in the marketing equation.
Until next time…
Live like you’ll never get hurt, dream like nobody is watching, and above all… Try, try, try until you succeed!