In a marketing context, social proof is a concept where a business attracts more customers because of the simple reason of already having many customers. Psychologists confirm this concept through their research studies that indicate that people are more likely to purchase a product or opt for a service that others are already purchasing. Also known as the bandwagon effect, you will notice this happening in crowded places like amusement parks or even restaurants.
In fact, social proof is prominently seen when people have to make choices between a less popular alternative and a hugely popular one. You may have noticed that a restaurant that has fewer patrons will be deemed to be not very good when it comes to quality and people prefer to wait in long lines outside popular restaurants. The same is the case with the sales of popular gadgets or smartphones. The more popular it gets, the more people want it. Crowds attract crowds – that’s the phenomenon behind social proofing.
Types of social proof
Social proof is not just about following the crowd. This concept is carefully applied by marketers and advertisers in their marketing strategies too. Here are some types of social proofs that are changing the perceptions of consumers and strongly influencing their purchasing decisions.
As the name suggests, this type of social proof is created because of the popularity of a certain well-known expert or professional. A credible and prominent food blogger can easily create this expert social proof by recommending a certain restaurant or a particularly popular chef may recommend the use of a certain brand’s ingredient. It is quite natural for the recommended restaurant or the recommended brand to see a significant increase in their customers. Such recommendations and endorsements become a sort of soft marketing for the business that would feature these expert recommendations to lure in more customers.
2. Celebrity Social Proof
Very similar to expert social proof, celebrity social proof is in the form of celebrity endorsements. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that celebrity endorsements are a staple advertising strategy that has provided several businesses with their own set of loyal customers. From luxury sports brands like Nike to even major events such as World EXPO 2020 have benefited largely through celebrity endorsements.
3. User Social Proof
In recent times, with the increase in the accessibility to social media platforms, user social proof is emerging as a go-to marketing strategy for businesses that deal in consumer products and services. Digital marketers are reaching out to social media users to share their experiences of using their products and services in the form of success stories and this is contributing to a great marketing campaign for the business. Many companies even send PR packages or free samples of their products to social media users inviting them to create positive videos about their products and services that will be used to spread awareness as well as further increase their customer base.
4. Wisdom of the Crowd
This is the simplest form of social proof which caters to the popularity syndrome. The most popular items on the menu or the most popular song, for instance, garners more interest from the crowd. This is a very strong marketing strategy that marketers can use to further fuel the popularity of their brand.
5. Wisdom of Friends
Another popular form of social proof is where the preference of a customer is defined by the preference of their friend. If a friend recommends a product or service, the chances are high that a person will follow that recommendation and make a purchase.
The bottom line
In a digitally connected world, where friends, acquaintances, and random strangers share their views, reviews, and opinions online, social proofing has become an essential marketing strategy for businesses that thrive based on customer preferences. Businesses use effective social proof strategies such as customer ratings and reviews, influencer endorsements, or even subscriber counts to attract potential customers and increase their sales.