sly : marketing

Social Proof Makes You Do Crazy Things

social proof

I was about ten years old. My two best friends and I were at school. My short tiny friend with red hair and freckles asked if we wanted to do something fun. We said yes. He whispered into my ear, “just follow me and do what I am doing.” I had no clue what he was going to do. I just kept staring at him. He walked up to a group of older boys. He looked at me and my other friend, and he nodded his head. I understood that whatever he was going to do was about to happen. He turned his head and looked straight up in the sky. We both followed his lead and did the same. We kept looking for a while, until I felt his breath and I heard another whisper into my ear. “Look at the boys.” I turned, and noticed that all the other guys were looking straight up into the sky.

We hadn’t said anything. We hadn’t told them to look. They just did what we did. And we were just making fun of them. That’s the first time I discovered the power of social proof.

Social proof is the most powerful thing you can imagine

I’m going to reveal why the rich gets richer, and people with power gets even more powerful. They understand social proof, and they continue to add more social proof.

Social proof is one of the most important aspects of any marketing. I believe that social proof is the easiest way to persuade anybody into doing almost anything.

For instance.

When I wrote that Clicky is Google Analytics on steroids, and a lot of people agreed with me in the comments, you, as a visitor, will be a lot more interested in Clicky, based on the fact that a lot of other people are using it and are saying good things about it. Or when you read all the rave reviews I’ve received for my Marketing Made Simple ebook.

Social proof means that you trust things that other people recommend or are doing. It doesn’t matter if you know the people or not. You trust other people. Period.

And the thing is. The more people that recommend you, and do what you do, and listen to you, the more people will follow you. You’ll continue to grow, based upon your social proof.

I was in Gothenburg (an awesome city in Sweden) a few weeks ago. One of my friends recommended that we should eat at Wok House, an Asian restaurant. To make a long story too short; it was packed with people, and the food was amazing. The only reason we decided to eat at Wok House, and not a pizza restaurant (which I did my best to persuade my buddies to do), was because of how packed the restaurant was. We were all thinking that if it’s packed, they must be serving awesome food.

Social proof is not only about Quantity

When I am going to watch a movie, I ask my friends if they’ve seen it first. I listen to them for advice, and I watch movies that they recommend. They know me, what I want to watch, and I trust them. I don’t pay much attention to reviews on websites or in newspapers. I pay more attention to people I know and trust.

Social proof is about paying attention to testimonials from random people. We all pay attention to some parts of the reviews. But, we pay more attention to people we trust.

For instance, when your best friend tells you about his favorite restaurant, you pay attention. And when John Falchetto tells you about How to convert your passion into business, you pay attention. That’s because you know your best friend has awesome recommendations when it comes to restaurants, and because you know that John Falchetto is brilliant.

A person is not just a random person when it comes to social proof. It’s about trust and social leverage.

Social proof can be forced

Social proof will eventually show up if your products are awesome. But, why wait? Ask for social proof, and start using it in your marketing. Ask your customers for testimonials.

I work with students at the University. They are brilliant students. We’ve given 18 students iPads in order for them to document on social media what’s happening on campus and in the lives of “random” students. I’ve only asked them to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. But on the other hand, I’m forcing social proof. I know that they won’t say anything but awesome stuff about the University, and that’s because I didn’t pick random students, and they received an iPad. Who would say anything bad when you’ve received an iPad?

When people read their stories (on social media), their friends and families, and whoever, they’ll look at their stories as social proof.

I don’t wait for social proof. I ask for it.

Undercover social proof

I’ve read about people who are getting paid to use products in order to inspire other people to start using the products. This happens as part of product launches, and it happens to sneezers (people who are highly influential). We see it all the time with celebrities, and especially at the Oscars. Actors and actresses are using clothes from famous designers in order to get other people to see them wearing the clothes. It’a all undercover social proof.

If the customers at Wok House didn’t really enjoy the food, but were paid to eat, just to get us inside, we would still have eaten the food. We wouldn’t have known the difference. But would this have been wrong, or wouldn’t you have had any problem doing it? I find this question to be very interesting. Undercover social proof is an easy way to get people to do almost anything.

Do you use social proof in your marketing strategy?

I’d love to get a discussion going on the use of social proof as part of a marketing strategy. And one more thing. Do you believe that you get influenced into doing things by social proof? For instance, if my two friends and I were staring up in the air, would you look?

42 responses to “Social Proof Makes You Do Crazy Things”

  1. Adrienne says:

    Hey Jens,

    Absolutely, social proof is important. I know as far as I’m concerned I want to hear what other people are saying about a product or service before I decide whether or not I want to spend my hard earned money to purchase that as well.

    I would definitely go to my friends and acquaintances first but then if everyone is saying more positive things about it then negative then you know the majority are in favor of it. Whatever “it” is.

    Like you, I enjoy going places my friends recommend like restaurants and movies. I might read what they offer or what the movie is about but will get other’s opinion first before I go. If more people are saying not so good things about it then it’s usually not worth my time.

    Great points you’ve made and so very true.

    Have a great week Jens and as always, thanks for the awesome content.


    • Jens says:

      Hi Adrienne,

      I also enjoy being the one that recommend things to my friends. So I love to get recommendations, and I always look up in the sky when other people are doing it, but I love to be the pizza guy, the one people always go to when they’re looking for the best pizza πŸ™‚

  2. Laura E. Pence says:

    I have to admit that I would look! I am the curious sort, but I would also be the first to ask what we were looking for and probably the first to walk away when no-one knew the answer. I haven’t used any paid products, but I’m not against it, as long as everyone knows what’s what. Proper use of disclosures is key. πŸ™‚

    • Jens says:

      Hi Laura,

      I’m also cuious and would definitively look. I would also ask and try to figure out what it was all about. I don’t have any good examples when it comes to paid products (other than the dresses that celebrities wear at the Oscars), but I know that it happens more often than we realize… and I’m not sure if I like it, because they’re tricking us into liking a product.

  3. Kenneth Thomas says:

    It is true as you proof from the first few lines that Social proof is the most powerful thing you can imagine….
    From This post I just think of my childhood days and find out how many activities we perform that gives us a new and different morals..

    • Jens says:

      Hi Kenneth,

      I love to remember my childhood days. A lot was going on, and it’s only now that I figure out why things happened the way they did πŸ™‚

      Thanks a lot for your comment.

  4. Sergio Felix says:

    Hey Jens,

    I have exactly three things to share here and I will name them before I forget! lol

    1. Lonely restaurant that actually looked good in my last trip to Mazatlan, Mexico and we decided to NOT eat there since all the tables were empty.

    2. I heard that on the latest visit to Mumbai, Tom Cruise paid money for people to cheer out for him as it is a place where they don’t even know him. (this is still a rumour but this is a very common practice)

    3. About getting the product out there to produce buzz, I know that MANY marketers would LOVE to promote something as long as you provide them with details of everything such as:

    3.1 Full access to training/product.
    3.2 Special discounted price ONLY for his/her list.
    3.3 Special commission set up for the promoter.
    3.4 Having the right to say “NO” even after reviewing the product.

    And many others, so it gets proper social media exposure with very little investment on the product/service creator.

    For me, the only way to grab a marketer’s attention was to buy a product from him/her first and THEN try to make a business relationship of this kind.

    But I have found that if you give away the product for them and set them up with an amazing offer customized just for them (assuming the product is a good one) they are really likely to promote it for you and thus ending in a very profitable and win-win situation.

    Just my two cents as always!


    PS. I have had full access in the past to some products from known marketers just in exchange of a positive testimonial (IF I did like the product) so I think that pretty much sums the value of social proof, don’t you think? πŸ˜‰

    • Jens says:

      Hey Sergio,

      What an awesome comment! Thanks a lot. I’ve been to Mexico and a town called Merida. It was about 10 years ago, and my mexican friend told me where to eat. The only place I went by myself was a fast food restaurant that was packed with people πŸ™‚

      Wow, I didn’t know that Tom Cruise had to pay people to cheer for him. That’s awesome. I should go to Mumbai, maybe I’d be just as famous (or unknown) as Tom Cruise πŸ™‚

      Testimonials are probably the easiest way to sell products online. If you get some testimonials from well-known people, the products will almost sell without you doing anything.

      Thanks a lot for your awesome comment Sergio. Hope you’re having an awesome time in your fantastic country.

  5. Martin says:

    I am using social proof, but I never thought about it the way you’ve told us in this post. I know I’m influenced by social proof, but in the same time I use it to influence others. I would definetly look at the sky if you do that too – the thing is… it’s OK to be influenced by social proof as long as it doesn’t hurt you in any way.

    • Jens says:

      Hi Martin,

      I believe that we are all influenced by social proof. And that it’s both a good thing and maybe not a good thing. We do what other people are doing, because it makes sense that we copy successful things. If a pizza tastes awesome, we want to eat it as well. If it tastes like s…, we don’t want to eat it. It’s that simple. When people discover something and they share it (by looking at the sky, or watching a movie or whatever) we believe that the only reason they are doing it, is because it’s worth sharing. That’s not always the truth, but we still believe it πŸ™‚

      • Martin says:

        You’re right. Unfortunately, we don’t know if social proof influences us in a negative way until we copy something; in your example with pizza, we won’t know if it’s bad until we eat it. There are people who try to convince us to do certain things although they know it’s not a good thing, just to earn something.

  6. Raj says:

    As you said somewhere in the middle, people listen to others whom they trust. I guess trust is very important – Any one can try to fool people and get away with it a couple of times. After that, they need to keep doing the same thing again and again! But if one is honest about their reviews and if they help people make right purchase decisions, their website will be full of people wanting to read more tips/suggestions.

    • Jens says:

      Hi Raj,

      Yes, people are not just people when it comes to social proof. It’s not just about quantity, it’s about family and friends and people you trust. I always listen to certain people when it comes to which movies I’m going to watch, because I know that we enjoy the same type of movies. That’s worth more than 100 reviews to me πŸ™‚

  7. Hi Jens!

    Awesome post and so very true! I think even those who are not into the marketing niche, do use social proof most of the times.

    I have done so whenever I need a product, or need to go for a movie, new restaurant, join a course, read a book- it always does help if its recommended by someone else earlier. If a known person vouches for the goodness of such things, I don’t think twice and would go ahead and either watch the movie, dine at the restaurant, or just pick the book.

    Loved the points you have put up so well in the post, and yes, if I do see people around me looking at the sky, I would surely look up also πŸ™‚

    Thanks for sharing and have a wonderful week ahead πŸ™‚

    • Jens says:

      Hi Harleena,

      I believe you’re right. We use social proof all the time, no matter who we are. My dad uses it, my mom uses it. They’re looking at what their friends are doing and what people are saying. So, it doesn’t really matter what niches we are in, I believe that we’re all doing it all the time πŸ™‚

  8. John Falchetto says:

    Thanks for the shout my friend πŸ™‚

    I believe the biggest currency online (and even off) is not money or time but trust.

    Trust takes time and no money in the world is going to buy it.

    Trust is the reason why we ask our friends for recommendations, it’s also why we are on social media. At the same time our BS radar is now more precise than ever, we can feel that something isn’t quite right when 20 A-list bloggers get together to promote a product (which not surprisingly they are part of)

    I think it boils down to what you really believe deep down, what the intention is. If we are just in it for money, fame and followers, it will show, and fast.
    On the other side if we take the time to build relationships, around a common set of values.

    So in the end we should really look at our actions and decide, am I doing this to be helpful or to get something in return?

    Great post Jens and something that goes to the heart of social media and online marketing.

    • Jens says:

      Don’t mention it John, your post was brilliant and it’s a post I’m going to return to read again and again.

      I remember reading about trust while I was a political science student. It was a book called trust by Francis Fukuyama. And it basically said what you’re saying, that the biggest currency is trust.

      So, now I believe that businesses are a lot like friendship, and that we should treat our partners and customers as we treat our friends.

  9. farouk says:

    that’s so Right Jens
    thank you for the tips:)

  10. Carolyn says:

    I would look up. Yes, I would. As far as picking a restaurant, seeing a movie, reading a book, I am much more likely to follow the advice of people whose opinions I think are similar to mine.

    Social media is a fascinating example of this. You follow someone on Twitter because you value what they have to say. You don’t have to be friends with them, you just have to listen to them.

    For all of the controversy Klout has drawn, that site attempts to measure how likely it is that someone will look up because you do. You may not agree with Klout’s methods, but their goal is a valuable one. Whether another site will do a better job measuring influence on social media remains to be seen. But the measure of social media influence will only become more valuable.

    • Jens says:

      Hi Carolyn,

      I’m also much more like to follow the advice of people whose opinions are similar to mine. I always talk to them first when I’m buying something, or going to watch a movie or whatever. If they haven’t watched it or have any views on the product, I start checking out what other people think.

      When it comes to Klout, I’m not sure what I think. I agree that their goal is interesting, but I’m not sure if they measure it right. And to me it’s just another service that takes time away from creating content. It’s a little like Alexa, that in order to get a great score, we need to use the service (the alexa toolbar, and get other people with the alexa toolbar installed to visit our sites etc..). I know it’s more to it, but I can’t see myself hanging out at klout and doing all the stuff that can help me grow my score πŸ™‚

      • Carolyn says:

        Hi Jens, I agree that there are issues with Klout, but I don’t think it’s as self-serving as Alexa is. Supposedly when you give someone a +K, that doesn’t affect their Klout score. After all, I don’t think Justin Bieber is giving anyone +K’s to get his Klout score up to 99.

        I have no clue about how Klout works otherwise. I know last week when my post wasn’t being tweeted on Triberr, my Klout score went way down. That’s about the extent of my understanding of how Koult works though.

  11. Steve says:

    Like many people, I am sure I AM influenced by social proof to some degree. But with some of the online stuff i am a little bit more jaded, because I have seen behind the curtain and know that it doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

    For instance I KNOW you can buy massive amount of tweets/likes etc. on shorttask or fiverr (amongst many others) so these stats don’t impress me much.

    But of course sometimes it is then context as much as anything. Having 5000 FB likes for a product might not make me notice. But seeing 5-6 people whos opinions I TRUST all having FB Likes along with a couple of positive comments, could get me to sit up and take notice.

    So in the online world social proof (for me at least) comes with the important addition of WHO it comes from. That is one reason I think Google + is genious. When you look at something in results it will show if anyone in your circles has liked it previously. If I see your smiling face, I am just that much more likely to check it out than if I see no social proof.

    In other words for social proof to really work it has to be based on hard won trust.

    • Jens says:

      Hi Steve,

      What you said makes a lot of sense. This is also how I base most of my decisions to buy or do anything, both online and offline. I get influenced by social proof and a crowd, but I get much more influenced when it comes to people I trust.

      What I have been doing lately is to visit the websites of people I know are successful, and look at their resources, and see what I have missed. So I’m not asking about a specific service, I’m doing it the other way around. I am trying to copy what they do.

      I love Fiverr, but what you said about that we can buy likes etc.. from it, that’s interesting and powerful, and a way to trick people (a lot of people don’t know that you can actually do this). So, to me, this is something I’m a little worried about when it comes to marketing. It’s becoming harder and harder to market, but in the end, it’s based on trust and people you know. So, relationships are more important than ever.

  12. Daniel says:

    Many interesting and useful information

  13. Matt Fox says:

    Great post. I think one thing people need to remember is you can’t escape this. Product placements in TV or movies, talking with your friends, there’s someone influencing you sometimes intentionally and sometimes not.

    • Jens says:

      Hi Matt,

      That’s true. We can’t escape this. I wished there was a product placesment overview on all TV shows and movies. Mostly because I’m very interested in seeing this, because this is undercover social proof. And it makes me a little worried. On the other hand it’s been going on for so long, and more and more people are becoming aware of it. I remember reading about when Sylvester Stallone earned millions of dollars to smoke a specific brand of cigarretes. I’m not sure if he even smoked before this deal, but for millions of dollars, who wouldn’t?

      PS. I’m not sure how much he was suppose to be earning, but millions of dollars sounded about right πŸ™‚

  14. Evette says:

    You are clearly insane. Just kidding. If you were crazy, you would think you were normal, but you think you might be nuts so you aren’t.

  15. Elijah says:

    This is new to me. I might five this a try, its a good strategy.

  16. Bill Dorman says:

    Of course I would look; and leave it to Jens to go to Sweden and eat Chinese food. I probably would have had some Swedish meatballs……..

    Yes, if you can get others talking about you it can gain momentum pretty quickly. It’s somewhat funny in my business that I have some raving fans and would refer me to anybody. I have others who like me, but treat me like a vendor and would leave me for a lower price. My challenge is to either change that mindset, accept if for what it is, or just move on.

    I have a certain group of friends when we get together, something crazy will probably happen. However, it is expected and my social proof is knowing it will happen, it’s just a matter of who will be the perpetrator.

    Good post Jens; here’s to the 5 cheese pizza I had at Papa John’s the other night. Mmmmmm……….

    • Jens says:

      I’d love to meet your raving fans, we’d have a blast together, hopefully eating the 5 cheese pizza at Papa John’s. I have heard so much about Papa John’s, if you keep writing about the amazing pizza’s, I’ll probably end up knocking at your door sometime soon πŸ™‚

  17. Zeny says:

    If you can get others talking about you it can gain momentum pretty quickly. It’s somewhat funny in my business that I have some raving fans and would refer me to anybody. I have others who like me, but treat me like a vendor and would leave me for a lower price. My challenge is to either change that mindset, accept if for what it is, or just move on.I have a certain group of friends when we get together, something crazy will probably happen. However, it is expected and my social proof is knowing it will happen, it’s just a matter of who will be the perpetrator.

    • Jens says:

      Hi Zeny,

      It sounds like you’re doing the right thing. If you already have some raving fans, well, you’ve done your part right. You don’t need many. I believe that it’s about the quality and not the quantity.

      I wouldn’t focus on changing the mindsets. I’d just keep doing what you’re doing, and when you keep producing high quality products, everything else will follow.

      Thanks a lot for stopping by.

  18. pualingo says:

    Social proof is great for building attraction, value, and lowering bitch shields at any venue or social gathering. Short term social proof refers to the events that happen as soon as a PUA is in a venue (or as Mystery likes to say, β€˜when you are on stage’), and each consecutive event that gives evidence of his higher value.

  19. heidimoorez says:

    Actually I read again your post and seems that I fully understand more what is social proof. And this is great because I have a small food business. =)

  20. Jens says:

    Thanks a lot for the feedback πŸ™‚

  21. Jaye Biermann says:

    I Will have to visit again whenever my course load lets up – however I am getting your Feed so i can go through your site offline. Cheers.

  22. Timons Cabansi says:

    Hi Jens!

    Social Proofing could be now as one of the back bone of some promoters to their sites affiliate link and etc.

    It Also gives good credibility that is why the more your likes in Facebook the more that they will see you as an expert in your field.

    Higher number of likes means higher trust rate to your readers..

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