Think You Know the Psychology Behind Social Proof?

social-proofRobert Cialdini, a leading expert in social psychology, developed 6 Key Principles of Influence used to persuade people. Of those 6 principles social proof is the one that most content marketer’s are drawing upon to help influence their audience.

“This principle relies on people’s sense of ‘safety in numbers.’”

Ever heard the saying if so and so jumped off a bridge, would you? I have, and it usually followed suit with being caught in a random act of idiocy when I conformed to groupthink. It’s not a far fetched concept as it falls in line with the tenets of peer pressure.

An even better example of this would be “No Soap, Radio” jokes popular during the 1950’s. The typical set up involves a joke being told that concludes with a prank punchline. For example,

A hunter was walking through the woods when he came to a river. In the middle of the river was a bear taking a bath. The hunter called out, “Heya, fella, need some soap?” To which the bear called back, “No, thanks, I’ve got a radio!

Did you get it? Don’t feel bad if you didn’t because the purpose of the joke is to be a prank. It’s meant to be used as a test for social conformity at the expense of the listener.

6453623No soap radio jokes were told to a person looking to befriend a particular group in which group participants would laugh at the punchline to see if the newcomer would do the same. It demonstrates the power of the Cialdini’s third principle of influence, Social Proof.

By definition, “Social proof, also known as informational social influence, is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.”

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Above we examined the power of no soap radio jokes in the process of measuring group conformity based off of Cialdini’s principles of influence. Also mentioned was the use of this social psychology by content marketers to engage with their audience.

Content marketing takes a different approach in using the power of strength in numbers to relay legitimate, qualified information to persuade their audience.

The image above of McDonald’s golden arches proudly displays to loyal customers, and new ones alike, that their burgers are so popular they have sold over 100 million. The underlying message taken in by the viewer is that McDonald’s is popular therefore it must be good.

Simple enough, right? Well, the psychological studies extend even further to reveal the process that occurs within the brain as a viewer intakes this data.

SIFT

Bravo, if you are able to sequence the image above, however, it will not be our central focus. Instead, we will focus more on the content marketing aspect of leveraging social proof in your campaign while the hard science will serve as our co-pilot.

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Cialdini isn’t the lone expert in the field of social psychology and influence. Psychologist Herbert Kelman made a significant contribution identifying three major types of conformity.

  • Compliance is public conformity, while possibly keeping one’s own original beliefs for yourself. Compliance is motivated by the need for approval and the fear of being rejected.
  • Identification is conforming to someone who is liked and respected, such as a celebrity or a favorite uncle. This can be motivated by the attractiveness of the source, and this is a deeper type of conformism than compliance.
  • Internalization is accepting the belief or behavior and conforming both publicly and privately, if the source is credible. It is the deepest influence on people and it will affect them for a long time.

using-social-proofNow that we have a basic understanding of social proof, let’s look at how we can apply these concepts into actionable ways to your content marketing campaign.

In an article titled, Social Proof Is The New Marketing, venture capitalist Aileen Lee of Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield and Byers presents,

5 Types of Social Proof

1. Expert social proof

A credible expert such as a prominent blogger, business leader or voice of authority in an industry can cast a significant influence.

For example, the late Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were highly respected film critics whose signature “endorsement” of a movie were a “Two Thumbs Up!” rating. Their clout in the film community garnered them thought leadership and was a power social influence amongst movie goers.

The social proofing strategies you can employ with expert social proof extend themselves to

  • Ratings/reviews
  • Influencer Endorsements
  • Media Logos

cinema-paradiso

2. Celebrity social proof

Celebrity endorsements have been a staple in advertising for years and subsequently their impact has been used not only for promoting or selling a product, but a campaign.

For instance, the Citizen Change political service group founded by Sean “P. Diddy” Combs in 2006 operated under the initiative of getting younger generations to be involved in the voting process. The slogan was, “Vote or Die,” and featured endorsements from a number of celebrities including Mariah Carey, Paris Hilton, Usher, Yoko Ono, and Alicia Keys.

The social proofing strategies you can employ with expert social proof extend themselves to

  • Influencer endorsement
  • Ratings/reviews
  • Social Connections
  • Social Shares

vote or die

3. User social proof

Perhaps one of the best types of social proof you can utilize are embedded tweets from actual users.

For instance, let’s say you wrote a book and it’s currently circulating. It’s great to receive positive feedback on a website like Amazon where it may be available for purchase, but even better when someone tweets about it using their own social accounts.

The social proofing strategies you can employ with expert social proof extend themselves to

  • Clients
  • Testimonials
  • Ratings/reviews

Amazon-expanded-tweet

The image above represents a concept known as buyers gratitude in which case the user is elated about the product/service you provide and proud to share it amongst friends.

4. Wisdom of friends

The previous concept parlays perfectly into the fourth type of social proofing. People create social circles with people whom they share similar values and interests. Refer back to the previous image concerning The Impact Equation and the tweet sent out by Jonathan Perrelli.

His tweet is now visible not only through Twitter, but your website. It provides visual proof to unique and regular visitors that your book, or rather @Julien & @chrisbrogan, that your book might be of interest to them as well.

The social proofing strategies you can employ with expert social proof extend themselves to

  • Test Results
  • Social Connections
  • Social Shares

persuasion-social-proof5. Wisdom of the crowd

Remember the image of McDonald’s earlier proudly displaying, “Over 100 Million Sold!” This specifically speaks to that notion of strength in numbers we first spoke about. During a summer job as a waiter, a couple of long time staff members encouraged me to start each shift with a large personal “bank.”

I would simply have between twenty to thirty dollars in smaller bills folded into my check presenter, so that when presenting the customer with their bill they would see me remove my bank.

The reason being, it sent the message that I had presented quality service to previous customers and in doing so had been tipped well. There is not substitute for hard work and quality customer service, but on days the restaurant was slower it still presented the air of being worthy of a good tip.

Ever looked at an empty tip jar placed next to a register and felt the need to tip? Now, take that same tip jar and fill it with money. Would you be more inclined to leave a tip in the first jar or the second? The feeling urging you to tip is social pressure to conform.

The social proofing strategies you can employ with expert social proof extend themselves to

  • Subscriber Counts
  • Social Shares
  • Ratings/reviews

social-proofAll of this information is well and good, but beyond taking matters into your own hand waiting to receive positive feedback is risky. Not every customer is prone to leaving feedback, as some people are more outspoken than others.

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So, how do you ensure you will have any feedback at all to leverage into social proof? Scott Aughtmon of Content Marketing Institute posits the,

pic51. Ask, and you shall receive

Whenever I get an email from someone complimenting one of my products, I ask them if they would mind if I share it with my prospects. Surprisingly, most are glad to do it (in fact, I can’t think of anyone who has ever said, “No”).

Sounds simple enough, and it is. You may not necessarily have a 100% “Yes” response, but in most cases if someone has left you positive feedback already the chances are they won’t deny your request.

Think of it as being the maestro to your audience. Instead of keeping that compliment/review to yourself, share it with the world. You worked hard to develop the solution to a need that someone benefited from, so ask them if they would be inclined to share it with others.

This taps back into User Social Proof, Wisdom of Friends, and Wisdom of the Crowd.

2. Do unto others

The idiom “one good turn deserves another” or the “golden rule” as Cialdini cites is key in receiving positive feedback; Specifically the “Rule of Reciprocation” found in Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

The internet, mobile apps and social media are all meant for the same purpose: to interact and network. This one simple, actionable step allows you to join the community by interacting with user generated content.

Whether it’s a product, service, viral video, or thought leader you follow and appreciate it’s important to reach out and let them know. Maybe you’re a fan of Mark Cuban and appreciate the wisdom he imparts on Shark Tank, it’s important to let him know.

Whether or not he responds directly isn’t the central focus, but rather to become regularly involved in his community and network of followers. You can present a different perspective or knowledge base to the conversation regularly which in turn may attract an audience to yourself.

3. Give thanks

This ties directly back into becoming a part of the community created through social media, mobile apps and the internet. Aughton draws upon the adage of “pay it forward” when you are on the receiving end of a compliment.
“You can thank them privately (good), or you can thank them publicly (even better).”

Whichever method you choose, responding directly to those who have a need for your product/service can help to solidify the fact that you care. This can serve to foster trust and build relationships not only among your core clientele, but others who may have yet to seek you out.

4. Do amazing things

As I mentioned earlier there is not substitute for hard work. You can’t put out a mediocre, run of the mill service/product and expect rave reviews. Instead, focus on your craft/business/brand first.

If you’re a bakery owner specializing in muffins and looking to cut corners by purchasing lower quality ingredients or provide a less than exceptional service, why should anyone want to leave you positive feedback?

Recommendations are earned over universally the same way. If a student looking to apply to a graduate school or military personnel looking to attend officer school have turn in sub-par performances, chances are their professor/superior won’t be as inclined.

The reason why? Their reputation is on the line much the same way it is for your customer. It may not be in an brick-and-mortar institution, but most certainly within their social circle be it on social media or face-to-face relationships.

Whew, how sweet was that? Quite a bit of information to digest, so let’s go back over our key points.

There are 5 Types of Social Proof you can utilize within your content marketing campaign with strategies tailored specifically to each.

1. Expert Social Proof

  • Ratings/reviews
  • Influencer Endorsements
  • Media Logos

2. Celebrity Social Proof

  • Influencer endorsement
  • Ratings/reviews
  • Social Connections
  • Social Shares

3. User Social Proof

  • Clients
  • Testimonials
  • Ratings/reviews

4. Wisdom of Friends

  • Test Results
  • Social Connections
  • Social Shares

5. Wisdom of the Crowd

  • Subscriber Counts
  • Social Shares
  • Ratings/reviews

In order to go about obtaining any or all of these forms of social proof it is important to follow these 4 Commandments of Socially-Created Content:

  1.  Ask and You Shall Recieve
  2. Do Unto Others
  3. Give Thanks
  4. Do Amazing Things

You’ve already developed/created a great service/product and love your brand. Now it’s time to help the world tell each other about it!

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