When my family traveled my dad had a surefire way of picking restaurants. We ate where other people ate. An empty parking lot meant that we weren’t eating at that restaurant. A full parking lot was the social proof my dad needed to know that that restaurant was worth stopping and eating there.
The same principle works in internet marketing. Social proof is a powerful tool. Some people call it following the crowd – the point is that others are more likely to purchase something, anything, when they know others have had success with it. If you don’t have proof for the effectiveness of your product, there are five ways to get proof.
Venture capitalist Aileen Lee highlights five kinds of social proof in a 2011 blog post:
- Expert social proof. A recommendation from an expert carries a lot of weight for some consumers. There are people who are influencers – when they speak others listen. When you can find an expert who will endorse your product, you have a powerful form of social proof working in your favor.
- Celebrity social proof. Celebrities are influencers, but in a different way than experts. Celebrities are perceived as having “made it.” Think about pricetline.com and William Shatner or Rob Lowe and Direct TV. Shatner is not a travel expert, nor is Lowe an expert on satellite television broadcast service. Yet both of them have raised the profile and presumably the profits of the companies they represent.
- User social proof. This is what newbies lack, but testimonials and other forms of user social proof can pay off handsomely as you build it. Customer testimonials, online reviews, and case studies are ways that you can build this kind of social proof for your product(s).
- Wisdom of the crowd. This is what my dad relied on when we traveled. A full parking lot meant that others believed that a particular restaurant was a good place to eat. McDonald’s used this kind of social proof for decades.
Billions can’t be wrong, right?
5. Wisdom of friends. Did you know that Zynga grew from 3 million to 41 million average daily users by friends inviting friends to play on Facebook? That’s the power of harnessing social media for marketing.
By the way, Igor says you don’t need social proof and that’s true in a way. You can make some money with no social proof whatsoever. The other side of that coin is that social proof can dynamically change the amount of money you make. Just ask Zynga.
What form of social proof can you put to work right now to grow your business? As always, I welcome your comments.