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5 Psychological Reasons ‘Social Proof’ Beats Everything Else in Marketing

You’ve heard of ‘social proof’ before, right? If not, read up — your brand’s target audience craves it.

September 17, 2018 5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Have you ever wondered how Olympic runners become the best in the world? It requires a lot more than simply going out and doing a few laps on the track every day. The world’s best sprinters use a varied workout routine that also includes weight training and a highly controlled diet.

But while these other activities are important, nothing quite compares to sprinting on the track. In many ways, successful marketing is actually quite similar to this approach. There are countless tools you might use as part of your overall strategy — TV ads, social media posts, SEO and so on. But if you neglect the most important tool of all, your efforts won’t be nearly as effective as they could otherwise be. To become a world-class marketer and gain the trust of your customers, you have to prioritize ‘social proof,’ where people’s behaviors are influenced by the actions of others. Here’s why.

1) Social belonging is real.

The desire to belong has been described as “a fundamental human motivation,” a core factor that drives everything we do. Creating a sense of belonging — whether that be with co-workers, friends at church, or even online connections — is essential for our psychological well-being.

We look to a wide variety of resources to achieve this sense of belonging. Even without direct one-on-one interaction, having a sense that we are part of a larger community can boost our self-esteem and provide much-needed motivation.

As a result, when we see other people taking interest in a product or service, we become more motivated to follow the crowd and purchase it ourselves. Similar to joining a club or even a chat room, this involvement helps us gain a sense of greater connection with others.

2) Prospective buyers appreciate transparency.

In today’s society, we have an innate desire for transparency in our business interactions.

As Robert Craven notes, “Across all industries, transparency has never been more important to a successful business model. Withholding or cleverly reshaping information is no longer a viable option for this new era of consumers who are savvier than any generation before them and for whom skepticism seems to be a default setting. In order to build brand loyalty, companies need to first build trust.”

Social proof in the form of customer reviews and testimonials taps into this desire for transparency because they don’t come from the company itself. No marketing filters are involved. Instead, these comments come from ordinary people, who we assume are giving an honest opinion based on their experience with a product or service.

3) The power of stories can’t be underestimated.

Storytelling has long been viewed as one of the best forms of marketing, and for good reason — we naturally think and organize our lives in stories. As a result, storytelling in any form can better engage our brain and help us process information.

As Drew Sparks, co-founder and CEO of Swell CX, puts it, “When you are able to collect the unique, individual stories of how your product or service helped meet an individual’s needs, you can create emotional connections that better appeal to potential customers … The more personalized these experiences are, the more engaging such reviews will be.”

4) Egotism is implicit within all of us.

The old saying “opposites attract” actually doesn’t have much truth to it.

As psychologist Melissa Burkley explains, “Implicit egotism refers to the idea that we naturally gravitate toward people, places, and things that resemble ourselves. For example, we strongly prefer the letters in our name and the numbers in our birthdate…The more familiar something is, the more we like it.”

As strange as it may sound, a glowing review from a customer named “Kevin” could be enough to get other “Kevins” to want to buy your product. This is also why many websites include photos of a customer to go along with a testimonial.

When you see someone who looks like you endorsing a product or service, you’re more likely to view it as something that would be good for you, too.

5) Your audience has a fear of missing out.

We might make fun of fear of missing out (or FOMO), but in reality, it has a powerful influence on us, whether we’re aware of it or not. Though social media has increased anxiety regarding how FOMO affects our well-being, our fears have long played a role in all word of mouth advertising.

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