What Is The Effect of Social Proof On Our Decisions?

The human mind and our decision-making skills have endured and undergone an evolution of thousands of years and after years of research by scientists, advertisers and marketers we have found that the decisions we make can be influenced fairly easily by external triggers. One such trigger is Social Proof.

Social proof is a psychological phenomenon that helps us make a decision by seeing people similar to us. In other words, it makes us follow other people by copying their actions. Social proof is an effect that enables a kind of herd mentality.

“95 % of people are imitators and only 5% initiators…people are persuaded more by the actions of others than by any proof we can offer. – Cavett Robert 

Benefits of Social Proof for a Business

  1. Social proof will help people make a decision a lot faster.

  2. You can redirect the trend towards your favor. 

  3. More frequent and bigger sales orders

  4. More referrals

  5. After seeing more reviews people tend to post their reviews and feedback too.

  6. Creates a sense of urgency.

Examples of Social Proof in our life.

Social proof is a very strong weapon and can be used to influence us in a lot of ways, here are a few examples from our day-to-day life where we are influenced by social proof unconsciously.

  1. When a few people help a person who just faced an accident, a lot more people will follow and come to help. But when there is no one helping, there is a very high possibility that no one will initiate either. 

  2. On eCommerce websites, you will select the product with more reviews than products with lower or no reviews.

  3. Once a book becomes a New York Times bestseller, the sales start increasing exponentially as people tend to think that since so many people have purchased that book, it must be good.

  4. Positive testimonials will trigger a positive response towards that product/ service/ company.

Websites use “Almost sold out”, “Selling Fast”, “Most-Purchased” and other similar tags to make people select these products over other products.

  1. Celebrity endorsements and brand ambassadors usually influence people towards choosing that brand.

  2. Toothpaste ads are done by actors wearing lab coats to make them more credible.

  3. Surf and detergent usually portray female actresses as mothers so that the people could relate more and social proof is triggered.

  4. Linkedin, Facebook, and Instagram show who in your network follows or likes a post so you can do so too.

Why Social Proof Can be Dangerous?

Social proof is nothing but a herd mindset, so if the social proof is given towards a negative action, people will follow. Let’s see a few examples and scenarios where social proof can lead to a bad situation.

  1. In the ’90s there was a research that concluded that the news of suicide on the front page of the newspaper would cause an increased number of suicides in the upcoming week.

  2. If there are fake reviews on a bad product, you would still buy it over a good product. A lot of research has been done on customer reviews. [i]

  3. Seeing a lot of people looting a department store will make us think as if it is less wrong, and we might be tempted to be a part of it too.

  4. When a majority of people are not wearing a mask in a public area, we are less likely to wear one too.

  5. People are more likely to spit on places that are already spat on instead of clean places.

  6. By seeing a few indiscipline classmates, other kids are also likely to follow

Social proof is an enormous weapon, great in the hands of constructive people… disastrous in the hands of destructive people. We need to be aware of it at all times in order to ensure that we make a wise decision and don’t just end up becoming a part of the crowd.

[i]Mudambi, S.M. and Schuff, D., 2010. Research note: What makes a helpful online review? A study of customer reviews on Amazon. com. MIS quarterly, pp.185-200. 

[ii] https://sherpablog.marketingsherpa.com/marketing/social-doubt-beware-the-downside/

[iii] https://www.nudgify.com/social-proof/

[iv] https://readingraphics.com/book-summary-influence-psychology-of-persuasion/

[v] Book: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

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