Lessons in Marketing Psychology: Social Proof

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In all aspects of marketing, the key to a successful campaign lies in one thing:

Figuring out how and why people make certain choices.

So when you can paint an accurate picture of why people make certain choices, you’re better able to influence their thoughts and actions. As extreme as it may sound, this is basically what the crux of every marketing strategy is all about.

It’s also a brief definition of marketing psychology – the art of understanding consumers’ buying decisions and manipulating them. Rather than throwing around messages at random and hoping somebody bites, marketing psychology means taking the time to get to know your audience on a much deeper level.

But what’s interesting is how regardless of the audience you’re targeting, certain types of marketing psychology are universally effective. One of these is social proof, which over recent years has evolved into one of the most powerful marketing tools in the history of consumerism.

What is Social Proof in a Marketing Psychology Context?

Social proof is the kind of all-round marketing tool that makes it possible to sell almost anything to almost anyone. Used strategically, you can embed social proof (aka social signals) into all types of marketing materials and everyday web content.

It’s a subtle, spectacularly effective means of showing people that your products, services, and business is exactly what they need. All of which you achieve by effectively getting other people to sell for you.

This is precisely why many people often refer to social proof as ‘the art of selling without selling’. Get it right and not only can it be highly effective, but also a uniquely affordable marketing strategy.

Getting to Grips with the Six Categories of Social Proof

The marketing psychology of social proof centres on the fact that we are all strongly influenced by those around us. When we see large numbers of people doing something, going somewhere, or buying something, we’re compelled to follow their example.

Just as if a whole bunch of people advise against doing something, we’re instinctively less likely to do it.

Social proof leverages our natural predisposition to follow the crowd.  Understandably, endorsements and recommendations that come from those we respect and/or admire are even more influential.

We can divide all examples of social proof into six primary categories:

  1. User – an existing customer or user of a product who recommends it to others.
  2. Celebrity – a famous face or influential figure who promotes a business.
  3. Expert – someone with authority and respect that people instinctively trust.
  4. Certification – any formal accreditation or recognised ‘badge of honour’.
  5. Wisdom of the crowd – endorsements from large groups of people.
  6. Wisdom of friends – direct recommendations from friends, colleagues etc.

You can leverage each of the above in a variety of ways, as demonstrated in the following everyday examples:

  • Reaching out to a famous face and asking them to endorse one of your products
  • Asking satisfied customers to leave positive reviews and testimonials
  • Seeking certification or accreditation to verify the quality of your products
  • Publishing high-impact figures like numbers of satisfied customers to date
  • Adding user-generated content to your website

These are just a few of the ways you can use social proof to influence almost any target audience in any niche. All of which can be achieved at a fraction of the cost of a conventional marketing campaign.

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