I used to get asked about emerging trends a lot. Mostly because the reports I used to write were so accurate in predicting them. Well one prediction from one of my past reports has come to pass in such a big way I thought I’d write a couple short posts just to nudge it back front and center in your marketing memory.
It’s an area of your marketing you might be overlooking. Or one you might not be taking as seriously as you should.
It’s really not a new concept. (But then again, reviewing the fundamentals is always uber-valuable no matter how sophisticated a marketer you are.) In fact if you’re into copywriting at all, I’m sure you know about it all too well.
Social proof is the “popular decision”. It’s the “bandwagon effect”. It’s the “consensus”. It’s relying on “the crowd” help you make a decision.
Not long ago, social proof was considered important. Good testimonials added a huge punch to any marketing copy. Today it’s not just important. It’s absolutely essential.
The explosion of social media that I predicted in The Attention Age Doctrine II has made it so.
Facebook likes. Instagram likes. Pinterest likes. Twitter retweets.
And it goes well beyond simple “likes” with the growth in popularity of “review” areas like on Amazon.com and Angie’s list.
Today what other people think is more important than ever.
Way back, I speculated this would come to pass because people were becoming more isolated than ever in their lives. People had more online “friends” than they had real people to go hang out with.
And not only that, people began getting their news from niche-specific outlets that catered to their specific beliefs. Which meant there was even less dialogue going on in more general forums.
Today that “why” is pretty much irrelevant. Bottom line is if you’re not paying attention to the social proof your product or service is garnering, you’re asking for trouble.
So why is social proof so powerful?
We’re All Herd Animals
If you’ve ever gotten off a plane at an airport on your cell phone or something like that and didn’t pay attention to where you were going, odds are you just followed the crowd. You probably didn’t even look at the signs. You just figured that the crowd was going to baggage claim and you’d get there if you just followed.
That’s you being a herd animal.
Another example that Dr. Robert Cialdini talks about is how numerous experiments have shown that people think a bad joke is funnier if there’s a canned laugh track behind it. Even when the viewer knows that it’s a canned laugh track.
That’s because we are a “we” species. And we are impacted by others much more than we might realize or admit.
And when you are in “purchase mode,” you do the same thing. Think about your own behavior and you’ll see what I mean.
If you’re shopping on Amazon, you might find yourself reading all the comments about whatever it is you’re thinking about buying.
If it’s a bigger purchase, like a car, you might go online and you type in the product or the brand to see what kind of things are out there on the search engines about them. Customer ratings – customer feedback; all these kinds of things matter.
The Social Media Herd
The buying decision isn’t only about making the right choice anymore. Today (even though most people would deny it to their dying breath) it’s as much about making the popular choice.
So right now the question, where your marketing is concerned, is… are you doing enough to convince your prospects and clients that they have made the popular choice? That they’re not alone in the decision they’re thinking about making?
Being on a webpage in your home or office is a solitary experience. It’s just you and your computer. So how do you make it feel like your site is a place where lots of people go to hang out?
I was looking a client’s website not long ago and noticed they had a huge number of “likes” on their main page. That’s a powerful demonstration of social proof. That if you bought from them, you wouldn’t be alone.
A lot of marketers understand the importance of social proof. But they think of it as an element, a trigger, a tactic to use in the midst of a marketing campaign. That’s valid. But it’s much more than that.
And I’ll dive a little deeper on that in my next post…