There’s a buzz word that’s doing the rounds online (and has been for a while). It’s “Social Proof” – but what is it and why should you care about it?

Let’s first discuss what Social Proof is before we get in to how your business can use for your benefit. Essentially, Social Proof is a phenomenon where a person makes a decision based on what they perceive to be the correct behaviour as demonstrated by others.

You’re probably aware of the effect on yourself without necessarily realising it. For example, have you ever changed your mind about a T.V. show you didn’t want to watch because you heard someone else talking positively about it? Or perhaps you’ve purchased a product you wouldn’t have before because you saw someone you know using the same product? Think about it for a moment – i’m sure you’ll find an example of where your behaviour has been changed or at least influenced by the actions (or your perception of their actions) of someone else.

Social Proof is one of Robert Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion and has been the subject of a great deal of experimentation over the years. One such experiment was done by researchers who carried out a door-to-door campaign for a charity. They found that the likelihood of a person to donate increased when the researchers produced a list of other donors that included names of people and neighbours they knew. By providing the social proof to the home owner they were able to influence the behaviour of the individual.

It’s a tribal behaviour that’s deep within us all and businesses can exploit it (in a nice way of course) to persuade customers.

So how can you use it for your business?

Have you ever looked for a place to eat and read the reviews of others before booking a table? Have you ever purchased anything on Amazon and read the reviews before making your final decision? This is social proof in action – you’re basing your purchasing decision based on the actions of others.

Which of these restaurants would you book?

Those little star ratings are a very powerful message to prospective buyers but it’s not just those that can influence your customers. Testimonials on your website, logos of brands that use your services, social media check-in’s at your location – there are many ways that your customers can provide social proof to others and thus elevate your business above your competitors.

Do you collect reviews or feedback from your clients and customers? It can be hard to ask the question but most people are happy to review your business if you ask them and for those rare occasions where you get a less than satisfactory response, quick and positive reaction to it can actually work in your favour by demonstrating to others that you place customer service high in your priorities – something we all want from our brands and suppliers.

Reputation Management is a growing priority for businesses looking to get that edge over their competitors. It needs to be embraced because it’s such a powerful tool for small businesses.