Social Proof in Business

Social Proof in Business

May 15, 2018 Mid-Month News Psychology Psundays 0
Robert Cialdini quote, Influence by Robert Cialdini, social proof

How does social proof in business affect your customers?

Social proof is the reason most people spend their time doing what they do. Also, it is why you are most like the 5 people you spend the most time around. Think about this; If five of your closest friends were millionaires, how long do you think it would take for you to get there too? Psychology says it will be a lot faster than if each of those same five closest friends were $100,000 in debt, right?


Think about the types of clothes we wear and the way we communicate with each other. If your office dress code is business casual, are you going to wear a suit to work? Probably not. If everyone else is texting, but you only use email, how well are you going to communicate? Unless you’re part of the 5% of people in this quote by Robert Cialdini:

Robert Cialdini quote, Influence by Robert Cialdini, social proof in business

In a response to a question about this picture on Dr. Cialdini’s LinkedIn, I expressed my interpretation as follows:

Most people look to others for approval of their decisions. Instead of instinctively taking action on what is right in front of them (or behind them in the case of the picture he provided). In his picture, all the fish are swimming in the same direction, probably too slow to get away from the big fish chasing them from behind. If one fish veered off towards the “exit”, it could have juked out the big fish like Barry Sanders in his prime.

However, since these fish are imitators instead of initiators, they are all following each other. I think that social proof plays the biggest role in these reactive decisions by the fish (and humans).

In “Influence”, Dr. Cialdini gives examples that explain this notion of social proof. He talks about how nightclubs keep a long line outside, no matter how busy it is on the inside, to keep the image that it is busy inside. Passerby look to those waiting in line as confirmation that it is a good club to go to, just like the fish are doing in their decision to keep swimming in the same direction as all the other fish.


When it comes to business, many core components of social proof operate the same way as these fish. Whether it be from word of mouth, social media or a celebrity on TV, when someone is told that a product is good, they look into it. It is deeply rooted in our survival: If cavemen continued to eat the berries that killed them, I don’t know if you’d be reading this right now.


Instead, we look to others to confirm or deny our beliefs. Sometimes the 95% will miss out of a better restaurant by making the safe bet of going to the same decent restaurant every night


How can your business take advantage of social proof?

  • Customer reviews
  • Social media engagement
  • Search engine results


I didn’t mention word of mouth, because that is the parent of 2/3 bullet points above. The goal is to get people talking about how great your business is. To have the best chances of doing that, your business should be in as many places as possible (i.e. social, website, newspaper, radio, Google). Go see what works best for your business and spread the word as quickly as possible. Need help with this? Reach out to me and I’ll help you for free.


When people see good reviews, they see your business in a better light than before. When your sister posts on Facebook about the delicious ice cream and fantastic service she got in a nearby city, I’ll bet $5 that you and 10 of her friends are going to think about trying it out for yourselves. If your business is serving its purpose, you’re doing a disservice to everyone who doesn’t know how great it is.


Be on the lookout for an in-depth discussion about each of the bullet points listed above. Keep in mind that word of mouth is everything. Go get your customers talking!


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