Social proof is the force that influences our decision making on a daily basis, from big decisions like where to stay to smaller decisions like what to have for lunch. This happens because we all exist together in society, and the choices of the people around us are, without our knowledge, pulling or pushing us to do certain things. Birds of a feather do flock together, and no matter how independent we are, we are ultimately conditioned by the people around us. It's what happens when one looks up into the sky or even yawns; other people always follow suit.
We are currently in the amazing age of the consumer internet. In spite of the recent slump in the world's economy, the majority of web companies experienced hyper growth. This has made social proof an important selling tool for business owners. It could also be viewed as a potential business killer, too, because in the current business environment, negative social proof can have a negative impact on your brand and sales.
The "wisdom of the crowd" is a concept that fits the large social environment that exists on the internet and is a tool that businesses cannot ignore in the current sphere. The social environment created by the internet has therefore made social proof one of the greatest forces influencing buying decisions. The direct link between social proof and sales means that businesses should endeavor to tap into as much social proof as possible as a direct marketing strategy to boost sales. Shopping sites like Amazon have recommendation engines that normally rely on the feedback from other people to drive sales and recommend products to people, based on the buying patterns of people like them.
The challenge in business still remains the same: the battle for consumer attention. Social proof, in the current age of the social web, is the secret weapon that many start-ups are employing to boost their businesses. Bloggers act as a social proof force all the time whenever they recommend products that they have used. They may even do this without necessarily intending to, by simply mentioning some software, equipment or other product that they are using.
For a digital start-up, growing and highlighting your social proof is without a doubt one of the best ways for new potential clients to know about you. The influence and discovery of your product can be multiplied when you engineer your products to generate social proof and share this through social networks like Twitter, Google+, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and Tumblr. There is such a thing as a ghost follower, and it happens to be a multimillion-dollar industry that serves to boost social proof on social media.
Here's a "teardown" of some of the techniques being used by some savvy digital companies to build and improve various forms of social proof.
Celebrity social proof – It is estimated that up to 25 percent of TV commercials in the U.S. have made use of celebrities to promote products to achieve astounding results.
Expert social proof – Getting approval from a credible expert, whether a blogger or a certain magazine, can lead to better digital influence.
When building your social proof, it is advisable to find out which technique best works for you. Most companies have found that a "mixed salad" of different types is most effective. The beauty of it all is that in the web sphere, you can learn, test and quickly apply what works best.