Social proof is the phenomenon that occurs when we find out that others are doing something that we are not. Just the idea that someone has the scoop on something we care about or about something we don’t know anything about, is enough to make us care.

For some of us, it’s human nature to want to be the first of our friends to reveal news or have the newest technology. As marketers, finding out that your early influencers are – the ones who really care about being the first to know or have something, will put you in front of the curve in harnessing your social proof.

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strong social proof helps to grow your business

Launching a product with no social proof is a difficult undertaking. In an article written for Tech Crunch, Aileen Lee describes five types of social proof.

Five Types of Social Proof

  1. Expert social proof – approval from a credible source
  2. Celebrity social proof – Think Pro Active ads on TV- they’ve used several celebrities to “prove” how great their acne medication is.
  3. User social proof – Yelp reviews are an example of user social proof. Reviews,  can impact a company both positively and negatively.
  4. Wisdom of the crowd’s social proof – When we see a packed restaurant, we know it must be good. All of these people can’t be wrong.
  5. Wisdom of your friends social proof – Think about all your social networks and the impact that your friends have on you when you see they’ve liked and/or shared something. You are more likely to “like” or share something that your friends have said was worthwhile or great.

Small businesses and professionals need to understand the importance of social proof. Companies with large amounts of financing have blown launches simply because no one knew enough about what they were trying to do.

Color, a new app that was supposed to connect users using location-based pictures, launched in March of 2011 on Apple and Android devices. However, even with $41m raised from major VC firms backing the company, the launch was a bust.

Color had no user base with which to connect. They failed to not only create a buzz within their target market, they did a poor job creating a need for their app. Users should have been clamoring for its release, but alas, we had no idea why we should want to use it, so of course we didn’t care.

Small business marketing depends on your ability to show that your product or service is the best choice for your target market. Find your early influencers and talk directly to them, they will do most of the leg work after that.

Are you an early influencer for a product or service you love or will you only purchase something if one of the above social proof criteria have been met? Leave a comment and tell us about it.


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