Why Does Word of Mouth Work? The Psychology of Social Proof
Social Proof is the result of a deep-rooted psychological bias that implies trust in others. It’s the idea that the majority knows better so the best way to decide on something is to see what other people decided.
Think about how you behave in new situations, such as at work or in a foreign country. The first thing you do is look at what everyone else does. It’s how evolution has taught us to think and react. However, the behaviour of others is intended to be a guide, not a confirmation that behaviour is right.
Social is an integral part of marketing – in particular, word-of-mouth marketing.
If someone saw a great ad that told them why a product was amazing, but one of their friends told them some other product was even better, they would trust their friend. They would buy the other product, even if the first one was actually better. Employing social proof in marketing is a great way to leverage word of mouth and generate sales. Here are the main four types of social proof and how to take advantage of them.
Friends’ Social Proof
Friends’ social proof is one of the most powerful forms of social proof, at least for marketing. People trust and value the information they get from people they know more than anyone else. Unfortunately, friends’ social proof is hard to achieve naturally. You just have to make a great product or provide a great service and hope that people spread the word to their friends. It is possible to encourage though, such as by offering referral bonuses like discounts to people who introduce their friends to you. Another way to take advantage of this is to show users which of their friends on Facebook or in their email contacts are using a product/service.
Celebrity Social Proof
There’s no denying the mainstream appeal and power of celebrities. They ARE the mainstream after all. There’s a reason celebrities make so much money endorsing products on social media; when a celebrity mentions a product it does more than just reach a lot of people; it gets them talking about the products their favourite celebrity uses and it has a snowball effect. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Expert Social Proof
People may be getting a little sick of the “experts” but they still trust people who are considered an expert over someone who isn’t. It sounds reasonable enough. That’s why doctors are in ads for medicine, sports stars are in ads for sportswear, and such. People might see an advert and not remember anything about the product, but they will remember that it was endorsed by an expert who can be trusted. Something has to be good for someone in the know to like it, right?
User Social Proof
You only have to open up a website like Amazon to see the power of user social proof. Products and services have reviews, and even brick and mortar businesses will boast about their reviews and ratings on social services. What’s interesting about user social proof is that people aren’t that interested in the kind of reviews a product/service has. What matters more is that they have a lot of reviews. User social proof is one of the few times that quantity is more important than quantity. The more reviews a product has the more people who have bought it, so it’s got to be something worth having.
Social proof and word of mouth are two trusted concepts. It might prove difficult to implement an effective word of mouth strategy without having to do extra work to get social proof. Get started and experiment a little to find what works best for you, and don’t forget to provide a product or service people would happily talk about!