If you were on the street and suddenly everyone looked up to the sky, would you? The urge would be hard to resist because our brains are influenced by what others are doing. That’s the basis for what Dr. Robert Cialdini calls the Principle of Social Proof.
A great example can be seen on the TV show, Jury Duty. This looks like a reality show about random people selected to serve on a jury. The twist is that all the jury members are actors, EXCEPT one regular guy, Ronald, who has no idea that the show is a set up to see his reactions. The actors’ antics get wilder and wilder as the show progresses. It’s funny to see how Ronald treats each crazy situation as if it’s “OK” because those around him seem completely comfortable.
You don’t need to watch TV to see the influence of social proof. In politics it takes the form of rallies and front yard signs. In business, it shows up with posting customer testimonials or compensating influencers to talk about products. Many of us are leveraging social proof right now to build trust and credibility on LinkedIn with recommendations from those who have worked with us.
Also, social proof influences our “buy” choices, every time we research ratings and reviews. It’s usually reliable to look at others’ experiences, but sometimes those factors are manipulated by others. Friends or people compensated for good reviews might be overly positive. Competitors or disgruntled former employees might plant bad reviews.
Social proof sometimes leads to conformity without critical evaluation, which can lead to a mob mentality. People may follow the crowd even when the crowd is mistaken. Having awareness of how the principle of social proof works can help you avoid being manipulated.
What’s your experience with Social Proof in business?