The Psychology of Social Proof and Why It Makes Word of Mouth Marketing So Effective

The Psychology of Social Proof and Why It Makes Word-of-Mouth Marketing So Effective

Let's start from scratch: What is social proof?

Social proof is the result of an ingrained psychological bias. It implies trust in others.

Forms of this trust include the belief that the majority know better and that the best way to make decisions is to consider the decisions others have made. As with most psychological biases this usually makes sense.

Think about your behavior in any new environment: at your new workplace, at a party you don't know, or abroad. Every reasonable person would first observe what others do before making any decisions regarding their behaviour. Ultimately, this is how evolution has taught us to think. Those who appeared in a new tribe and talked and danced without figuring out the language and the rules of politeness were killed first.

However, relying on the behavior of others is a mental shortcut. We must take the behavior of others as a clue rather than as proof that the behavior is correct. Instead, we often see other people and simply copy their ways, ignoring or overestimating other clues.

Bias is most common when we are uncertain as to what to do in different situations. The enormous effectiveness of social proof has been demonstrated in the various activities people do, from donating money to charity to engaging in “safe” or “unsafe” behavior. Individuals often rely on others to show them what is “right,” regardless of their knowledge.

Social Proof is a Gift for Marketers

Clear, Social proof is a gift for marketers . Incidentally, this bias is exactly why word of mouth has strong pervasive power. If people even copy someone else's risk, how can they resist copying someone else's product selection?

Social Proof Gift for Marketers

How Social Proof Supports Word of Mouth

Imagine you see a cleverly crafted advertisement that tells you about the benefits of your product. 've always wanted from Brand A. Advertising has statistics, evidence and a scientific explanation as to why it is a good product. Basically, it's not your usual eye-catching inanimate advertisement – ​​it's a really good explanation of why the product is so worth it. Then imagine your colleague telling you in a conversation about the topic he bought a product from Brand B and it was absolutely amazing.

Which product would you choose: one from Brand A or one from Brand B?

If you're not sure, I'll tell you for sure: a Brand B word.

Word of mouth has immense power. It comes from the same principle of social proof – you see a real person, someone you even know, and you trust their opinion. Then imagine how amplified this would be if you didn't hear one but several people you know talking about Brand B products! It could also be a random Instagram user you follow for no particular reason praising the qualities of a Brand B product – still convincing! This effect is comparable to a geometric progression.

Using social proof is a great way to leverage word of mouth. Let's look at the 4 types of social proof and how you can leverage it.

1. Expert social proof

While some believe that “we already have enough experts”, in general people still trust the so-called experts over the non-experts. This at least seems reasonable. That's why you'll see doctors in healthcare-related ads, sports characters in sportswear ads, and science-related people in ads for electronics, Heavy equipment, drugs and everything in between. While we may see the ad and not remember any other information, we are most likely to remember that the ad was backed by an expert and pass this information along with relevant context.

2. Social proof of celebrities

Oddly enough, people talk a lot about celebrities. They discuss their love life, lifestyle, fashion and anything else related to them. It's confusing, but surely most people's interest in celebrities doesn't decrease over time. of a celebrity's product not only reaches a large number of people – it also initiates a broader discussion about the body cream their favorite models use, for example. Reach is constantly growing and social proof is increasing.

However, I'm sure you see a problem: celebrity marketing is ridiculously expensive. Fortunately, we don't always need a footballer or an actress to do this job. For most products, small influencers – well known individuals on social media – will do the trick, as long as they have a significant following (10k – 100k) and good engagement rate, with the latter being much more important.

Celebrity Social Proof

3. User's Social Proof

The importance of user social proof becomes apparent as soon as you open any trendy website. You may not see a product description or price, but you will see social proof in all its forms. There will be a list of companies that have used the product (if it is B2B), a list of user testimonials (in any case), a review, or a note boasting that the product or service has been rated. prices on G2 Crowd, TripAdvisor or Yelp . Sites where users can leave reviews and buy products have been most successful. Everyone's favorite evaluate – that is their online access to word of mouth.

What's especially interesting is that people often don't care type evaluate. In other words, research shows that when it comes to reviews, it's quantity that matters – how much who used the product. The size of the social proof is enough (or too overwhelming?) so that they don't need to check the details. They simply did what everyone else did: buy the product.

User Social Proof

User social proof is not only in reviews and testimonials, but also in social media followers. Buying social media followers is a very controversial fact: the algorithms of social media platforms are made so that buying fake accounts can damage the reputation of the account. your social account. However, growing followers is very important in light of the growing social evidence: the more people demonstrate that they use the product, the more others will accept that the product is a good thing. good product and even share this more information.

4. Social proof of friends

The strongest social proof of its effects on word of mouth is social proof that comes from friends. We trust the information shared by those we know and share more of it with much excitement. As usual, marketers can hardly do anything with this knowledge. Social proof of friends is very difficult to achieve in any semi-authentic way. You usually just create a good product and hope people will pass the information along. Some companies, such as Uber and AirBnB, offer friends discounts, which is neat because it works on both social proof and a person's desire to get a discount.


Another way marketers have been successful in recruiting 'social proof' friends is through showing which Facebook friends or email contacts are using the service. The list is shown to you when you sign up at sites like Couchsurfing or LinkedIn. It also works for online services that tell you which of your online friends are using the service. For example, in a study In terms of online security, it has been found that showing users that their friends are using online security is the most effective method of persuasion.


Social proof and word of mouth are reliable concepts. It can be difficult to implement a strong word-of-mouth strategy without the effort of strengthening social proof. Go ahead, experiment and most importantly make your product worth mentioning!

Grow your business in bulk without wasting money on advertising

Join Jay Baer for two special webinars (one for B2B and one for B2C ) on January 15, 2019 on how to use word of mouth to grow your business more effectively in 2019. Sign up for B2B | Sign up for B2C .