An Actionable Guide to Social Proofing

So first, you’re probably wondering…what exactly IS Social Proofing?

By definition, Social Proofing, also known as informational social influence, “is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation”.

…wait, what?

So, lets break it down.

  • How often do you pick a restaurant based solely on the number of people dining inside?
  • Buy a product based on a number of customers who have allegedly purchased it already?
  • Or hired a particular service provider just because they have more positive reviews?

That is social proof in action, and you and I do it everyday.


Because whenever we’re unable to make a decision, we look at what other people do, assuming that their actions are correct for the given situation.

And I thought I was an individual!

If you don’t believe me, take it from the professionals: Both Stanley Milgram’s Street Corner Experiment and Dr. Solomon’s Asche’s Li and Line Experiments have proven that we tend to assume that if many people are doing something, have done something or believe in something, there must be a good reason why.

Following others is heavily engrained in our nature, and as marketers, one of our jobs is to take full advantage of that. I mean it’s not a crime, right?

unless you convince others to see what you offer as more favorable and popular; all your other efforts will be in vain.

So, what exactly does Social Proofing do to the human mind?

  1. Social proofing builds trust.
  2. Social proofing helps to validate the buying decision.
  3. Social proofing also simplifies decision-making.

If you’ve made it to this point, it probably means that you understand the value of social proofing and how it can actually grow your biz.

Now let’s put the social proofing theory into action.

Social Shares:

Social share stats are easily the most effective strategy when it comes to social proofing your content.

Showing social sharing stats helps many businesses convince people their content is worth taking a look at.

For example, which ad below are you more likely to click on, the one with more engagement or the one with less?

Studies show you are more apt to click on the left image (the one with more engagement) as a rule defined as social proof.

…but what type of content can you social proof?

Pretty much everything.

  • Social ads
  • Social posts
  • Blog articles
  • Products (if you’re an e-commerce store)

and a lot, lot more. Catch my drift?

The easy part is knowing about social proof, the hard part is taking action and getting those engagments.

You can check out this blog post here to give you some great tips on how to make your content convert. In this case, your conversions would be engagements (more likes, comments and shares).

Customer Or Sales Stats:

Many companies show the number of customers who use or purchased their products to signify their value ability and trust they receive from others.

Zendesk highlights their huge user base:

…and other sites like SumoMe state how many sites use their product.

Other People’s Purchases:

Amazon (and many other retail stores) show a list of products customers who bought a particular item had also purchased:

User-Generated Content:

Because it isn’t created by the company, a marketing agency or someone else with the intention to promote the brand, user-generated content is becoming the most trusted form of social proof.

Take fashion brands like, they’re using UGC (User generated content to show their customers that real people wear their products — not just models).

So, does social proof REALLY work?

Adesspreso ran two ad campaigns:

  • One enticing people to join our newsletter,
  • The other, o ering an eBook download.

In both campaigns they set 3 different ad creatives:

  • One included a rounded number as a social proof (i.e.35000+),
  • The other, an exact number,
  • Finally, the third ad featured no social proof whatsoever.

They spent an average of $100.

and the results?

Ads with social proof generated a lower cost per lead than the one without any social proof.
So there ya have it, social proofing really works.

How are you using social proofing?


John Sparrow | Author

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