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How to harness mob rule in your brand's favor

How to harness mob rule in your brand's favor Anna Talerico

Everyone is talking about social marketing, but what about "social proof?"

The concept of social proof belongs to psychology, but it is also very important to online marketing.

The definition of social proof says that people are more likely to do something if they see other people doing it. For example, in one social proof experiment, a control group was placed outside and told to look up at the sky. Passersby who saw the group looking up at the sky also stopped to look up. At one point so many people had congregated into the area to stare up at the sky that they stopped traffic. The passersby had no idea why they were looking up at the sky (in fact, there was no reason), they just knew everyone else was doing it!

This is great news for online marketers because it translates easily into a usable tidbit of data: If potential customers know that other people are using a product, they will want to use it too.

In our offline lives, we witness social proof when we notice a gradual increase in participants during standing ovations, or when we hear television shows use canned laughter in sitcoms to encourage audience members to laugh along.

In the online world, marketers can use social proof in similar ways to increase conversions in their online campaigns. If a blog has a lot of subscribers, the site will often display this number to entice others to subscribe. The idea behind this tactic is, "If so many people find it useful, it must be." Just like the canned laughter -- if so many people find this show funny, it must be!

Social proof may also appear as a customer testimonial, an expert recommendation, membership badges, social widgets, and more. It's a great tactic to build trust and credibility online because it shows prospects that other people already find your solution helpful.

Social proof on the landing page
When introducing your company to new leads through an online ad campaign, social proof on your landing pages can instantly boost your credibility. It can be used in a variety of ways, from Twitter feeds and blog comments to customer logos and testimonials. Of course there are strategic ways to place these elements to increase conversions:

  • If the social proof will persuade the user to convert, put it before the call to action.  For example, you might show a customer testimonial, or a badge that displays the number of subscribers you currently have. Being able to see that other people find you valuable will entice the user to join in.

  • If the conversion you want the user to take is a social interaction, optimize your landing page around it. For example, if you want a user to "like" you on on Facebook, place your social widget in center stage. Proudly display your box that includes the number of "likes" you already have, then provide a large call-to-action button to "Like us on Facebook!"

  • If you just want to put a little social media on your landing page -- meaning you first want a user to fill out a form or make some other conversion, and then "like" you on Facebook -- inject the social media onto your Thank You page. Putting it on the landing page will distract the user from taking your number one desired action.

Why does social proof work?
So why does social proof have such a strong influence over us? The answer is quite simple: It's the "herd" mentality. Subconsciously we think we tend to make fewer mistakes when we follow the crowd. This makes sense since we are very easily swayed by social proof when we're uncertain about a decision -- perhaps in the case of a high consideration purchase.

As a marketer, if you're experiencing low conversion rates, try including elements of social proof in your online campaigns. Just be careful not to confuse social proof with social media; they look and sound a lot like twins, but they're more like cousins -- related but not identical. 

Anna Talerico is EVP at Ion Interactive.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

As one of ion interactive's co-founders, I am passionate about building our culture, our team and our customer success. I lead our sales & client service organizations, focused on the growth of ion's customer base and seamless delivery of our...

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