I’ve gotten treated much better by people in the past six months than I have ever before.
Why is this?
While it’s true that I may have got smarter or better looking during this period of time, it’s not a full explanation. So, what have I done to deserve this?
Simple. I’ve accumulated social proof.
Social proof is probably the most powerful way of influencing people. Much of the effort that companies put into the process of marketing is directed at generating social proof.
Most people are incredibly susceptible to social proof. You and I are as well, but far less than the average person. The reason I say this is because people like you and I, who are into self-development, are usually critical thinkers and doers.
I recently wrote a piece over at Bold and Determined in which I emphasized the importance of building referrals and social proof. In this post I want to show a few innovative ways that social proof can be used.
Here are three everyday examples of how you can use social proof:
- Girls. If you surround yourself with a lot of girls, other girls will automatically think that you are interesting. If you’re a little innovative you can use dirty tricks like this one to your advantage.
- Business. The most efficient marketing and sales method is word-of-mouth referrals and being able to showcase previously satisfied customers.
- Social Proof in General. Think of celebrities. They can get away with anything because: 1. They are perceived as familiar. 2. They are put on a pedestal due to social proof.
Why does social proof work?
The reason why social proof works well is because it signals to other people that you are preselected – meaning that people have already taken the time to look into you and decided they like you. This saves other people time and energy in making a decision by thinking:
“Oh, if so and so already approve of him, then I don’t have to do the due diligence myself.”
And this is more powerful than you can imagine, because 95% of all people are primarily concerned with saving energy. They operate from a semi-awake state of striving to maintain homeostasis.
Are You Looking to See What Someone Else is Doing?
I read in some marketing or psychology book that:
“95 % of all people are imitators and 5 % are doers. Therefore social proof works best in most cases when you are looking to influence the consumer.”
And this is absolutely true. Most people are imitators.
Doers on the other hand tend to be critical thinkers who care very little about the opinion of other people.
Because they’re concerned with doing, not with imitating. Doers don’t have the “approval-seeking filter” that imitators have in their brains. They have overcome it by learning to think accurately.
Go up and look at the Elvis picture on top.
But 5 million fans can’t be wrong…?
Actually yes they can. The masses are rarely right about anything. Just because you have the numbers on your side doesn’t mean you’re right. (which is why democracy isn’t so great)
If the masses have agreed on something you can almost be sure that it’s something that you ought to stay as far away from as possible.
Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
– Mark Twain –
Back away slowly, as if you were escaping from a bear, whenever someone tells you:
- But, they say…
- I hear there’s a lot of people…
- Everyone else is doing it…
Other people are NOT a reliable source of information. Trust yourself only. Do your own thinking. Stop trying to save energy.
The next time you find yourself looking to see whatever someone else is doing – think again!
There is no substitute for your own judgment…
…and if you don’t use it you have no one to blame but yourself.
Online Uses of Social Proof
Online is the future and it’s time to get with the program.
No matter who you are or what your niche is, if you are looking to be successful you will want to establish yourself online. You don’t need to be a computer whiz to do this. You could either do it yourself, or you could hire some professional to help you do it.
Even if you don’t use professional help, and your site looks like crap, it’s still much better than having no site at all. It can still count for some social proof, because far too few people have caught onto the trend of creating their own websites.
With that said,
Here are a couple of common ways to use social proof online:
Using Influencers and Experts
This is probably the most powerful way to use social proof when you’re selling a product or a service. You’re borrowing authority directly from experts, and people who look up to these guys will eat it up. I probably would too if it was an interesting product.
This image is from the website where I purchased the theme being used for this blog. Most of the experts that endorse the theme are either famous bloggers, marketers, or WordPress authorities.
Followers and Subscribers
It varies greatly how much social proof you’ll get from having followers on social networks, but subscribers are always going to count for solid social proof.
Why is this?
Because by having subscribers it signals lot more commitment than having followers on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook. You can have a ton of followers on social media, but it says nothing about their commitment. Stupid people will dig you for it. Intelligent people will not be swayed as easily.
If you’ve been featured in a popular blog, website, newspaper, or TV show you will want to put that up in your sidebar. That’s potent social proof.
You’ll see this on every large company website, it’s common for blogs too.
The reasons why you might not want to do it would be if you absolutely don’t want to be associated with it or if you think it would look ugly on your site.
Brilliant Historic Uses of Social Proof
I like studying big historic events because they’re often orchestrated in very clever ways. Here are a few excellent examples of how social proof has been used to influence people.
Napoleon always made sure to bury the dead soldiers of his own army far away from the roads or battlefields. He did this to give the impression that a disproportionate amount of the enemy troops had fallen compared to his own army.
During the Battle of Leipzig Napoleon ordered for as many enemy helmets as possible to be thrown into the Rhine River. The helmets then floated downstream towards the enemy camp and gave the impression that Napoleon’s army was winning the battle. This lowered the enemy’s morale significantly.
Napoleon was always popular among the people, but not so much with the elite. To change this he got himself inaugurated into the French Academy and deliberately associated himself with these intellectuals as much as he could to gain the respect of the elite. And it worked.
Before large battles Caesar would prop up slaves, women, and other people who weren’t part of his army, on mules and put helmets on their heads. He did this to give the impression that his cavalry was larger than it really was.
Caesar wrote a total of 11 war commentaries. Why did he do this when he had his hands full leading his armies?
He did it because back in those days news traveled very slowly, and propaganda was hard to see through. The purpose of these commentaries was to prove to the Roman people that Caesar was worthy of his elected position. By writing these commentaries Caesar was able to remain popular among the people despite being away from Rome for many years.
Before Hitler had reached the status of demigod among the German people, he had to build his image of being an authority for many years. One of the ways he did this was by giving speeches. He continually improved his process for making a powerful first impression on the audience, until he one day came up with an extremely potent formula for doing this.
The formula looked like this:
1. The person who spoke before Hitler was always a terrible public speaker who bored the audience. This was a deliberate ploy to make Hitler seem even more brilliant than he was. Hitler was then introduced in a respectful manner by a person that the audience already looked up to – a man whose judgment was trusted by the audience (social proof).
2. Dozens of uniform-clad guards then marched up to the stage in pairs of two accompanied by loud music, creating a sense of importance and prestige. The pairs always marched to the far sides of the aisle leading up to the stage. Hitler then came in last, walking in the middle of the aisle looking dead ahead, not even so much as glimpsing to the side. This made him seem even more important.
3. Then add to this that Hitler had Albert Speer create massive spotlights, humongous red flags, and a large eagle Nazi emblem. These things had powerful symbolic value.
Back in those days no one else made use of these powerful tools to amplify the effect of speeches.
Learn to Use Social Proof to Your Advantage
Intelligent people are not easily swayed by social proof, but most other people are.
A lot of smart people think that other people should automatically acknowledge how smart and skilled they are — without having to resort to using social proof in any way.
These people are stubborn fools.
Whether you are of the opinion that using social proof is unfair, unethical or beneath your dignity doesn’t matter.
It’s still there and it’s going to be used by your competitors.
Social proof will be used by people who are less qualified than you are, but more strategic. These people may be less skilled than you are, but they will still beat you.
They will be more respected than you are.
They will earn more money than you do.
They will have a much easier time getting ahead than you do.
Whether they “deserve” any of these things is irrelevant.
They’re still going to get them — because they use social proof to their benefit…
…and social proof is always going to matter, whether you want it to or not. Instead of hating on those who use it to their advantage, start using it yourself.
The easiest way to gain social proof is either by borrowing it from someone who is already perceived as an expert/authority/guru, or by slowly building it yourself by putting in the work towards becoming an authority. You can do this by writing, by giving speeches or by associating yourself with powerful people.
Now ask yourself:
How can I get social proof to work in my favor?
What activities can I start doing to cumulatively build social proof over the long-term?
In which area of my life should I start?