Published on June 29th, 2013 | by Amy Edwards0
Have Your Own Mind? ‘Social Proof’ Suggests Otherwise!
By Amy @BubbleJobs
As consumers in this day and age, we like to think that we have our own mind and we’re capable of making our own decisions on a daily basis, regardless of what anyone else thinks. I mean, it’s not like eCommerce sites ever push us towards a particular product or use the masses to convince us that product A is the right one for us, is it? Surely as savvy, forward-thinking consumers we’d see through such blatant manipulation techniques like that, right?
Erm… well, that’s where you’re wrong. You see, businesses use a little something called ‘Social Proof’ to influence our buying decisions every single day – and most of the time, we’re totally oblivious. Hang on a minute; Social What? Social Proof – it’s basically the theory that people follow the actions of others because they think that because the ‘crowd’ is doing it, that must be the right thing to do.
Whether it’s buying a certain product, walking in a certain direction or watching a certain TV show, with Social Proof, it’s all to do with peer pressure and following the herd. Marketers, eCommerce sites and even media organisations use this phenomenon everyday to push us into performing a certain act or following a particular course of action.
OK, that all sounds plausible, but as consumers, there’s no way we’d ever accept being pushed into doing something or behaving into a certain way so how do they do it? Well, it goes without saying that organisations use some pretty sneaky techniques to try and get us to do exactly what they want us to do.
Not sure what I’m talking about? OK, I’ll give you a few examples (and I should just warn you – you should prepare to feel totally played! ).
First up, if you’re an on-demand TV junkie like me, chances are you’ve been on either the BBC iPlayer, ITV Player or 4OD site recently. Yes? Then you must have seen the ‘Most Popular’ shows section? BAM: Social Proof at play! How about when you’ve finished a show and that helpful list comes up of ‘Shows Other People Watched Who Watched This’? Again; it’s Social Proof – and it’s tricking us into consuming a certain kind of content. Why? Because in our minds, we think that if that’s what everyone else is watching, then it must be good! * Don’t worry; I’ve known about Social Proof for a while and I still get suckered into these ones! *
Social Proof is also pretty prevalent on eCommerce sites too. The most famous example? That’d be Amazon’s rather handy ‘People Who Bought This Also Bought’ feature. Come on, admit it; you’ve been caught out by that one haven’t you? It’s OK, I have too!
Other examples of Social Proof at work on eCommerce sites? Reviews and rankings are the most obvious example of Social Proof – but some sites even take these to the next level by including a profile of the reviewer that lists things like age, gender and occupation. Why? Because then the customer can scope out the reviewer that has a similar profile to them and really identify with what they’re saying. Clever eh?
Anything else? Well, just like those pesky on-demand TV sites, eCommerce stores also like to use the old ‘Best Sellers’ trick on their home page to try and steer you towards some of their more high profile products. And this one definitely works, especially when it comes to things like books, CDs and clothes – I mean, there’s no way everyone else can be wrong is there?! Oh, and we should probably buy it now before we miss out! Argh, got you again!
So there you go; next time you log onto BBC iPlayer to catch up with the latest episode of The Apprentice, jump onto Amazon to search for that new Mumford and Sons CD or waltz into Waterstones to pick up a nice book for your hols, just remember to watch out for those sneaky Social Proof marketing ploys – or you could end up with a lot more than you bargained for and a much lighter wallet!