What do Amazon, Apple, and Yelp have in common? Obviously, these tech juggernauts share more than a few similarities, but one common theme is that each has fully embraced and integrated the concept of “social proof” into their core business model. From marketing, to sales tactics, to product development, these companies have successfully leveraged the main tenet of social proof: that people, by their very nature, take cues from those around them when making decisions.
Social Proof and Social Media
It’s no coincidence that the growth of social proof as a business strategy has risen alongside the growth of social media. The numbers say it all; Facebook alone has 1.2 billion users, and while there is plenty of overlap among the user bases, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest claim almost 1 billion accounts combined among them.
All of this social activity means that being aware of and responding to the things that people in our networks are thinking, feeling, doing and sharing is not only of interest to us as individuals, but must be considered as a necessary component of any business strategy.
So, how are successful companies using social proof effectively?
Considering Amazon’s nearly unrivaled success, they are a good place to start. One of the critical factors in their growth has been the effective use of product recommendations and user reviews to build a marketplace driven and sustained by social interaction. The clearest example of this is in their language when offering new product recommendations. Instead of saying, “Because you bought X, you might be interested in Y,” Amazon promotes these items by saying “Other customers who bought X also bought Y.”
The difference is slight, but Amazon knows that people are more likely to buy new things if they think other people similar to themselves are also buying those items. Additionally they introduced a “What other customers are currently viewing” feature that shows a live feed of trending and popular items. The understanding that they are selling social proof as well as products has been and will remain a powerful sales driver for Amazon.
Turning our gaze to Yelp, we can see a real-life case study of how social proof is changing advertising while simultaneously democratizing public opinion. The platform provides an invaluable service as an online local tour guide while the social features of the platform allow the reviews to be filtered and highlight the places that people in your network have reviewed and/or recommended.
This democratization isn’t just beneficial to individuals who appreciate the seemingly unbiased feedback of their peers; businesses are also capitalizing on the opportunities this phenomenon represents. By incentivizing patrons to check-in, rate and review their experiences—or by offering deals and discounts—local businesses now have unprecedented access to their potential customers on a previously unattainable personal level.
Apple is another company that uses social proof strategically. For Apple, everything about the brand and experience is set up to amaze and instill a passionate loyalty in the user. From the glass facades of their stores to the sleek designs of their products to the way they manufacture buzz around product launches, Apple’s business model is based on creating fanatical support and loyalty through a focus on the needs of the user above all else, which eventually boils over into potential customers.
Of course, Apple isn’t alone in its push to instill and capitalize on consumer loyalty. Many companies, like Pepsi, Vizio and Zumiez, for example, understand that social proof as a result of brand loyalty is a successful tactic. To take advantage of this opportunity they have all integrated social features into their loyalty initiatives, thereby recognizing and appreciating the value being created by consumers who are willing to openly promote the brand.
The key takeaway is that successful companies in today’s socially integrated world understand the power of social proof and its inherent value to any business. As consumers get increasingly accustomed to turning to social media and other outlets for validation during any decision-making process, integrating tactics and features that capitalize on this behavior is a winning technique that will help our businesses continually improve and grow.