Social Proof: The Theory Of Buying

Social media has been around for more than a dozen years, but it’s a proven success among marketers. Gartner has recently reported that 84% of millennials say user-generated content from strangers has at least some influence on what they buy, and 78% of companies’ social media posts impact their purchases.

But think about how you react to such content. If you see someone raving about, say, Brooklinen’s Striped Linen bedding on Facebook, you’ll wonder whether this person is getting paid to kvell about it; whether the sentiment is genuine; and if it’s really so good that someone you know well enough to friend on Facebook is really so motivated that they’ll rhapsodize about it.

To dispel such concerns, the next step is social proof. Psychologist Robert Cialdini wrote in his book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” that “We view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.”



Sinan Aral, a professor of Information Technology and Marketing at M.I.T., recently examined 71 products in 25 categories purchased by 30 million people on WeChat and found significantly positive effects to inserting social proof into an ad. For instance, Heineken had a 271% increase in the click-through rate while Disney’s interactions rose by 21%. There were no brands for which social proof reduced the efficacy of such ads, according to Aral.

In the case of Brooklinen, social proof could mean a testimonial from a user who got better sleep with the bedding or an unprompted Facebook post from a friend. In either case, if you’re at all interested in bedding, then the mention and social proof will likely be enough to get you to click on it.  


Next story loading loading..