In this six part series, we’re going to look at scientifically proven methods of influencing your customers. They are not gimmicks, they’re methods of persuasion used time and again by savvy marketeers. Ignore these lessons at your peril.
Before we continue, don’t confuse influence with manipulation. Influence is about moving people in a desired direction (read: buying your stuff) by providing honest and accurate information. Manipulation, on the other hand, is the more sinister side of marketing.
We’re not talking about the nasty side, we’re talking about good old honest persuasion.
The first of our six lessons deals with the force of social proof.
Understanding social proof could save your life and your website
This is the idea that we decide what is correct by observing what other people think is correct. When you see or hear that a lot of people are doing something, you’re more likely to want to do that thing.
It’s a shortcut for deciding how to behave. You don’t have to weigh up all the variables of a decision each time, it’s easier to just follow someone else. When the situation is ambiguous, you’re even more likely to follow other people.
Don’t think social proof is a powerful influencing force? Think again.
Imagine you’re walking down the street and you see a man leaning against a tree, struggling for breath. It looks to you like he is having a heart attack. Would you stop to help? You’re a conscientious citizen, of course you would help.
But would you really?
It has be proven that if other people are already walking past this potential heart attack victim, you’re more likely to follow their behaviour and walk past too. But, if you’re alone, if there is no other human behaviour to follow, you’re much more likely to stop and assist this person.
That is the power of social proof.
N.B If you’re ever that guy struggling for breath. Don’t shout out help to the crowd walking by. Point to one person and ask for their help. That breaks the force of social proof. It will mean your ambulance will arrive a few minutes earlier and it might just save your life.
Ok, you’re convinced. But how do you utilise social proof to make your website more persuasive?
- Include positive customer reviews on your website.
- Show which products are your best sellers (merely adding the words ‘best seller’ to a product can make it a best seller. But only do this if it is your best seller, otherwise you’re manipulating, not influencing).
- “Customers who bought this item also bought…” social proof Amazon style.
- If you have well know customers (locally or internationally) let your site visitors know. The more influential the social proof, the more effective (it’s why celebrities get paid so much to endorse products).
- Create a buzz about your products or service on social media networks.
Think creatively about ways to incorporate social proof into your online marketing strategy and you’ll encourage more visitors to buy your products.
How much more proof do you need?