Social proof describes the psychological process where people conform to the actions of those around them in an attempt to reflect corrective behavior in a given situation. This form of social conformity happens instinctively and results from humans wanting to feel validated or confident in their decision-making. Sometimes called 'herd mentality,' social proof is commonly associated with marketing products and services.
Social proof 'sells' a product or service by providing evidence that it is well received in the marketplace. High website traffic or multiple 5-star reviews prove the popularity of a brand. Celebrity endorsements and expert reviews make a case for authority and expertise. The greater the buzz is about a product, the greater its social proof will be.
Examples of social proof can be found both online and offline:
- Celebrity endorsements of a product line
- Quotes from a certified expert in the field
- Reviews, word of mouth, and testimonials
Although social proof is usually associated with positive interactions, it can backfire if left unchecked. Negative reviews and poor celebrity appraisals may create a negative perception of a brand. For some customers, the thought of everyone doing the same thing may actually drive them away from a purchase. It's best to use social proof as a supportive tactic rather than an entire marketing strategy.