Robert Cialdini, the author of the book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, really brought to light the idea of “social proof” for many marketers. Unfortunately, in an attempt to provide the needed positive social proof in their marketing, many marketers are unknowingly providing their prospects with the opposite – negative social proof.
Positive social proof in marketing is designed to provide prospects with the security of knowing a substantial amount of other people, just like them, have taken the action you’re asking them to take. (The whole “safety in numbers” thing.) Like all proof elements, the more positive social proof you provide, the more impactful and influential it is.
The problem arises for many marketers when they attempt to provide positive social proof – in the form of blog comments, testimonials, Facebook Likes, Retweets, etc. – but only have a minimal amount. The result is not a minimal amount of positive social proof. The result is actually negative social proof.
You see… there is no neutral social proof. There is either positive social proof, negative social proof or no social proof.
When your marketing funnel provides an ample amount of positive social proof in the form of blog comments, testimonials, Facebook Likes, Retweets, etc., it reassures prospects they’re in the right place taking the right aciton.
When your marketing funnel does not provide an ample amount of those social proof elements… but only very little (i.e. a couple of blog comments, one or two Facebook Likes, etc.)… it conveys negative social proof.
Negative social proof has the opposite impact of positive social proof. It conveys to prospects that not a lot of people are at your website, viewing your content, or taking the actions you’re asking them to take. This causes increased psychological discomfort and diminished confidence in their decision to move further into your funnel. Obviously, not good.
This begs the question: Is it better to have no social proof or negative social proof?
The answer is easy.
No social proof is better than negative social proof.
An absence of social proof (i.e. no social proof) may not increase confidence, security, etc. in the prospect, but… negative social proof actually decreases confidence, security, etc.
Translating this to the “real-world”:
It’s better to have comments turned-off under your sales video than to have comments turned-on with only one or two there.
It’s better not to have a Facebook Like button than to have a Facebook Like button with only one or two likes.
So, here’s what I suggest:
You should do everything you can to quickly orchestrate a bulk of social proof that can be used throughout your marketing funnel. Pull out all stops to make it happen. If, in the end, you can’t seem to demonstrate a significant quantity of positive social proof… get rid of whatever you have and show no social proof.
Question: What suggestions do you have for marketers struggling to generate more social proof? You can leave a comment by clicking here.