Social Proof is one of those magical ninja skills you can covertly use to get anybody to do anything.
It’s also an insidiously effective means of getting people to do some horrible things they’ll later regret.
Of course, it helped us out in our cavemen days, as those that mindlessly followed the crowd were much less likely to get lost, miss out on food, or get eaten by tigers.
And to be sure, using any kind of social proof in your sales message or other persuasive efforts will go a long ways.
The easiest and most reliable way to get more customers is show you’ve got plenty of customers. It’s no secret that true word of mouth advertising is tough to beat.
However, social proof can be a prison from which it can be tough to escape.
Consider this experiment. Researchers had students come into a room and fill out some kind of questionnaire. They students thought the stud was their answers to the questionnaire, but like many well designed studies, the trick in getting good results is to get the participants natural reactions to an unforeseen event.
While the students were filling out the questions, the researchers pumped a bit of smoke into the room. The real test was to see how long it took them to notice something was wrong, and do something about it.
When the students were alone, they got up and left the room after an average of ten seconds.
But when there were a group of students? They sat their four times as long.
Nobody was willing to be the first to get up. While they were all anxious and nervous on the inside, all of them were more nervous about being the first one to stand up.
It’s seems that, for us humans, being a safe and passive sheep is preferable to taking bold action, even when there’s some kind of obvious danger.
Keep this in mind next time you feel the urge to unquestioningly follow the crowd.