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Social Proof Primer: How to Use Marketing’s Psychological Secret Sauce

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

social proof primer[Series Installment] Think of it as marketing’s psychological secret sauce. A serious dash of social proof is often the most compelling and motivating ingredient in the applied science of marketing.

Success—with clear and measurable results—follows when you put predictable human reactions and behavior to work. You can kick start your effectiveness by incorporating at least one persuasive slice of social proof in your healthcare marketing or advertising message. Here’s how this works.

The basics—a social proof primer…

A lengthy textbook could flow from this topic, but fortunately, a couple primary definitions and only six types of social proof establish the foundation.

SOCIAL PROOF, according to the all-wise Wikipedia, is also known as informational social influence. It is a psychological phenomenon where people follow the actions of others in order to reflect the correct behavior for a given situation.

SOCIAL INFLUENCE is the change in behavior that one person causes in another, intentionally or unintentionally, in three fundamental areas—conformity, compliance or obedience.

In marketing plain talk, your buyers/consumers feel safe in doing what others are doing. When faced with a choice or (purchase) decision, people want to “do the right thing.” What’s more, they want to avoid doing the wrong thing.

An example from the retail world tells us that online reviews are a standard consideration for about 70 percent before purchasing a product. Better than 80 percent of younger consumers—the huge millennials group—are likely to look for and rely on the opinion of other buyers.

The six major sources of social proof…

There are dozens of creative ways to embrace social proof in your online or offline advertising for doctors and hospitals. But with only six different types of social proof, it’s easy to see and recognize the opportunities. In somewhat random order:

Expert Social Proof – is when a recognized authority, thought leader or acknowledged industry expert recognizes, approves or endorses your product or service.

Celebrity Social Proof – comes from a public or social media promotion or endorsement by a famous or widely recognized individual. This can be paid or unpaid, but unpaid has greater impact.

Customer or User Social Proof – is the review, rating or recommendation reflecting the experience of a current or previous customer.

Wisdom-of-the-Crowds Social Proof – represents the approval of a large number of people who are using the product or service.

Wisdom-of-Friends-or-Peers Social Proof – perhaps the greatest influence comes from approval by the people who we know and trust.

Certification Social Proof – is where the recognition comes from a credible and respected third-party accreditation, badge or credential validation. The implied proof is that you, or your products or services, have satisfied the trust or quality measure of an independent authority.

The psychological phenomenon of presenting social proof is a powerful technique that engages and convinces prospective buyers. It has the power to boost results when you include it in your marketing and advertising message.

In a upcoming installment in this series, we’ll have more about social proof and some of the ways to apply it in online and offline advertising. In the meantime, contact us directly; we can help.


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