Last week I was speed dating with other organizations during a day on social media. One of first questions I asked my opponent was of course: how are you doing online? We had some nice conversations. Especially one organization was bribing out loud on their online presence. What I didn’t tell this guy I dated that morning; I checked his organizations afterwards to see how credible his story was. I was looking for social proof.

Online force
Life without social proof isn’t conceivable anymore. Before we buy anything, we first check online what others have said about this product. It is even said that social proof is more valuable than having a discount! Nothing new actually; Psychology explains that every person is uncertain in a sense and is looking to other people to be confirmed in his choices. In general most people think that others have more knowledge about a situation than themselves. This principle is used in a very powerful way on social media.

If you read an article that is liked by 500 people, you prefer that one above the article that is liked by only 5 people, especially when it is about something you need guidance about. In the online world social proof is power. That is one of the reasons it is good for organizations and ministries to understand this force and if possible to use it!

Different types
In general you have five types of social proof. The most common one is: friends. If a friend said that an organization is ok you are more likely to think the organization is ok. I once hear somebody say: ‘Stop converting the unconverted; start equipping the converted and they will bring new conversion!’ Guess what?! This was not a pastor saying this, this was a marketing guru.

If somebody like me likes something, I might like it as well.

Basically not your own opinion is important as an organization, but if your opinion is backed up by people. If a lot of people like what you share as an organization (wisdom of crowd) this is social proof. If users rate your product 4 out of 5 stars this is social proof. If celebrities start to use your material, this is social proof (unless people think you paid them to do so). If experts start to endorse your stuff, this is social proof as well, because experts are credible as experts by a form of social proof as well.

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Implicit Egotism
It might be smart thinking about adding social proof into your social media strategy. Testimonials, reviews or simple feedback from your target audience can be very powerful on your website for instance. Sharing those stories on you FB page is more engaging that telling that you have ‘another important project running’.

An important factor for testimonials is that people can rely to the people that are sharing the testimony. This principle is called implicit egotism; if somebody like me likes something, I might like it as well.

Real needs
It might be scary to add social proof to your pages. What if people don’t like what you share? What if people start to give negative social proof instead of positive? Of course it can be scary, but it also opens opportunities.

When this negative social proof happened to one of the online platforms I was involved in as a consultant, we tried to understand how we could bridge the gap between the online community and the organization mission. This gave more insight in the real needs of the people this organization was trying to reach. After a few months and adjusting the digital strategy we saw the negative social proof turn into positive proof.


Image Social by JD Hancock on flickr.com (common creative)


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