When thinking about when to use social proof, here is a good framework to apply:

  • Think about the behavior you most want to trigger. For example, if you’re a charity, you probably most want people to donate. This is the behavior you want to frame as the obvious social norm. In this case, a button that says “donate with 2,300 others” could be more powerful than “donate.”

  • Think about when your user is most likely to hesitate. Research shows that social proof is most powerful when we aren’t sure what to do. (9).  

  • In terms of tactics, here are a few options that are frequently used:

  • Using experts or authorities. This is why we see so many celebrity endorsements - they are powerful.

  • Displaying reviews, ratings, or testimonials. Yelp and Amazon are classic examples.

  • Listing products as “best-sellers.”

  • Marking one choice as “recommended” when multiple choices are presented.

  • Displaying trending topics or products.

  • Effectively using wait-lists. Is your product still in development? As you let users sign up to be notified when it’s launched, think about displaying how many people have already done so.

In addition to using these specific tactics, think about how you are framing your desired behavior with the language you use. For example, if you were promoting a webinar, how much more powerful is a button that says “reserve your spot” compared to “sign up”?

Do you currently use social proof to help users/customers understand how desirable others find your product? How can you add social proof to your product experience?

Irrationally yours,

(9) Cialdini, R. B. (1994). Influence: The psychology of persuasion. New York: Morrow.