The psychology of social proof

Social proof has the potential to transform your marketing. In this blog post I'm going to talk about social proof, how it works and how you can use social proof in your marketing.

What is social proof?

Social proof is the idea behind the ‘following the crowd': the theory that people will do something or buy something, because they have seen that other people have done so.

How does social proof work?

Social proof works because we are hard-wired to learn from others to avoid making dangerous choice. If we can see what other people have done in a similar situation it influences our own behaviour. For example, as children we follow other people's lead when it comes to crossing the road, eating wild berries, and so on.

But how does this apply to marketing? Take this example.

If I am buying a new saucepan and I see two identical items (same construction, same price, same listed benefits, etc.), but Saucepan A has 3 5-star reviews, while Saucepan B has 2 4-star and 1 2-star reviews, then social proof will lead me to purchase Saucepan A. Other people have purchased these items, and have shared their experiences. This means that my purchase is less of an unknown, because I have seen other people's rankings.

How to use social proof in your marketing

So in our marketing we want to use social proof to make our potential customers feel more comfortable about purchasing from us.


Have an online shop? Encourage previous customers to review their purchases.


Share a case story about one of your customers, where they share the benefits of your product.

Product ranking

Hertz-Avis advert

Think of Hertz car rental in America. For many years they have branded themselves as the market leader – to such an extent that their rival (Avis) has branded itself as  ‘We're number 2 – We try harder'. It's an old campaign, but there's a reason why it is still used as an example for marketers.

Can you position your product similarly?


Have you carried out some useful market research around your product? Have you got a statistic that will encourage people to purchase your product. Take this Carlsberg Export advert, for instance.

Carlsberg Export advert

One simple question to ask your customers would be whether they would recommend your product/company.

93% of customers would use again

8/10 customers would recommend to a friend

Social proof isn't a golden ticket

While using social proof is a useful concept for increasing the response to your marketing activity, it is not a guarantee. If social proof worked in every situation we would all support the same football team, drink the same beer, and fill up the same beach on the French Riviera.

Neal Brown

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