Social proof: if I see what others are doing, I?ll end up doing it myself

Social proof:

What exactly is it?

The third principle defined by Robert B. Cialdini is based on the tendency that we, as a society have, to do the same as other members. This marks our actions in many cases, particularly when we don?t know what we ought to do.

How does it work?

The principle of social proof is very effective, because statistics show that 95% of all people act by imitating others, whereas only 5% act as initiators.

The principle is used more often than we think in our daily lives (canned laughter in sitcoms provoke automatic laughter in us and the queues outside the doors of fashionable clubs tell us that this is the place to be).

To make this principle more effective, we need to bear in mind that the more people identify with the people performing the action, the higher the degree of imitation. A study from Colombia University proves this. The researchers left a few ?lost? wallets in the streets of Manhattan. Inside the wallets was a small amount of money and a letter written by a person who said that he had found the wallet and gone to return it. The idea being transmitted is that another person wanted to return the wallet but had also lost it. The peculiar thing about the letters was the tone in which they were written: one type of letter was written with an average level of English, like any resident in the area, whereas the second type of letter contained a few mistakes which indicated that the person was foreign. This was designed to define the degree of similitude with the city?s residents. The principle of social proof worked because in those cases where the degree of identification was greater, 70% of the wallets were returned, whereas in the cases where there was no such degree of identification, the figures dropped to 33%.

How can we apply this?

Through figures: A good way of applying the principle of social proof on our sites is through figures which corroborate it. Idealista does this very well by introducing a few statements which add value to it: ?Spain?s leading property portal? and the high number of properties available to us and to the people receiving their advertisements. With the figures, Idealista is saying: ?we are exactly where we need to be if we want to find a flat?.

Through people: The Threadless T-shirt sales site is a good example of identification with its users. The users take photographs of themselves wearing the T-shirts and leave comments on what they think about their T-shirt. This clearly tells us that these T-shirts ?rock?.

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