In marketing, social proof is king, queen, and emperor

Much of marketing is social proof. You use products because you see other people that you admire using products. This is especially true in B2B marketing.

Social proof, when it works well, is a feedback loop. Actions create evidence which create relevance and then create consequences.

This is true in products you buy personally and products you buy for your business. It is true for homes, schools, medical procedures, and even political candidates. Social proof is the number one thing that convinces you to choose any product that is out there.

If you are a marketer, you need to acknowledge the power of social proof and use it to your advantage.

Social proof is a very good short-cut for people who are doing due diligence of a product. They want to understand who else is using a product and what they think of it.

In marketing, social proof is king, queen, and emperor.

Social proof looms large in B2B software

Is Stripe the best payment processor for your business? I have no idea. But I do know that many companies I respect use Stripe and like Stripe … so if I need a payment processor I am going to check out Stripe. I’ll likely check out Square too because many companies I respect use them.

I’m going to assume a LOT about Stripe and Square because of the social proof. I am going to assume they are reputable. I am going to assume they are technically proficient. I am going to assume they have good fraud protection. I am going to assume tons of positive things about these services (which might not actually be true) because of the vast social proof surrounding them.

Review sites and social proof

One of the reasons reviews are so important is because of social proof. Here the raw number of review is key for social proof. That charger review on Amazon, the database review on G2 Crowd, or the company culture review on Glassdoor. And marketers spend a lot of time managing these reviews and sometimes gaming these reviews.

Of course, when these reviews are too easily gamed, they are massively discounted.

Celebrity endorsements are so powerful.

This is why celebrity endorsements are so powerful. You might admire Denzel Washington and if he endorses Toyota, that might make you more likely to get a Toyota. Of course, if you know the endorser was paid for the endorsement you might discount the recommendation … but even then the endorsement can be powerful (because you know Denzel Washington has standards and does not just endorse every product).

One of the hottest things right now in marketing is influencer marketing (paying a popular YouTuber to talk-up your product). The more genuine the endorsement is perceived, the more likely you are engage with the product.

I particularly like the endorsements that Malcolm Gladwell makes on his podcast, Revisionist History. He talks so eloquently about his love for ZipRecruiter. I have no idea if ZipRecruiter is a good or bad product, but Malcolm Gladwell’s endorsement (even though I know it was a straight-up paid endorsement transaction) makes me want to check it out.

Picking a school to send your kids to

People that have achieved a decent level of wealth have a massive number of schools to choose from for their kids. San Francisco alone has hundreds of schools (public and private) — and many of them are extremely highly rated. Which one should you choose for your kids?

Most people use social proof. They look to people they admire and see where those people sent their kids … and then they make their choice accordingly.

It would take too long to do deep due diligence on 200 schools. In fact, it takes too long to do deep due diligence on even one school. A much easier short cut is to look to social proof.

This is why recruiting at start-ups is so hard

If you a start-up, by definition very few people have joined your company. That means most candidates will not know anyone that has joined your company (or even interviewed with your company). So getting social proof is rather difficult). Larger companies like Google, Goldman Sachs, and McKinsey don’t have this problem — most top candidates will have known many people that have joined these organizations.

Summation: in marketing, focus first on social proof.

Feedback loop in social proof marketing

This was originally posted on Quora.

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