When we are uncertain of how to behave or react, we look to others to guide our reaction. This is a powerful tool for web marketing and social media.
The first two tenets of Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, are reciprocation and commitment & consistency…two items that are hard-wired into us. The next tenet is all about external forces: Social Proof.
From laugh tracks to tip jars, we are influenced by the actions and reactions of others. This is especially true when we’re unsure of how to behave in a given situation.
In Cialdini’s chapter on social proof he includes a number of examples of social proof gone haywire, from Jonestown to the murder of Catherine Genovese and the lack of action or reaction from 38 witnesses.
There are a number of variables that impact social proof’s influence over us.