19 Ridiculously Simple Lessons in Persuasion

Lesson 3 - Social Proof

"When in Rome do as the Roman's do" The Bible

The second letter of the ASSCURL acronym is Social Proof.

Social proof is where you do what others are doing. You also will not do what others are not doing.

Have you ever been to a baseball game and tried not to stand or take off your hat during the National Anthem? It's very difficult and uncomfortable.

Have you ever noticed an empty restaurant next to a crowded one? People will avoid the empty one without knowing whether it's good or not.

Derren Brown gives a good example of this effect in this video.

In this video, there are 3 people that are part of the experiment who sit and stand at the ringing of a bell. Then as people enter the room they follow the original 3 people and stand and sit with them without being told to do it. Eventually, the original 3 leave the room and the remaining people continue to follow the original pattern.

Some words used in ads and tweets on Twitter are:
  • Everyone
  • Others are
  • Thousands have joined already
  • Call back later if operators are busy
  • No one does that
  • You're the only one ...
  • 5,200,332 visitors to this page
  • I have over 70,000 followers on Twitter

    Some places where Social proof gets you to join in:
  • Crowded restaurant or store
  • Tweets that have large number of Likes, retweets, blog comments
  • The consensus is...

    Questions after a presentation
    On the other hand, if you've given a presentation and asked for questions you'll often hear silence as nobody wants to ask first and the fact that no one is asking means you shouldn't ask. As a moderator, it helps to have a number of questions to ask to get the ball rolling. Even better is to seed questions in case none are asked.

    Taking flyers from someone

    Often you'll see someone handing out flyers and no one will take them. But arrange for a number of cohorts to take them and you'll get others to copy the behavior.

    Kitty Genovese Effect
    One of the most famous events of social proof was the story of Kitty Genovese. She was murdered in broad daylight and witnessed by a number of people. No one called the police or helped because no one was helping.

    Escalator/Elevator behavior
    If you ride an elevator one thing you may notice is everyone is facing forward towards the door. If you get a number of people to face the back then new people that enter will also face the back.

    On the escalator, people will keep to the right to stand while others walk up to the left.

    Jumping a line
    You can often jump a line by just doing it. If no one says anything within the first 5 seconds then people will follow suit. If someone speaks up then many people will call you on your behavior.

    Priming the Tip Jar
    You can increase your tips at a store by just adding money to the tip jar. If a customer sees an empty jar they're less likely to give you a tip then if there is already money there.

    Used Car Trick
    One way to use this effect to your advantage if you're selling a used car or house is to place an ad and have all the responders to arrive at the same time.

    Store or restaurant
    Find a way to create a line outside your store and you'll get people joining the line just due to social proof.

  • Use the concept of social proof to get compliance to your requests
  • Prime the pump if you're not getting questions asked, feedback or visitors to your bar or restaurant
  • Run tests on Twitter to see how well social proof works
  • Look at ads, tweets or signs for where social proof is be deployed by a persuader

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