What Does Social Proof Mean?
One young woman whispers in another woman's ear, supposedly helping her understand what does social proof mean?
October 21, 2021


Wondering what social proof means?

Imagine this.

As you excitedly click “Add to cart”, you imagine how luxurious your future Monday mornings will feel. You’re just about to order an exquisite, velvety soft wingback chair for your office, and you can’t wait to start each Monday with a cup of tea, snug in your comfy new chair. 

You’ve worked damn hard for this chair, and it’s your reward for hitting that next big milestone.

But then you start to wonder, what if it’s not as comfy as it looks? What if it’s actually hard and unforgiving, and your tooshie objects to it?

Like 95% of the population does before making a buying decision, you quickly navigate to reviews to see what other people say. You seek social proof.

So what exactly is social proof?

If you’re struggling to understand social proof, you’re not alone. By definition, it’s wildly complex. But in how it manifests, it’s quite simple.

Social proof is “both a psychological and social phenomenon where we tend to copy the actions of those around us to try and conform to a behavior that we believe to fit the situation”. 

This is the definition coined by legendary social psychologist Robert Cialdini, author of Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion. 

In simple terms, it means when we’re undecided, we look to the behaviour of others to guide us. This reduces the risk of making a poor choice, and reduces the stress of making a decision on our own.

Young woman with dark hair looks confused, she needs social proof to help her make a buying decision

What does social proof look like in action?

In the case of buying a chair that we desperately need to be comfy, we look to see what others think about the chair. We look at the overall rating, and then we scan for comments about its comfyness. We’re desperate for validation that buying the chair is a sound choice. 

We’re also hoping not to see comments about the chair being hard, uncomfortable, or not a great place to curl up with a cup of tea and a book.

Soooo, how does this relate to business?

Understanding the role of social proof in business extends beyond just knowing what social proof means. It’s vital to know how it affects the human decision making process. How it affects a prospect’s decision to work with you. Or not.

Seeking social proof is in our DNA. Multiple experiments have been done over the years to assess the fallibility of social proof as a phenomenon.

Equally, multiple surveys and assessments have been done to understand buyer behaviour and validate the importance of social proof.

Every time someone is considering working with you, they will look for validation of their choice. They will look to others before deciding to work with you.

So if you want to work with more humans, you need social proof.

Want proof of how social proof works?

Here’s a few hard hitting stats to show the need for using social proof as a tool in your business.

Seeking social proof is in our DNA. Multiple experiments have been done over the years to assess the fallibility of social proof as a phenomenon.

Equally, multiple surveys and assessments have been done to understand buyer behaviour and validate the importance of social proof.

4 green towels stacked on a white stool in a bathroom. Towels are representative of an experiment proving the social proof phenomenon

The need for social proof in your business

When you understand how people behave before they commit to working with you, you start to realise just how important having social proof is. 

When someone who doesn’t know you is about to hand over their hard-earned cash, they want some sense of validation that you can be trusted to deliver what you say you can.

Think about how easy it is to close most word-of-mouth referrals. Those people came to you because someone they know and trust recommended you.

That’s the power of social proof in action. 

But when someone found you via Google, social media, an online directory, a networking event, or any other method where they haven’t yet established trust, they are seeking to gain trust before they buy.

Ok so how exactly do you establish trust?

Social proof takes many forms. When it’s a tangible consumer product like a chair, online customer reviews are a simple and quick way for businesses to get feedback, and share it with potential buyers.

In a service based business, it’s slightly more complex. Sure, you can get Google reviews, Facebook reviews, Linked In reviews, and even online directory reviews. But so often, this doesn’t happen, because the transaction takes much longer than a simple “add to cart”.) And the magical arrival of your beautiful new chair days later.)

However it’s important not to let opportunities for social proof slide on by. When you work your tooshie off (which is why you NEED that comfy chair!) to delight your clients and your community, you should be seeking social proof. You should be seeking it like your business depends on it (which it kinda does!).

Woman with two young children and a laptop, seemingly shopping online, seeks social proof to establish trust before buying

What kind of social proof should you be seeking?

In a service-based business, the simplest, most common, and most frequently used form of social proof is testimonials.

But you can and also should be investing in story-based case studies that delve into your clients’ emotions and psyche. Stories that show the transformation you create for your clients. Stories that hook people in, and make them want to experience the transformation for themself. 

Winning relevant awards is also an excellent way to prove you’re an expert in your field. Many awards programs are highly competitive. So if you can prove to a panel of judges that you meet the selection criteria better than any other entrant, you truly earn the badge of distinction that comes with winning.

And when you put those badges on your website, you’re providing social proof (awarded by expert judges) that you truly can do what you say you can.


Social proof matters. 

It 100% influences our buying decisions, and it needs to be a vital part of your sales strategy. Without it, best case you’re fighting harder than you need to for every sale. Worst case, you’re losing sales.

If you want to infuse more social proof into your business, check out my services and see how I can help you win more clients like the ones you love most.

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