Social Proof Is Important but Not as Important as This

social proof and trustSocial proof sells.

Most of us probably think we don’t follow the crowd, but the reality is the behavior of others influences our decisions. Consider these two examples…

First, you’re on vacation in an unfamiliar city looking for a place to eat dinner. You see two restaurants next two each other, one has lots of cars in front of it the other has almost none. Which do you choose? Probably the busier one, because other folks seem to think it’s better, right?

Second example, you’re looking for an app to download for a particular function. You do a search and find several that seem like a good fit, but one of them has 5 times as many downloads as any of the others. Which do you choose? The popular one, right? Because other people seem to think it’s better.

That’s social proof (aka social influence.)

4 out of 5 Dentists…

Marketing professionals understand the value of social proof, so they routinely trumpet the popularity of their product in their ads and marketing messages. That’s why we see ads that say things like:

  • “4 out of 5 dentists recommend”
  • “New York Times best seller”
  • “It’ this year’s summer blockbuster”

Questionable claims

Recently, I tuned into an online event that was part conference and part infomercial for the organizer’s training program. Early in the event, the organizer made a special, limited offer – the first X number of people who signed up for his program would get a special bonus.

Later on in the event, he came on and said the special offer had sold out, but he was going to make it available to more people anyway.

This was an attempt to use social proof to motivate other participants to buy. It was a subtle way of saying, “Lots of other people jumped on the first offer. You should too. Here’s another chance.”

But there was one big problem…

The entire event was prerecorded.

He had prerecorded a video segment saying the special offer had sold out before the event had even started.

Hmmm…

When I asked about it, he insulted me and then kicked me out of the event.

Obviously, at that point, he lost any hope of making the sale.

In his attempt to create social proof, he had destroyed one thing far more important…

Trust

Trust is the most important asset you have.

It takes a lot of time and effort to build trust. And if you break it, it’s almost impossible to earn it back.

This is true offline, but it’s even more so online where our ability to really know people is limited by the medium and what others choose to reveal about themselves.

We have a saying here at OurChurch.Com:

We don’t provide website services, we provide peace of mind.

We understand people can get websites, hosting and search marketing from hundreds of different service providers. What we want Christian leaders to know is that we have the same spiritual goals and values do. We are partners in ministry. We’re looking out for

But that kind of peace of mind, can only come with trust.

The same is true for you

This applies not just to people who do marketing, but to people in every walk of life.

Even pastors and leaders of non-profits feel pressure to exaggerate influence and impact. I know; I’ve been there. We all want to fire up our volunteers with positive news. We want to inspire others to join us and experience all the amazing things that are happening, right? And if we phrase it a certain way, technically it’s true.

Don’t do it.

Don’t risk trust by trying to inflate your credibility and social proof.

It’s just not worth it.

What do you think?

Have you ever lost trust in someone because they exaggerated their influence or accomplishments? Do you ever feel pressure to exaggerate in order to increase credibility, social proof and momentum?

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

2 Responses to “Social Proof Is Important but Not as Important as This”

  1. scottybarker Aug 2, 2014 at 9:14 pm

    Very interesting insight Paul, thanks for sharing

  2. Unfortunately, there are those that attempt to game social influence in an attempt to build it – 'Get 10,000 fans now', fiverr.com, and others. And I know people that have fallen victim to these hypes, and people who employ those techniques.

    What we need to keep in mind is that 100 recommendations from people we don't know pales in comparison to the 1 we do know – and trust.

    Thanks for sharing this, Paul, and being someone we can trust.

    Blessings!