The Power of Social Proof

What is social proof?  Put simply, it’s the positive influence created when someone finds out that others are doing something.  – Aileen Lee

In his highly regarded and best-selling book Influence, Robert Cialdini outlines how to use (and defend yourself against) six principles of persuasion: reciprocity, authority, commitment & consistency, liking, scarcity, and social proof. This week we’re going to take a quick look at the latter in greater detail.

Facebook advertising has done spectacularly well, in part because it shows how many people you know already “like” a page. The more of your friends that like something, the more likely we are to check it out and like it as well. Re-posting on Facebook and Twitter is a great example of social proof – it shows we support something. Make sure any site you run has scripts that make it easily share-able (and in the right places – highly visible).

You may know, one of the main factors in weather someone decides to attend an event, is how many people they know are attending as well. Although the company may be flagrantly evil, McDonalds’ “Over 99 Billion Served” slogan certainly shows it has support. Another prominent example of social proof is the gigantic lineups outside Apple stores on launch days for new products. People love to advertise that they support the brand. Having a brand and product (music in this case) that is high-quality is definitely a pre-cursor to mass support.

Some consider social proof is to be “the new marketing“, and rightly so.  You can see here from this study by the Nielsen Company, that “recommendations from people known” ranked highest in trust-ability of all forms of advertising tested:

For me personally, when Skream gave a quote in support of a remix I had done, that quote went on to display major celebrity social proof. Think “If the pros are supporting this – maybe I should as well too, or at least have a look for myself.” Between that, and it charting on Beatport (also social proof), it created obvious support, and that support (think of a crowd gathering, and thus attracting a greater crowd) created even more support. Have a promo list that you regularly send you high-quality finished work to, and don’t be shy to ask prominent artists for quotes of support if they are playing your tunes (celebrity social proof). I even see some people using these on the right-hand side of their Soundloud pages.

Today a tweet from Royal-T had me looking at at Temple Run, an iPhone game. Even while writing this article, I still unconsciously looked at the customer rating (5 star avg. from 306312 Ratings) as a barometer for the value & quality of the game – essentially weather or not it’s worth downloading. Perhaps I am programmed to care if other people care.

A few more examples of social proof in the music industry to think about:

  • DJ’s playing your tracks, either live, on radio, or in mixes
  • Audience and other artists re-posting your music and activities
  • People attending your events in person is major social proof
  • (Also, a velvet rope outside a club with a line of people)
  • Pre-show posts on Facebook event walls
  • Tracks charting on online download sites
  • Blogs and music aggregate sites like Hype Machine
  • Being included in DJ charts
  • User-generated videos on Youtube etc for tunes, uploaded by fans
 If you have a great product waiting to be discovered, figure out how to build social proof around it by putting it in front of the right early influencers.  – Aileen Lee

The key here is to consciously understand how social proof works, start seeing how individuals and crowds respond to it, and prominently display it – use it to your own advantage. Do not underestimate the power of it. As you see in the above chart, it ranks as incredibly useful. Even if you are a beginner, start using every bit of support you have to build more and more of it – it builds its own momentum. When there’s a critical mass of people supporting something, there’s a certain tipping point where more and more people start supporting because the social proof is obvious.

  • Can you think of other ways that social proof influences the music industry?
  • How are you currently using it to your advantage?
  • How can you start using it to your advantage?

Please repost! Spread the word 😉


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