How Social Media Encourages Social Proof And Increases Sales

Twitter has 288 Million Users

Instagram 300 Million Users

Facebook 1.393 Billion Users

Do humans love Social Media? You bet.

We’re social creatures that love to share glimpses of our life and peer into the lives of our friends, families and even brands. We love to share photos of products we buy from our favourite retailers on Instagram or tweet about a new product on Twitter.

Consumers today are connecting and interacting with brands now more than ever. According to a study by Boston Consulting Group, Millennials are most likely to engage deeply with brands through social networks with 52 percent of millennials interviewed saying that they use their mobile devices to “Like” a brand.

Think the “Boomer generation” is too old and out of touch to be on Social Media? Think again. According to a Global Web Index survey, 70% of online baby boomers have a Facebook account.

Social Proof

All generations are online, creating relationships with brands and telling their friends about them.

Social media can amplify a powerful aspect of human nature known as social proof. This article dives into what social proof is exactly, and how your business can take advantage of it.

What Is Social Proof?

Wikipedia describes social proof as “a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation. This effect is prominent in ambiguous social situations where people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior, and is driven by the assumption that surrounding people possess more knowledge about the situation.”

In other words, we look to others to make up our minds on what we should do or how to behave.

You’ve witnessed different forms of social proof your entire life and have made decisions because of it. Funny thing is, you probably didn’t even know it was happening.

Ever seen a lineup for a restaurant and immediately think, that place must be good? What about a celebrity endorsing a product and people going crazy for it? These are only two different types of social proof amongst five different types:

  • Expert – When a credible source gives your product or service a seal of approval
  • Celebrity – When a celebrity endorses your product or service
  • User – Approval from current users of a product or service
  • Wisdom of the crowd – Approval of a product or service from a large group of people
  • Wisdom of your friends – The stamp of approval of a product or service from your friends

Brands use all five of these to entice you to promote and buy their products. Social media has become a great way for brands to use social proof to increase revenue and brand awareness.

Follow Their Lead

When I was a kid I played soccer and had to have a pair of Umbro shorts. All the soccer stars and my friends were wearing them. Although I liked my Nike shorts better, I wore my Umbro shorts anyway. Why?

It’s hardwired into our brains to want to belong. As much as we like to say we’re independent thinkers, a lot of the time our decisions are based on what others do.

We also want to identify with a group of like minded individuals. So, while I wanted to belong, I also wanted to be seen as someone who played soccer and liked sports which is what Umbro represented.

Smart brands know this and are using social media as social proof. Take Multichannel retailer American Eagle for example. American Eagle currently has 1 million followers on Instagram alone, with some of their photos getting up to 30,000 likes and dozens of comments. Like this one.

Social Proof 

The comments are almost all the same; “I need those jeans” from girls that fit their All-American lifestyle. This is a perfect example of Social Proof.

Think American Eagle is making money off of using Instagram as Social Proof? Absolutely.

Not every brand will do well on Instagram though. Every group of people are different and while one group may be on Instagram, another may be on Facebook or Twitter. It depends upon what social network is popular amongst that social circle.

ThinkGeek, while they have an impressive amount of followers on Instagram, really shines on Twitter. Take a look at this board game they recently posted. It got 187 retweets, 263 favourites and countless comments stating how awesome the game is.

Social Proof


NCIX is a Canadian retailer that sells almost any kind of tech you need, from computers to printers and even game consoles. Their Facebook page currently has over 300,000 Likes and it’s where a lot of their followers prefer to hang out and engage with the brand. What I love about this next screenshot, grabbed from NCIX’s Facebook page, is that they are engaging their audience with a question and their followers are happy to oblige; providing excellent social proof.

Social Proof

All three of these brands are using “the wisdom of friends” social proof and rightly so.

Social media has triggered a variety of different ways to provide this kind of social proof. Twitter displays the followers of people you follow, Instagram shows you pictures in the “suggestion feed” based on who your friends are following and the pictures they like and Facebook has widgets that show when your friends “Like” a brand.

Of course in order for social proof to work, your brand needs to have quite a large following and this will take time. However, it can be done.

Build Your Social Proof

Having a strategy is an integral part of anything succeeding or failing. American Eagle, ThinkGeek and NCIX no doubt have a social media plan and are leveraging social proof to increase sales. All three have a strong brand presence that is felt throughout everything they do. They even use the same language as their customers to engage with them in a more meaningful way.

They also encourage their customers to share their products. The picture that we looked at earlier from American Eagle was a regram from an actual customer. Any way that you can encourage your customers to share your product or like your brand is important as it will build brand awareness and increase your ability to leverage social proof.

One unique way that many retailers are doing this is by including their social media icons on a customer’s receipt. If you think about it, this makes perfect sense. A customer that has just purchased from you is on a shopping high, so this is a perfect time and opportunity to invite them to join your social networks. You can even encourage them to take it one step further and leave a comment about what they just purchased or entice them to shop with you again by offering a discount.

Here’s a perfect example using Payfirma social receipts.

Social Proof

Your turn! Is your business on social media? Have you found one network is resonating with your audience over another? We want to know how you are using social media to promote social proof!


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