How to use Social Proof to increase your persuasiveness
This is part of the ‘Lessons in Persuasion’ series. Each post is a concise blurb on how you can be more persuasive in your interactions with people. If you have any thoughts to share, please leave a comment or response below – or contact me.
Other’s people behavior is a powerful source of social influence, and has a strong effect on the actions we take and decisions we make, whether we like to admit it or not. In fact, when a group or social psychology researchers asked people in their studies whether other people’s behavior influenced their own, they were absolutely insistent that it did not. Yet, it’s a well known fact that in general, people’s ability to understand what affects their decisions and behavior is surprisingly poor.
In one such social experiment, an assistant of one of the researchers stopped on a busy New York City sidewalk and started staring at the sky for about a minute. The majority of passers-by simply walked around the man without bothering to see what the man was staring at. However, they then added 4 other men to the group, and in an instant, the number of passers-by who joined them more than quadrupled.
Social proof has immense power – it can pay huge dividends in your attempts to persuade others to take a desired course of action. However, the means of communicating the same should not be underestimated. Saying something like, “Hey you, be a sheep and join the herd” is not going to have people respond favorably to your request. Instead, you may try something like “Join countless others in helping save the environment”, or, taking a page from McDonalds’ book, “Billions and billions served”. In the same vein, you are more likely to “like” something on Facebook if others have already “liked” it.
So how can you use social proof in your work life? Use it to tout top selling products and services, with impressive statistics on their popularity. Always ask for testimonials from satisfied customers and clients, especially when pitching to potential clients that are “on the fence” about the benefits your product or service can provide. If you’re interviewing for a job at a company you really want to work for, saying that you have competing offers from other high profile companies can greatly increase your desirability and leverage when negotiating an offer. Of course, I don’t condone lying to get what you want – that rarely works (to be honest I wish I was a better liar, but I’m not).
The long and the short of it is this – if we perceive something to be in high demand and that others are interested in it, we are far more likely to be interested as well (whether or not that’s true is another matter entirely).