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).


About Kunal Punjabi

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19. February 2012 by Kunal Punjabi
Categories: General, Leadership and Business | 3 comments

Comments (3)

  1. Social validation is huge!! Having positive testomonials, reviews and ratings is what drives prospective clients to businesses. Comapnies like Yelp, Google, Amazon and thousands of other have realized this and are very ‘review centric’.
    As a business owner I would be very conscious about what my clients are saying about my business online. A positive review could end up being my best friend and a negative one, if un-answered could kill my business.

    • Good examples. Yelp and Amazon especially – their entire business model is driven by social validation and reviews, because we’re more inclined to like/buy something if others do too. How have you used social proof in your business, Vishal? Thanks for the comment.

  2. Check out, we have a Senior Care Directory where Home Care Companies, Assisted Living Communities and other Senior Care providers can advertise. We are encouraging all our advertisers to get reviews on their directory listing on Our Site Usability Focus Groups have told us that Reviews are their primary drivers in picking one Assisted Living community vs. the other.

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