The Power of Positive Social Proof

Positive Social Proof

Why Is Positive Social Proof Important?

You’re walking down a busy city street and turn the corner only to see a small crowd of people all looking up in the air, at a point across and above the street. What are the odds you’ll be able to stop yourself before looking up to see what they’re all staring it? I know for me, it’s almost impossible…and I’ve tried!

Similarly, in movies and TV shows, it’s easier to laugh along when we hear the show’s laugh-track. I once watched a funny old movie with no laugh-track, and the child I was watching with didn’t know what was funny. We take our cues from others.

It’s the same online. One of the main reasons that people make a choice is because they have “social proof” that others have done so before. It’s a strong motivator.


“The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.” Ken Blanchard


Whether you are a business, a blogger, or an individual with career aspirations, you should be harnessing the power of positive social proof. The concept is not a new one, but its importance continues to grow both for businesses and individuals.

Wikipedia defines it this way: “Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.”

Dr. Robert Cialdini’s famous work on persuasion called this phenomenon out as a particularly effective marketing tactic. His book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is a must-read classic.

We tend to adopt as correct the behavior of others around us.


“Leadership is an action, not a position.” –Donald McGannon


Positive social proof:


Helps you stand out. Competition isn’t slowing down, isn’t letting up, and isn’t taking a break. If you want your business to get noticed, then social proof is one way to do it. With more sources competing for our attention every day, it’s vital to differentiate your offering from everything else.

Improves your success metrics. Studies show that we are more likely to share something that others are also sharing. We watch what we see others are watching. Visit a new town and you see two restaurants side-by-side. One has an empty lot and the other has a line wrapped around the block. Which one appeals to you?

Builds credibility. Unless you are already an established expert, a bestselling author, or a of host a worldwide talk show, it helps to build credibility. In Nashville, I see many up and coming music artists using quotes from famous musicians. Authors routinely ask for endorsements for book jacket quotes. Businesses include testimonials from others. All of these are ways to differentiate and add credibility.


“The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.” –Vince Lombardi


YOU Need Social Proof

Some of you may say, “Sure, I can see that building social proof matters for a business. But it’s not something I need to think about.”

Think again.

If you want to increase your chances of promotion, see higher raises, or reduce your chances of getting let go from your organization, you should use some elements of social proof. Do you have a marketing plan for YOU? Today, you must promote yourself.

You don’t need to blatantly self-promote. No one likes an egotistical, self-centered know-it-all. But, if I want the boss to choose me for a new project, how do I keep my name out there? How do I stand out? It may not be a blog, but it may be that you wrote an article in your company newsletter or an industry publication. It may be that you are speaking at a customer event. And there is nothing better than the word of mouth social proof because you delivered a key project or pitched in to help when it wasn’t even your responsibility. When your colleagues are buzzing about your performance, that is the best social proof possible. There are many ways to build your social proof as an individual.


“Intense love does not measure, it just gives.” –Mother Teresa


Your Website Benefits From Social Proof

Recently, one marketer sent me a list of the ways I have used positive social proof on this blog. Here is what she shared (with my explanation).

Shares. On the top of each post, you can see the number of shares. Here’s where I ran into a problem last week. Because I have preferred Twitter to other social media, my Twitter shares are higher than others like LinkedIn or Facebook. Recently, Twitter made a strange, surprising, and I think wrong move by removing counts from everyone’s websites. That turns some posts that were shared by the thousands to showing nothing overnight. Why they did this is answered in a strange post, but I still don’t quite understand it. And, for the record, it alienated a large community of content creators who are now rethinking strategies for Facebook and LinkedIn over Twitter.


Does it matter? Adele recently smashed records with the release of 25, becoming the best-selling album in the US of any single week. Large numbers create even more numbers. What would have happened if just as her sales took off Nielsen made a decision like Twitter and just zeroed out the sales?


“A true measure of your worth includes all the benefits others have gained from your success.” –Cullen Hightower


Awards. These are listed on the right side. I haven’t included all of the kind awards, but I did include many of them. They are a form of social proof.

Lead INSIDE the Box for Efficiency and Effectiveness

How Leaders Can Be More Efficient and Effective

Last year, I was reading the dramatic account of a hard-charging executive who suffered a heart attack. The post was about the need for balance, but it was more than a wake-up call.  What struck me about this post, however, was not the lessons he taught us from his painful experience, not the, “Oh, I hope this doesn’t happen to me” feeling we have when reading these posts, but the name of the hospital he went to. It was here in Dublin, Ohio!


“A leader’s job is to help people move to a position of improved performance.” –Figliuolo / Prince


That meant that one of the people who regularly shares my posts and vice versa lived in my town. Social media amazes me. A quickly dashed off email and the two of us found ourselves in Starbucks where I heard more about his compelling story. I’m still amazed at how Twitter and blogging create opportunities like this one.


“Great leaders think about talent management every day.”–Figliuolo/Prince


Lead INSIDE the Box

20141017 LItB Cover V3Let me introduce you to Mike Figliuolo. Mike is the founder of thoughtLEADERS, LLC, a leadership development firm. He is also the author of One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership. His latest book was just released and was co-written with Victor Prince, former COO of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and now a strategy consultant.

We recently got together to talk about this book, Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results.

Mike and Victor have built a powerful framework designed to help leaders be more efficient and more effective at the same time. It starts with the recognition that we, as leaders, are often overworked and not as effective as we could be.

  • Where am I spending my time?
  • With whom?
  • Am I treating each person the same when different approaches would create better results?


“Your leadership success hinges upon your ability to get people to perform well.” –Figliuolo/Prince


If I understand the “box” and apply the techniques correctly, I can be more proactive, more thoughtful, and more impactful with my team members.

20150410 Leadership Matrix

Twitter is Not a Strategy

Tweet cloud

Techniques from an Expert Marketer

If you are marketing a company, a product, an idea, or even your personal brand, you may feel the pull between the new-media world and the traditional marketing methods you studied in school. When new technologies emerge, it often seems like everything is changing. Whether digital, mobile, or social, we are looking for new ways to connect with our audience.

What if these new ways actually prevented a brand from reaching its potential?

How do you get people to stick around?

How do you engage people in a substantive way, winning them over? 


“Timeless can be new.” -Tom Doctoroff


Tom Doctoroff has more than 20 years of experience shaping hundreds of global brands ranging from Microsoft to Ford to Nestle.  He’s appeared regularly on NBC, CBS, CNBC and other major media outlets. Tom’s new book Twitter is Not a Strategy: Rediscovering the Art of Brand Marketing is all about engagement. Its wisdom spans the two worlds, combining digital and traditional marketing to win and engage consumers.


The Marketing Identity Crisis

Tom, you’re the CEO of J. Walter Thompson in AsiaPacific and for decades have shaped some of the world’s biggest brands. Your new book title, Twitter is Not a Strategy, seems to imply some level of frustration.  Did you write this book with some level of frustration?

I wouldn’t call it frustration exactly.  But, yes, I do think the communications industry is going through something of an identity crisis.  The fundamentals of advertising and branding are too often forsaken as marketers seek technological and algorithmic salvation. The rise of digital has led to marketer anxiety, consumer confusion and too many transactional brands.  But old and new, traditional and digital, broadcast and “lean in” media are complementary.


“Each creative expression of the brand idea should be conceived with a specific behavioral objective in mind.” -Tom Doctoroff


Twitter is Not a Strategy is not meant to be a breakthrough book.  Indeed it might even be “anti-breakthrough.”  It is a call for the entire industry to stand up and reclaim the conceptual high ground of marketing communications.  Carefully crafted strategies and executions—adherence to the ABCs of brand building—will remain our lighthouse.  As brand pioneers, we must explore the shoals of a new digital landscape.  But let’s not become stranded by anxiety and indecision. Timeless can be new.


Traditional versus New Marketing Tension

Your book explains the traditional top down branding approach (message clarity) with a bottom up (consumer empowerment) approach. How do these two approaches need to work together?Twitter is Not a Strategy

To avoid confusing consumers, engagement needs to be both authentic and constructed. Marketers must forge a paradigm that allows freedom within a framework, pulling off the trick of simultaneously permitting consumers to participate with brands while empowering marketers to manage the message and dialog.  Marketers must achieve:  harmony between the clarity of top-down positioning and the dynamism of bottom-up consumer engagement; between long-term brand equity and short-term tactical messaging; and between emotional relevance and results driven by data-driven technology.

Different kinds of media reach us for complementary purposes.  Analog (traditional) media shape our brand preference while most digital media deepens our engagement and leads to brand loyalty.

The former boast broad reach.  They forge perceptions across consumer masses. Film—with its sound, color, movement, and ability to break through clutter—is an indispensable tool to guide consumers amid an explosion of offerings. Even in the United States, despite the proliferation of smartphones and other digital devices, the 30-second broadcast television commercial continues to rule (and increase). Manufacturers spent some $67 billion on network and cable advertising in 2013 – and not for sentimental reasons.

The latter encourage engagement with brands. With more opportunity to trigger behavioral changes – learning more, using more, buying more, advocating more – marketers can increase the probability of purchase and repeat purchase.


Traditional media shape brand preference. Digital leads to loyalty.


As consumers move toward purchase, direct and digital media should dominate. These media provide more opportunity for engagement—that is, direct interaction with a brand idea and its creative expression. Marketers have more opportunity to trigger behavioral change and increase the probability the consumer will buy a product.

Advertising can encourage a limitless range of actions—from clicking through a banner ad and spending more time on a microsite to increasing consumers’ frequency of washing their hair. The arsenal of tools marketers can deploy to encourage certain behavior is broad. Marketers also can use analog media to trigger specific behavior during later phases—for example, by using stunning “product beauty shots” and other point-of-sale material to stimulate trial usage.


Start with the Brand Idea

Why Adapting in the Social Age is Key to Survival

Hand Holding A Social Media 3D Sphere

Do you think social media is something to assign to the marketing department?

Do you think social is mainly about getting out your message?

Do you understand that the Social Age changes everything?


Adapting to a Social World

I recently had the opportunity to talk with my friends, Ted Coiné and Mark Babbitt about their new book A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive.

They are both social media experts who help leaders and companies understand and thrive in the new social age.  Ted Coiné is co-founder of one of my favorite leadership communities, Switch & Shift and he was named a Forbes Top 10 Social Media Power Influencer.  Mark Babbitt is CEO and founder of YouTern, a social community for college students and young professionals.


“Social is not a campaign. Social is a commitment.” -Stan Phelps


Talk to the corporate leader who really is not online; the executive who maybe has a Twitter account but hasn’t signed in for a year.  What does she miss?

Business leaders not active on social are missing an asset that decision-makers in the Social Age desperately need to remain relevant and to spot trends: real-time, unfiltered market intelligence.

Through social listening, we learn what our customers are saying about us as they say it.  We observe how our brand is perceived.  We also see what our competition is up to – and perhaps even opportunities they’re missing because they are NOT listening.

Suggestion boxes?  Focus groups?  Surveys?  Those tools were all great in the Industrial Age – but they can’t begin to compare to the real-time market intelligence available to us for free on social.


Downsides of Social Media

Let’s flip to the other side: What are the downsides of social media?

Social media is an equal-opportunity amplifier. It amplifies the good, certainly.  But it also amplifies the bad.  Be insensitive, act unethically, mistreat a customer or employee, kick a dog in an elevator, put short term profits over people – or even this-quarter profits over common sense – and your brand will suffer.  Because today – through what we call the “Social Robin Hood Syndrome,” where the public is more than ready to rally in order to right a wrong – a complaint can very quickly become a tsunami of bad press.

While these downsides of social are very real, the vast majority of social horror stories are caused by ignorance, corporate arrogance, unethical leaders, uninspiring or even abusive employers – all who become easy targets when customers, employees and watchdogs turn to social for justice.

Fortunately, this phenomenon is also a positive; this forced accountability helps leaders realize that we must run our organizations in an ethical, honest fashion.  And if you’ve been leading in a commendable way all along, this amplification feature of social is your company’s best friend.  Over time, you’ll earn the market share of your less-than-exemplary rivals.


“If you’re not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is.” -Jan Carlzon



Adapt to Survive

The subtitle of your book is “How Companies Must Adapt to Survive.” What are some of the dangers of a company largely ignoring social media?

What we learned from trend watching over the last five years is that social isn’t a technology radically affecting how we lead our organizations. Rather, the Social Age is a new era; social has changed business forever. The Industrial Age had a good run, but it’s over.

The business world is already showing us what happens when companies continue to operate under Industrial Age “best practices.” Look at the fate of JCPenney and Sears versus Amazon and its 17 million likes on Facebook. Ford, with its exceptional community building, and to a certain extent, new kid Tesla, are doing amazing work on social compared to competitors General Motors and Chrysler. And think about all the old-school beverage companies that are struggling while Red Bull rocks social media with 36 million likes on Facebook and 1.5 million followers on Twitter.


3 Recommendations for a Customer-First Social Strategy

Why You Should Comment on Blogs


I’ve been blogging for just over two years now.  One of the strange things I have noticed:

Most readers are not bloggers, but it seems that most commenters are bloggers.

Why You Should Comment

So, if you aren’t a blogger, why should you comment on a blog?

If you like what you read, it is hugely rewarding to the blogger when you share the post via your social networks.  When I see a post take off, I know what is resonating and it helps me prioritize what to write about in future posts.

Most readers are not bloggers, but it seems that most commenters are bloggers. -Skip Prichard

There’s nothing worse than writing a post and hearing nothing but crickets.

In addition to sharing, consider adding a comment.

Why comment?  Well, technically it helps the blog because it shows that the page is updated.  That, in turn, increases the relevance and the chance that Google will rate the blog higher.

But that’s not why you should do it.


Yes, that’s reason enough.  If you like the blog you are reading, why not encourage the blogger by jumping in?  When I started commenting on other blogs, I saw the power of a little encouragement. Feedback matters. In addition to encouraging the blogger, I have noticed that it encourages the community of readers at the site to think about issues differently.


What I like to see is the dialogue, the conversation, the debate, or the agreement.  You may add a story or an additional thought.  You may agree or point out something that I missed.  You may change someone’s thinking.  My own views are more informed when I read what others are writing.


You are able to build a relationship with someone fast when you comment regularly.  I have made friends this way and have connected with my regular commenters, too.  It makes a difference.

Why don’t most readers comment?  It ranges from fear of making a mistake to not knowing how to do it or even worrying about getting spam email.  It really isn’t hard.  Most blogs, like this one, do not spam you or send you any email because of your comments.


I receive a lot of personal email from people about posts I write, but I have decided not to engage in side conversations for the most part.  Because, if you have a comment or question, others likely will have the same one.  Why not let everyone benefit?  And, frankly, I just don’t have the time to answer a question many times when it could be done once.

Why Bloggers Comment

Why do bloggers comment on other blogs?

If you study Web marketing, you know that there are many reasons you want to be a regular commenter.  A few of those reasons are:

  • Gain traffic back to your Website.
  • Build backlinks to your blog.
  • Build a relationship with the other blogger or the community.
  • Increase your authority as an expert.
  • Improve your search ranking with the search engines.
  • Because they appreciate and know how hard the job of blogging really is!


I do have a comments policy where I reserve the right to delete any comment that is inappropriate, spam, advertising, offensive, profane, or for whatever reason is not wanted.  That’s the right of the blogger.  I try to leave comments that disagree with me and have only deleted a handful of comments in two years.