What is Social Proof?
Social proof is simple validation by the audience of what is assumed to be acceptable behavior. In the physical world this can be adding tips to a musician’s jar or in the digital world this can be likes on a blog post. This validation is a signal to others that the content or service is ‘good’ and thereby encourages others to read, listen and then also to like or tip.
Recently, I have run into two situations where the valuable concepts behind social proof were either being overlooked, or worse, warped.
Tip and Dip Jar:
At one of my favorite small coffee shops in town, I discovered that that they had set up a Dip Jar for tips. A Dip Jar is a an automatic way to use your credit card to leave a tip. It looks like a cool and is easy to use. The Dip Jar was placed directly next to the glass cash tip jar, which was pretty full. I asked the Barista if anyone was using the Dip Jar. She said that it was helpful for people who didn’t have cash, but she was not sure if it was helping to generate more tips for them yet. Dip Jar has a huge opportunity to help baristas and others by tapping into the power of social proof. If they could just show how many others have contributed, thereby encouraging others to contribute. Big opportunity for Dip Jar.. and Baristas!
Social Proof or Spoof?
Recently, I had a conversation with a vendor that mostly provides infographic and other design services. They were expanding into social so I listened to what they had to offer. One of the services I was interested in was called, Social Proofing. They promised 200 to 300 likes and shares on new content within a week or so. I was stunned, so we started to dig in. How on earth did they do this? To their credit, they were quite open and honest. The likes and shares were all a result of bots and fake accounts that they controlled. If social proof is about an audience validating content or an activity, I think a pretty clear requirement is that they should be human, alive and real! Social spoofing like this is simply bad for the digital marketing and social media industries. These types of activities make digital marketers look like snake oil salesmen and need to not only be avoided, but discouraged.
I have not mentioned the vendor here, but please feel free to DM me on Twitter (@crbrowning) and I will share.
Lessons from the Digital Trail
Social proof is a powerful concept to drive others to action. It validates content or actions. It needs to be valued, not spoofed and corrupted with fake accounts or bots.