Does your business need this same 'influence breakthrough'? Watch this short video as I chat to Steve from New Reality about the biggest influence challenge his company faces when introducing new innovative technology to clients. We discuss a simple strategy to help him overcome this purchase barrier, and I share a classic influence experiment that demonstrates it all!
Your brain uses whatever cues and clues it can to build your cognitive model of the world and everything in it. Of course, your own direct, personal experience of the world is a major source of information. However, you share the planet with a few billion other people, and your brain also likes to use their knowledge and experiences too.
This can be a perfectly sensible thing to do. It saves you having to figure out all of human civilisation for yourself. You don’t need to work out how to make bread, beer or bath taps because someone else has done it for you. The problem arises when you start to think that if lots of people believe something, it’s probably true. This is referred to as the ‘social proof’ argument, also sometimes ironically termed ‘the wisdom of crowds’.
There are at least two problems with social proof. The first is that lots of people are perfectly capable of believing things that aren’t true, and the second is that popular opinion is very easily manipulated for commercial or political purposes. The ‘wisdom of crowds’ is very often little more than the hopelessly misguided opinion of crowds.
This was clearly demonstrated in one of the most famous experiments in psychology. Psychologist Solomon Asch showed students some slides featuring lines of various lengths. Asch asked each student in the group, one by one, to say which line was the longest. In actual fact, all the students except one were actors who said what Asch told them to say. During the first two or three slides, they all gave reasonable answers and nominated the longest line.
As the experiment progressed, they started to nominate lines that were clearly not the longest. Asch found that in each set of students, the one person who was not an actor started going along with the group, and nominating lines that were clearly not the longest, despite the evidence of their own eyes.
We are all susceptible to this notion of ‘social proof’, and can change our beliefs and actions just to fit in with the crowd even in the face of clear contradictory evidence. We tend to suppose that if a great many people express the same belief, then it must have some basis in fact. What’s more, the effect is self-propagating, in the sense that as more and more people adopt an idea, the easier it becomes for that idea to spread and to become an entrenched and unshakable ‘fact’, even when it is entirely false.
3 WAYS TO USE SOCIAL PROOF TO INFLUENCE YOUR CUSTOMERS INTO ACTION:
- Indicate which of your products or service offerings are most popular. Use words like ‘best-seller’, ‘most-popular’, ‘hot item’, and ‘favourite’ to encourage customers to select the option they believe to have the least risk and which most others chose.
- Share success stories of other customers in a similar situation/position/industry who have benefited from the use of your products or services. The customer will immediately feel more comfortable with your suggestion based on social proof.
- Collaborate with key influencers whom your customers recognise and relate to – possibly someone they would like to emulate. By the influencer subtly promoting your product or service, it creates the perception that if someone influential is making use of your products or services, it must be a popular and valuable offering.