In my last post, I discussed the benefits of stopping to consider the advice offered by others. Although it may not be taken, it is often wise to at least listen. There is another, less direct, way we get advice from other people. It’s called Social Proof. And it is everywhere.
Social Proof is when we look at the actions and behaviors of others to guide our own decisions. And we do it all the time. Whether we aware of it, or not. A while back, before the advent of mass media, sales commercials, and social media, the average person experienced a smaller, but deeper, version of humanity. They were typically raised in a household with deeper connections into a community. From an early age, because they were with a parent throughout the day, they often witnessed the many trials and tribulations of their own household, and that of the community. The information they gained was first-hand, and it was real.
Today, much of what we “experience” comes through a filter. The great majority of our daily information comes from media; social, news, commercial, or political. The content of which has been edited to create a specific response. Even this post is written with the intention to make the reader more aware of the messages they’re constantly receiving, and the effect they may have on their everyday decisions. Here are some examples:
Social proof greatly impacts consumer behavior. People are more likely to choose a product or service that is recommended or positively reviewed by others. Online reviews, testimonials, and ratings play a crucial role in shaping consumer trust and confidence. Seeing positive experiences from others validates the quality of a product, making it more appealing and increasing the likelihood of purchase. Conversely, negative reviews or lack of social proof can deter potential buyers.
In the book, The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell, he tells the story of how just a few people unintentionally revived the Hush Puppy brand of shoes in the 90’s because they decided to wear them during a totally different campaign. Today, the impact of social influencers is everywhere. In fact, a recent poll of American school children revealed that their number one goal is to become a social influencer.
Social proof plays a vital role in health and lifestyle choices. People are more likely to adopt a particular diet, exercise routine, or wellness practice if they observe others achieving positive results. Testimonials, success stories, and before-and-after pictures shared on social media platforms create a sense of credibility and motivate individuals to try similar approaches.
Social proof also shapes our political and social beliefs. People tend to align their opinions and beliefs with those held by their peers, family members, or influential figures they admire. We often seek validation from others and feel more secure in our beliefs when we see them shared by a larger group. This has led to the formation of echo chambers, where people are surrounded by like-minded people, reinforcing their own perspectives and limiting exposure to alternative viewpoints. Clearly, we are firmly established in this practice as a nation.
But what can we do. There is no going back now. The new methods of influence are here to stay. The best we can do is learn to listen with a bit of skepticism and an ear for when we are being told what’s best for us. Each of us are living our own lives. Perhaps it’s time for that new car, luxury trip, or latest gadget. Or perhaps it’s not. But one thing is sure. The decision should not be based on what others choose to do. But to do this, maybe we should first take steps to redefine Social Proof to mean “unaffected by social influence”.
For more articles and information on getting past the social hype and learning real life skills, visit www.StepsForToday.com. And take your next steps.
Thanks for reading.