Problem summary

We assume the actions of others in new or unfamiliar situations

Example

woobius.com

Usage

  • Use to assure visitors of that your product is well respected and frequently used by their similar others.
  • Use to establish trust
  • Highlight certain behavior to direct users’ actions toward continuing that specific behavior.
  • Use when you want to ease decisions for your users and assure them that they are not alone.

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Solution

Highlight the same social activity on your website that you want your users to conduct. Consider what kind of your behavior you want users to perform and find ways to show social proof of that exact behavior.

There are several ways to highlight what is the more correct behavior. Let us look at how we can appeal to users’ logic, emotions, and belief in your credibility.

Appealing to facts and logic

Communicate social proof through facts, statistics, and logic. Common examples on community sites are “8 people liked this”, “434 viewed this image”, or “this blog post has 12 comments”. Subjectivity can also be communicated quantitatively: “4 out of 5 stars” or “92% liked this”.

Social proof helps us determine what is good behavior on a given website and is thus crucial for getting first-time users started. Last.fm uses leaderboards of their most played music by genre to guide visitors and getting them started with listening to great music.

Web applications often have pricing plans highlighting the company’s most wanted subscription plan with a “most popular plan” tag line in the hopes having users in doubt of which plan to choose select just that plan.

Appealing to emotions

Emotions have the power to modify our judgments, why appealing to emotions can help burst positive arguments or dampen negative arguments.

Cater to people’s emotions by listing testimonials of people who like your product. If you want to assure potential customers that your product is worth its price, then list testimonials from satisfied paying customers.

Appealing to ethics, moral, and character

Your audience will judge your propositions as being more true and acceptable if you succeed to establish your credibility.

Rationale

We have a common tendency to adopt the opinions and follow the behaviors of the majority to feel safer and to avoid conflict.

Social Proof establishes the norm others follow through experts, celebrities, the crowd, friends, or similar users. Communicate Social Proof testimonials, expert quotations, related actions by friends, or statistics like number of views, followers, or comments to encourage desired behaviors.

The actions of those around us are important when we decide what constitutes correct behavior. Whether it is to choose between two restaurants, to litter on the street, how fast to drive in a certain stretch on the highway, or which youtube video to watch first, we look to those around us to determine the correct answer.

Assuming that those around us are behaving normally, we will make fewer mistakes by acting in accord with social evidence than contrary to it. Acting in accord with social evidence is a shortcut to correct behavior and an often good decision.

Social proof is so effective as most of us would rather imitate that initiate. Independent thought requires expensive brain energy, why we often resort to short-cutting our thought processes where we can.

Discussion

This pattern is closely related to the bystander-effect, herd-mentality, and the band-wagon effect

Some situations strengthen the effect of social proof while others weaken it.

Modifiers strengthening the power of social proof

Identification of group with self
People are more likely to conform to a group’s behavior if they perceive themselves belonging to the same or similar group than of they do not identify with the group.

Modifiers weakening the power of social proof

Special knowledge
People are less likely to conform to a group’s behavior if they perceive themselves as better advised about a situation than the surrounding group.

Identification with authority
People are less likely to conform to a group’s behavior if they perceive themselves as a relevant authority figure in the situation. Perceived authority often happens when people have special training or knowledge that allows them to draw such conclusion.

Sources

1 Stephen Anderson (2009), “Get Mental Notes”, http://getmentalnotes.com

2 Cialdini, R. (1993), Influence: Science and practice (3rd edn), New York: HarperCollins

3 “Social Proof”, Wikipedia.org, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_proof


More examples of the Social proof pattern See all 28 example screenshots

User Interface Design Patterns