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The Subconscious Consumer: Using the Power of Social Proof to Boost Sales

There’s no question on whether online marketing works. Due to increased accessibility and advancements in technology, more people are turning to the online world to purchase information and goods. According to ComScore, US consumers spent over $42.75 billion between Black Friday, at the end of November, through December 22nd.

Needless to say, more people are willing to shell out their hard earned cash online now more than ever before. That doesn’t mean that the same tactics that were successful just a few years ago will ultimately turn a profit today.

Online marketing has changed drastically over the past decade alone. Years of bombardment from overly hyped ads and sales copy have led consumers to become wary of promises that they deem outlandish (whether they’re true or not).

The old methods of selling online products through flashy gimmicks, bright colors, and overly dramatized sales copy simply don’t work. Instead, a new, intelligent approach needs to be taken in order to boost sales and maximize profitability.

That is where the power of the mind comes into play. As a marketer, you have the ability to tap into the subconscious mind of consumers using specific elements on your sites that may seem insignificant to some, but can wield a great deal of control over your consumer’s buying choices.

In a sense, it’s a way of selling without actually selling (if that makes any sense). Through the subconscious mind, you can further reinforce your message without the consumer ever even noticing.

I like to refer to this as my “stealth planes” because they fly under the radar and drop massive payloads of nuclear sales suggestions.

Today, I’d like to highlight the use of Social Proof as one of the most effective subconscious elements that can help improve sales in today’s online world.

The Power of Social Proof

Nothing builds trust in a product or service quite like social proof.

The technical explanation of social proof is as follows “a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others reflect the correct behavior for a given situation driven by the assumption that the surrounding people possess more information about the situation.”

In short, when people see the results of an action by other people, they will automatically assume the same outcome will occur for them as well.

According to Bright Local’s 2013 Consumer Review Survey, 85% of people state that they now look at a product’s review before making a purchase. The same study also concluded that 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation from a friend or family member.

Imagine how influential the reviews for your product can be if you add them directly to your website.

CompUSA and iPerceptions teamed up to conduct a study. The results that they found were that “63% of consumers indicate they are more likely to purchase from a site if it has product ratings and reviews.”

Believe it or not, every single one of us has been influenced by social proof whether we know it or not. I’m not simply talking about ads, but in other areas of our lives as well. Why do you think TV sitcoms add “laughter tracks” to their shows? The sitcom itself isn’t filmed in front of a live audience, yet producers still insist on adding “fake” laughter when something funny occurs.

A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that when stimulated by a humorous situation, people were more likely to laugh if a pre-recorded track of laughter was played as well.

The sound of others laughing gave the subjects approval that what they were witnessing was in fact funny. Humans are such odd creatures that we cannot decide whether to laugh or not without additional reinforcement from others.

Pictures Convert Even Higher

The obvious forms of social proof are seen when a direct statement is made by a consumer that speaks highly of the specific products or services that are being presented. A PubMed study found that people potential consumers find statements to be more truthful if there is a photograph of the person that accompanies the statement.

So, adding pictures of your reviewers may have an added effect on the buying choices of your audience.

Consumers are Egotistical

I don’t mean this in a bad way. Believe it or not, we all carry a trait known as Implicit Egotism. Basically, we are more likely to believe the word of someone if they are similar to us.

You can easily utilize this by imagining your target market. If you could choose one look for your target consumer, what would it be? For instance, if I was selling a course on learning the nuances of computer programming, I would likely feature individuals that are well groomed and clean cut.

Yes this may be a stereotype of my intended market, but in many cases, it proves to correct. Imagine if I featured an image of someone with no shirt on and tattoos all over their body, with a mean snarl on their face.

Chances are, my target audience will not identify with that individual, thus making their review less effective.

Of course this doesn’t always take place in the form of photos. Stories work equally as well. Persuasive stories and anecdotes resonate with readers, often times more so than simply listing statistics or the benefits of a product.

Psychology experts suggest that stories are so powerful and influential because we often “transport” ourselves into the story, by imagining what it would be like to be in the shoes of the characters within the stories. This not only helps further identify with the storyteller and the characters, but will often deem their review of a product more trustworthy.

Authority Builds Confidence in a Product

Have you ever heard of the Halo Effect? Experts believe that we are more likely to judge someone’s opinion based on our opinion of them. If we deem someone to be an expert in a specific category, we are more likely to listen to their recommendations.

For instance, say the local high school basketball coach suggested that you purchase a specific basketball. The next day, you meet Michael Jordan, and he suggests an alternative basketball to purchase.

Even though neither the basketball coach nor Michael Jordan go into great detail about their experience with the product that they suggest, but who are you most likely to listen to? The obvious answer is Michael Jordan.

However, we may have just made a judgement about a product based on a general recommendation without even knowing the extent of experience Jordan has with the product. For all we know, he has never even touched the basketball that he is recommending, but we are more likely to believe what he says because we view him as a much higher authority on the subject.

Ok, Social proof is Awesome. How Do I get Some?

Prior to launching your product, simply give it away to audience members for free with the only stipulation being that they provide a review (whether it’s good or bad. We don’t want to coax people into providing false reviews).

You can easily do this by offering a free giveaway through your site or social media (which tends to work better).

Also, be sure to contact as many influencers within your niche as possible. Simply send them a quick email telling them that you have an awesome product launching soon and you’d like their honest opinion on what you have.

Chances are a large majority will be curious to see what you have to offer. After all, who can turn down free stuff?

Once they’ve provided their opinion, ask them if it would be possible to use their review on your site, the benefit being that it helps enhance their brand awareness and also pegs them as an authority figure within the niche. 

If all goes well, you will have some awesome reviews to sort through from audience members, where you can pick and choose based on what you believe to be the most effective story and likeness to your target market.

You should also have plenty of authority reviews to use as well. The use of both together can skyrocket the sales of any sales campaign more than you’ve ever dreamed!

If you’ve enjoyed this post, then feel free to leave your feedback in the comment section below.  Thanks!

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About Sean Donahoe

Sean is one of the most recognized industry leaders in business and marketing. As a popular speaker, author, consultant he has helped over 50,000 students world wide find success in their businesses and has consulted with Fortune 500 companies and businesses of every size grow and thrive...

One comment

  1. Excellent post with a lot of valuable insight as to how people think and what they rely on to make a buying decision. Lots of great little tidbits of information to keep in mind in devoping on line business. Very nice looking blog…..Paul

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