If you’ve ever read the work of Dr. Robert Cialdini, you’ll know that social proof is a concept that states that people tend to do what other people are doing.
This was illustrated in one experiment where they posted a lone man on a street corner who simply stood there and stared up at the sky. Dozens upon dozens of people simply milled by the man, paying neither him nor the sky any attention whatsoever.
However, when they ran the experiment with two cohorts staring up at the sky, something very different happened...
Very quickly people on the street began to look up and even stop to see what the “crowd” was looking at.
This can be a very powerful persuasion technique. You can hear it in political speeches when candidates say they are the “people’s choice,” or how “people are coming out in huge numbers to support their campaign.”
This technique is also used quite a bit in sales. Ron Popeil changed his infomercials from saying, “Operators are standing by, please call now,” to “Operators are taking calls now. If the line is busy, please call back.”
Why? If operators are “standing by” the implication is that they’re doing nothing – nobody is calling in. However, busy lines means that hordes of people are calling at the same time, and this implied social proof had an immediately positive impact on sales.
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