Humans are social creatures. This we know – it’s the basis of our relationships, our society… and yes, our marketing strategies.
But what you might not be aware of is the extent to which we rely on the opinions and actions of others when making our own decisions.
I’ll give you a clue: it’s a huge amount.
We use social influence under nearly every scenario, even to make decisions in emergency situations in which you’d think that surely our instinct would win out.
The psychology of social influence
This effect, the importance of social influence, was demonstrated in a landmark psychology experiment conducted by Latané and Darley in 1968. They placed participants in a room that they filled with harmless smoke, and watched their responses. When participants were by themselves, they were relatively quick to report the smoke. They had no social influence around, so they acted solely on instinct.
But their behaviour changed dramatically when they were joined by two actors who responded nonchalantly to this fake emergency, simply shrugging and going back to their work.
Imagine you’re in this situation.
Surely you’d report the smoke – right? Even if everyone around you doesn’t seem to be worried, surely you’d see sense and be the person to do something about it? Surely you wouldn’t sit by as smoke filled the air around you?
But Latané and Darley found the opposite. Only 10% of the participants reported the smoke when they were surrounded by people who ignored it.
Because their decisions were influenced by the social cues around them. So, when everyone else was unbothered by the smoke, they followed the crowd – even though instinct was telling them that something was wrong. They looked to other people to decide how to act.
This is a fairly extreme example of social influence, but it highlights a principle that is fundamental to marketing.
As humans, we use the behaviour of other people as clues for what to do in any given situation. We want to know that our actions or decisions follow the crowd, and we trust that other people have more knowledge than we do. So, we scan our environments, look at what those around us are doing, and follow suit.
Seems fairly intuitive. But how can we harness the power of social influence within our marketing strategies?
Answer: by using testimonials as a source of social influence. By showing people what others who have been in their situation have done before. By drawing a very clear path from their current situation to the solution – and importantly, showing that others have walked this path before and successfully used your product/service to solve their problem. In fact, according to a study by BrightLocal, 87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, and 72% of consumers will take action only after reading a positive review.
Your testimonials don’t have to be long and complicated. In fact, the more concise, the better. But they must have this element of social influence. They simply need to say: “Hey, I was in your situation once. I had the same problem. I used this product/service, and now my issue is solved.”
It really couldn’t be simpler to channel the power of social influence.
Want o harness the power of social influence in your business? Book a free discovery call today and start getting better marketing results tomorrow.
Darley, J. M., & Latane, B. (1968). Bystander intervention in emergencies: Diffusion of responsibility. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 8(4, Pt.1), 377–383. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0025589