In an experiment conducted by scientist Stanley Milgram and colleagues, an assistant of the researchers stopped on a busy New York City sidewalk and gazed skyward for sixty seconds. Most passersby simply walked around the man without even glancing to see what he was looking at. However, when the researchers added four other men to that group of sky gazers, the number of passerby who joined them more than quadrupled.
Colleen Szot is one of the most successful direct response copywriters on the planet. And for good reason: In addition to penning several well-known “infomercials” for the famed and fast-selling NordicTrac exercise machine, she authored a program that shattered a nearly twenty-year sales record for a homeshopping channel. Although her programs retain many of the elements common to most informercials, including flashy catchphrases, an unrealistically enthusiastic audience, and celebrity endorsements, Szot changed 3 words to a standard infomercial line that caused a huge increase in the number of people who purchased her product.
Szot changed the all-too-familiar call-to-action line, “Operators are waiting, please call now,” to, “If operators are busy, please call again.”
By doing this she not only created a sense of urgency in consumers, she instantly social-proofed her product. When people are uncertain about a course of action, they tend to look outside themselves and to other people around them to guide their decisions and actions. When consumers watching her ad heard “if operators are busy, please call again,” they imagined operators going from phone call to phone call without a break. Home viewers followed their perceptions of others’ actions, even though those others were completely anonymous. After all, “if the phone lines are busy, then other people like me who are also watching thsi infomercial are calling, too.”
The 5 Types Of Social Proofing are:
- Lots of people like this / us.
- Someone important likes this / us.
- People like you like this / us.
- Your friends like this / us.
- You like this / us.
Lot’s of people like this /us.
Showing off blog or email subscribers, Twitter followers, Facebook fans or other sign of “social cred” helps any website’s reputation. Youtube recently ran this banner, claiming 1 billion subscribers:
Remind you of something?
The ecommerce equivalent to the big McD’s sign is the Facebook “Like” button. For example, PC Tools incorporates both Facebook Like and industry mag reviews on its product page:
The pro is it’s easy to add one to any web page. The con? No one’s impressed unless the number is relatively high. Use this service to rampup facebook likes.
Someone important likes this / us.
There’s nothing like an endorsement from a celebrity or industry expert. For example, Michael Jordan shows off the Nike Jordan shoe:
People like you like this / us.
Product recommendations labeled “Customers who viewed X also viewed Y” or “Customers who viewed X ultimately bought Y” are fairly common. Because they’re “crowd sourced” rather than picked by a merchandising team, they may be trusted more or pique more interest. (However, this doesn’t mean they are better suggestions).
Your friends like this / us.
If any of your Facebook friends “Like” Direct Response, you’ll see their mugs in our Facebook widget:
Here’s an example from an affiliate blog:
These widgets enable “passive word-of-mouth.” People no longer have to actually speak to their friends to evangelize products and brands. The widgets will do that for them, and at the very right time!
Likes appearing in a Facebook feed or Tweets in a Twitter stream also lend some social cred. Even Google incorporates tweets from friends (and even friends of friends) in search results. Making it easy for visitors to Like and Tweet with one click boosts your visibility.
Don’t forget email sharing. SWYN (share with your network) and FTAF (forward to a friend) buttons are quite common practice. According to Responsys, 56% of retailers now include at least one of the above in their email campaigns, with FTAF more common – though SWYN has greater potential reach.
You like this / us.
Some ecommerce sites recognize returning visitors and display items viewed in previous sessions on the home page:
Other ways to remind customers they “like” (or atleast showed an interest in) products on your site are wishlists, carts with saved contents, personalized merchandising zones (think Amazon’s “You Might Like” sections) and “email me when item back in stock” or “email me before this item sells out” reminders: