Mastering persuasion: Using Social Proof to increase conversions


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Converting visitors who are willing to purchase in our website is not CRO. It's called Usability. And we can't stop there. We need to have more users willing to buy our products.

We need to analyze our website to solve most of usability issues, but once we've done usability fixing, we must improve conversions by sending more users to our check out process, and persuasion is the best way to do that.

When talking about persuasion the reference is Dr Robert B. Cialdini (he's on twitter). On his book "Influence: the psychology of persuasion", he describes the 6 main tools for persuading / influenciating others.


The 6 tools for persuasion are:

  • Reciprocity
  • Commitment and Consistency
  • Social Proof
  • Authority
  • Liking
  • Scarcity

 Today we'll focus on the 3rd: Social Proof, also known as Social Validation.

Social Proof

Our goal, as Persuasion Architects, is convincing people that our solutions is the best to solve their needs or pains. One of the best ways to acquire this is letting them know that other people is already using it, and they are happy about that.

In our minds this works like this: "if all these people is doing it, this must be good".

You may be thinking, from your strong individuality, that this doesn't go with you. You would never be influenced by other that way. But let's face it:

most of humans want to follow others and, what is more important, be accepted by others.

Many experiments have tried to dig deeper on people's minds and understand the reasons for our social behaviour. Let's see 2 of the most popular experiments conducted decades ago:

1 Lift Experiment

In this 60's experiment several persons get in to a lift where where the other subjects face the rear of the lift. It's funny to see how no one wants to stand alone looking front.

2 Asch Experiments

This one is even more interesting.

Dr Solomon Asch

conducted a series of experiments where subjects deny their own perception in favor of group influence. His studies on "conformity" still prevail. Thanx to UX genius

Victor Solà

for sharing the case.

What's the reason for this behavior?

Not being odd, not being judged, or even admitting that other's opinion can be correct, as most of the group says so. One of the Dr Asch discoveries was that unanimity was a key factor. Once the group was divided, individual's own opinion prevailed.

These are just 2 experiments to prove something that any advertiser knows for sure. Social proof works. Publicity has been using this technique for decades:


As we know there are several buying attitudes, and not everyone is affected the same way by these techniques. But have no doubt that they work, and today, we have the tools (Internet + social networks) to take profit of them like never before.

How to use Social Proof in your website

Let's see how Social proof can help us in our website to increase conversions. This will depend of your audience, business, strategy.... but the most popular ways to work social proof persuasion are:

  1. Copy and pictures. The first line of attack: great copy and successful pictures, where other customers are using your product.
  2. Testimonials. Learn to use them wisely in this great Aileen Lee Post.
  3. Ratings and feedback. Sites like Tripadvisor understood the importance of it and made a business model of getting user's reviews.
  4. Rankings. To me one of the top persuasion builders. Not only helps us to qualify the user, but also helps the user to find the best products. Rankings should be always based on ratings, best selling and number of opinions. A Spanish Startup is working on a website to spread the use of rankings.
  5. Social widgets. Likes, followers, recommendations... Nothing new. C0ntent more "liked" and shared must be more interesting. Remember that having pages or products with 0 likes also sends a message. Silence communicates too.
  6. Any other way of showing success. It is using scarcity "this is so good we are running out of it". It ha`pens any Apple product launch-.

Some last advices on using Social Proof

To finish, let's highlight some final issues related to the use of social validations:

  1. Be REAL. Don't blackhat this. Lying, hyping or exaggerating won't help. If you can't find a bunch of happy customers, stop optimizing your website and start improving your business. Always remind that people is not looking for advertisement in Internet. They are surfing for information. The "eat my ad" philosophy may work on TV but not in your website. So use real testimonials, real persons. From my experience user's feedback is magic and impossible to fake.
  2. Target. People is more likely to trust social proof when coming from subjects that are like them. If you have a target you want to improve, take an archetype among your customers and let him talk for you.
  3. Be ware of the Negative Social Proof. Really! "Last election, 45% of eligible voters didn't bother to show up at the polls"  is not the way, this wil show not voting as a popular behavor. Don't miss this great post.
  4. Provide a way to have user's feedback (Kampyle, User Voice, KissInights, etc...). This way u'll be able to pick some of the best testimonials you can find.

Do you have any experience using Social Proof?

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