Monday, March 30, 2009

Social Proof and Why it Matters to You

What the heck is "social proof"?

According to wikipedia, social proof is "a psychological phenomenon that occurs in ambiguous social situations when people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior. Making the assumption that surrounding people possess more knowledge about the situation, they will deem the behavior of others as appropriate or better informed."

Blah, blah, blah... was that what you heard, too? Cause it sure is what I heard!

Let me try to make this a whole lot easier. Essentially, social proof is a sort of "herd mentality". Social proof is what your momma was always worried about when you were growing up. Remember when she would say "If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?"? Well, she was just asking you (in her own momma fashion) if you were planning on being a victim of social proof!

Social proof comes into play when someone can't decide how to act/react in a given social situation. Our natural inclination is to "follow the herd". We (often wrongly) assume that because a group is acting/reacting a certain way, that is must be the right way to behave. Our daily lives are filled with examples of social proof in action. For instance, sitcoms will often used a "laugh track" when they record which subconsciously makes the viewer think "everyone else is laughing, so that joke must have been funny." Or how about this one: Have you ever been around when a standing ovation occurred? Chances are, you weren't the one who started the ovation... but I'd be willing to bet you stood up. Buy why did you stand? Because everyone else was doing it, right?

Sometimes, we take even more subtle cues when we react to social proof. The next time you're near a restaurant, go into the bar area and look at the tip jar. I would be surprised if you didn't see money in the tip jar, even if nobody is in the bar. You know why that money is there? It's called "seeding the tip jar", and it's a trick all good bartenders use. When you "seed the jar" you add a few bills so that the real customers will see you've been tipped, and (hopefully) follow suit. As a former bartender, I can assure you that an "unseeded" jar is much harder to get a first tip in than a seeded one!

So why does social proof matter to us as artisans?

Because capitalizing on social proof can be the difference in "making ends meet" and "breaking the bank" in your studios!

Think about it like this: the last time you went to a craft fair or a market environment, I'm sure you saw a table with some poor vendor standing around twiddling his thumbs... and I'm sure there were also booths with tons of people crowded around. So what's the difference? Do you really think that the lonely vendor had that much of an inferior product to the crowded one? I doubt it. Most likely what happened was that the crowded vendor had a group walk up and start browsing, which made her look busy. Then, once she looked busy, everyone else saw it, and wondered "what's going on over there?" and headed to check it out. Don't believe me? Try this experiment: Get a group of ten people and go to the grocery store. Now, take all ten of those people and just stand by the broccoli. Pretend like you're all looking at the broccoli. I will bet you $10 that within just a matter of minutes someone (if not multiple someones) will wander over and try to see what you're all doing. That's social proof at its finest!

So how do you build social proof in your studio?

There are a few way to do this, and the first is one that Artfire has already given you! You know that little box that looks like this:

on each of your listing pages? That thing is a dream tool for building social proof! Every time you add something to your market hub, one of those icons goes from "grayed out" to bright and attention grabbing! Each of those icons means you belong somewhere, be it Facebook, indiepublic, Etsy, or what have you. And the more you belong, the more people will want you to belong to them!

Another good tip is to use testimonials from past customers, and, again, Artfire is helping you out here, too! Go look at your kudos/karma page. See how you can make your kudos public? Do it! Let all your potential buyers see those great things others have said about you! And, you can even take it a step farther by copying and pasting some of those awesome comments into your studio pages! So what if you don't have any karma or kudos yet? Call or write your former customers and see if they will send you a nice compliment! Check your past emails and see what kind words were sent to you! Put those words to work for you! If someone compliments you at a show, write it down and use it later on your studio pages! Use any and all positive feedback to build your social proof!

Okay, so what if you're already doing these things? Well, it's time to get brave! Think outside the box, and see how you can use your connections to your advantage. Do you know someone who has a popular blog? How about asking them if they would mind writing a feature on you? Or are you friends with someone who is considered an expert in their craft? Send them one of your pieces and ask them for a review! If you get a favorable review, ask if they'd mind if you used their name and words on your blog or in your studio! Have you won any awards or taught any classes related to your craft? Put that info where the world can see it! All of these things will make others look at your name and think "Wow! I should check that out!"

One last tip, look at your blog posts and see how many comments you have on each post. If you have lots of readers, but not so many comments, reread your posts and see what you can do to make people more involved. Comments on blogs are a great example of social proof. It's often like a snowball effect; a few people say something and then suddenly you're inundated with blog love! Try to make your posts engaging. Work on asking questions and be open to hearing the answers, and you will start to see your comment section grow! Additionally, reply to your comments! Not only does this show you care what your readers think, but it increases your comment number and drives up social proof!

I hope this hasn't been such a long post that I lost you guys... I apologize for being so long winded, but I really hope you can take something useful away from this. Please let me know if you have any questions, and I would LOVE to hear your ideas on how to build social proof!


Linda March 30, 2009 at 1:43 PM  

Very informative, Ninja.


Jenn March 31, 2009 at 12:37 AM  

thank you as well!

i was worried it would be to long to keep attention... at least i know i have two loyal readers who stuck with me! LOL


Janet March 31, 2009 at 8:41 AM  

I read every bit, as always! Had never heard the term "social proof" before but have certainly been aware of the phenomenon.

Have been trying to think of ways to increase comments on my blog. Will have to make sure to ask a question of my readers every day!

Jenn March 31, 2009 at 3:53 PM  

yay! i KNEW you would... you're awesome!

and your blog is already pretty darn engaging... that just means you can only get better from here!


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