Robert Cialdini’s best selling book Influence outlines seven basic principles behind the psychology of persuasion. One of my favorite heuristics outlined by Cialdini is the principle of “Social Proof.” The most classic example of social proof is the sitcom laugh track. The fact is that nobody likes canned laughter, yet adding a laugh track to a sitcom cues up laughter without us realizing if the joke is actually funny. How is this possible?
This phenomenon is due to the fact that humans measure a circumstance based upon how the majority of others measure the same circumstance. It was an important survival mechanism for early humans — if you saw your herd running in fear, then you ran with them to survive. This mechanism remains in the human psyche and is as powerful as ever, especially in the marketing world.
Nathan Handwerker, a Polish immigrant who worked in a New York City hot dog stand in the turn of the 20th century, was one of the first to pioneer social proof in product marketing. In those days, you could get a hot dog and a Coke for ten cents. As an ambitious entrepreneur, he created Nathan’s Hot Dogs and offered the same Coke and a dog for only five cents. However, he was shocked to find that the market wouldn’t buy the half-priced meal! The people of New York simply didn’t believe that a healthy hot dog could be made at such rock-bottom prices. In a genius move, Handwerker made a visit to the local hospital and offered free hot dogs to any doctor or nurse that showed up in their uniform. With doctors and nurses lined up by the masses outside of his hot dog stand, the people of New York were finally convinced to buy. Nathan’s Famous remains a thriving public company today.
The digital marketing world has harnessed this powerful psychological principle in many forms, including the guest blog post. Our social networkers create relationships for content syndication with publishers that are trusted and regularly visited by our target personas. Our networkers then coordinate with our authors and editors to create fresh, relevant and valuable content that fits the publisher and educates our target personas. The combination of great content that is published on a trusted third-party source provides social proof that our client is also a trusted industry thought leader. Thus, the guest blog post is one of the most powerful ways to demonstrate social proof on the Internet.
For more content tips, check out our free guide: 5 W’s of Content Creation.