The rapid change of technology that enforces innovation from every quarter of this industry is overwhelming. We dogpaddle to keep afloat in the waves of our own marketing niche of the Internet oceans. Those of us who “swim” in this space know that we constantly need to follow new techniques to keep from sinking. But what about the casual user, and how do they interact within this ever shifting and expanding space? It is amazing how the general populace casually surfs these upsurges almost expertly. They are barely aware of, if at all, the churning digital seas around them.
Allen Lee, Partner at venture firm Kleiner Perkins, describes the adaptations used by humanity to move through the undulating shape-shifter known as the Internet in the article Why People like to Follow the Crowd
“What is social proof? Put simply, it’s the positive influence created when someone finds out that others are doing something. It’s also known as informational social influence.”
Social Proof is not a new concept, but when applied to the Internet is a different type of conformity. These changes are small, but their impact is profound. Then as now, astute marketers have used human behavior to build campaigns for the masses using social influences such as popularity, peer pressure and the need to belong.
In the book “Marketing Revolution,” the authors contend that Marketing is facing a mid-life crisis. They state the current trends indicate that customers will make themselves less available to traditional marketing with growing hostility; brand building will become more difficult; and that businesses will find corresponding employee backlash.
Back to Mr. Lee’s discussion as he breaks down five types of Social Proof:
4. Wisdom of the crowd
5. Wisdom of your friends
(Note corporate identity or brand does not seem to rate on Mr. Lee’s list.)
The new trend of social proof shows that people form strong biases based on the wisdom of an unknown crowds or the comments of a stranger. Their buying triggers are no longer responsive to traditional advertising. Today the influence of other site users, net crowds and online friends not only give a product the stamp of approval but of absolute rightness. With this level of conviction, daily Internet users peacefully surf the glassy surface of the digital sea, never needing to look below its reflective surface to the torrential changes happening underneath.
There’s a silver lining: Based on Forrester Research 1994 – 2010 the Internet marketing business exploded from almost nothing to 200 billion dollars. As marketers we have to understand this dichotomy and use these trends and new social tools to capture our share of the wave.
Social Proof Is The New Marketing