Thinking About Buying Social Proof? Read This First

Why should every online business take social proof seriously?

The short answer – social proof influences almost every purchase decision we make.

Most consumers like to think they’re pretty independent when it comes to their spending decisions. Rather than being influenced by others, we’re all free-thinking adults and we know what’s best for us. In reality, this simply isn’t the case at all.

Consider for a second – how many restaurants have you chosen, simply on the back of positive reviews or general popularity? Or made assumptions about the quality of a product due to how many people have bought it? 

If you’re anything like everyone else, the answer in both instances is probably quite regularly. Whether or not you realise it, social proof is having a marked impact on the way you live your life and the decisions you make on a daily basis. It can therefore be an incredibly powerful marketing tool.

The key to capitalising on the power of social proof lying in first understanding how it works. 

What Is Social Proof?

Social proof has such an enormous impact on each and every one of us as a result of basic human psychology. Human beings across the board are continuously monitoring what other people do, in order to identify what is the ‘correct’ choice to make. If the general consensus points to A, you automatically assume B to be inferior.

Hence, you choose A, just like everyone else.

It’s an instinct that dates back to the earliest origins of mankind, when it was necessary to follow the pack simply to survive. We’re not quite as dependent on other members of the ‘pack’ as we used to be, but we still can’t help but read into the decisions other people make.

These days, social proof exists in a wide variety of forms. Pretty much anything that comes from another person and constitutes some kind of ‘signal’ regarding any given decision can be interpreted as social proof. Facebook Likes, Instagram Shares, LinkedIn Recommendations, Spotify Followers, Twitter Retweets – all capable of heavily influencing the way we interpret the respective business, product, post or individual.

And in all instances, more is better. 

The Six Types of Social Proof

According to Buffer, social proof can be split into six categories as follows:

  1. Expert
  2. Celebrity
  3. User
  4. Wisdom of the crowd
  5. Wisdom of your friends
  6. Certification

In all instances, the extent to which you or your business are endorsed through social proof can make an incredible difference to your performance. More social proof amounts to more credibility, which translates to greater interest and approval. Not only this, but the major social networks themselves also respond positively to social proof.

For example, video clips that proved particularly popular or attract thousands of shares are far more likely to be promoted by YouTube. Likewise, Twitter prominently positions posts that are attracting the most attention at the time. Or at least, those that appear to be attracting the most attention – social signals being trusted as gospel. 

A Word on Fake Social Signals

From product reviews to star ratings to likes and so on, every example of social proof has the potential to influence every member of your target audience. As such, it’s hardly surprising that millions of individuals and businesses alike worldwide now regularly buy social signals to get ahead.

It’s no secret that certain musicians, actors, actresses and even politicians have bought Twitter followers to boost their credibility. Nevertheless, we’ve reached a point in time where buying social signals is well within the reach of just about anyone. Whether looking to buy Facebook followers or boost a Tweet’s reach with a whole bunch of Retweets, it’s all up for grabs at an affordable price.

Hence the reason why the market for fake social signals is booming. Right now, there are hundreds of operators in business who specialise solely in providing all different types of social signals for major and minor platforms alike. They’re turning huge profits and working with businesses of all sizes worldwide.

The question being – is it a good idea to buy social signals? If so many people are at it right now, does it make sense to follow their example?

As usual, it’s a tale of two halves. Although when push comes to shove, you may find buying fake social signals represents a risk not worth taking.

To put the whole thing into some kind of perspective, here’s a brief rundown of the pros and cons of buying fake social signals:

The Pros

Instant Payoff

When you buy social signals, you tap into their benefits instantly. There’s absolutely no waiting around – the signals you buy are delivered in an instant and so too are their benefits. By contrast, work on building social proof manually and it could take weeks, months or even years to establish the same social signals.

No Guarantees 

Another argument voiced by those who support buying social signals is the way in which there are no guarantees otherwise. Or to put it another way, the social proof you need to build your credibility and visibility may never come your way. Even if you have a truly outstanding profile and publish the most extraordinary posts on the platform, you may still be overlooked or ignored without sufficient social proof.

Exposure

As already mentioned, social signals play a direct role in determining how prominently or otherwise you appear on the platform. With no social proof, you’re doomed to fade silently into the background. By contrast, boost your social signals by any means necessary and you could benefit from a much more prominent position.

Level the Playing Field

Once again, a viable argument in favour of buying social proof is the fact that it has become such a popular tactic. There’s a good chance your direct competitors are already buying social proof – following their example being an obvious option.

The Cons

It’s Unethical

On the flipside of the coin, critics argue that any social signals you don’t earn organically are fake and therefore invalid. As such, to use them to promote whatever it is you do is unethical. The whole subject of buying social signals remains enormously controversial – most taking a firm stance against the practice.

It’s Dangerous

Not only is buying social signals unethical, it can also be downright dangerous.  If you manage to mislead your target audience with fake social signals and get away with it, fair enough. By contrast, let it slip you’ve taken the low road and it could be the end of your account. Not to mention, your credibility and your reputation. Modern audiences don’t take kindly to being taken for fools, just as the platforms themselves won’t hesitate to terminate your account.

Fake Followers and Fans

It’s quick and easy to buy a small army of fans and followers, but what’s the point if they are all 100% fake? If not a single one of these followers is going to make a purchase or even interact with your posts, why bother? Worse still, the fact that you have an established audience and yet no signs of activity doesn’t exactly send the right message. In effect, you could be wasting your time and money on a bunch of duds.

Substandard Quality

It can be particularly dangerous to invest in fake reviews to boost the credibility and appeal of your products or services. In the vast majority of instances, the reviews you buy will be generic, poorly-written and easily detectable as fake.  The moment your target audience sees you’re attempting to fake it, it’s game over.

Scams Are Rife

Unsurprisingly, this particular end of the social media marketing spectrum is rife with scam artists. Some will simply disappear with your money without a trace, other will spam the living daylights out of your account for their own gain. Given that it isn’t exactly an ‘approved’ marketing strategy in the traditional sense, the risk of falling victim to a fraudster is huge. 

The Bottom Line…

On one hand, you could argue that irrespective of ethics, buying social signals works. Indeed, an incalculable number of social media users have boosted their credibility and visibility by faking it. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean doing so can be considered a good idea.

After all, some people get away with various crimes – we wouldn’t advise following in their footsteps.

The way we see it, the benefits you stand to gain by purchasing social signals are augmented by the risks. The key to success on social media lies in building credibility, authority, reputation and ultimately a strong following. None of which is going to be possible if you’re detected as a fraud.

So if looking to stay safe on social media, stick with tried, tested and trusted marketing. Not the kinds of experiments that could see you banned for life by this time tomorrow. 

About Tait Pollack

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