By adaptive - September 10th, 2013

Social proofing is now well established as an engagement mechanism that works

Every corporation knows that negative comments on their social media networks can be damaging. The opposite is also true, and can make a major contribution to an ad campaign’s success. Businesses understand the power of positive comment – the so-called social proofing phenomenon. Amazon of course proved this concept with their reviews and recommendation engine. Add in social media, and the importance of social proof is even greater.

Consumers more than ever seek out qualified advice before they make a purchase, with social media networks their first port of call. A study from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, found that positivity breeds the same sentiment, of users that read a positive comment, 32% were likely to also post a positive comment as well. The report’s authors dubbed this behaviour ‘positive herding’.

The report stated: “A mixture of changing opinion and greater turnout under both manipulations together with a natural tendency to up-vote on the site combined to create the herding effects. Such findings will help interpret collective judgment accurately and avoid social influence bias in collective intelligence in the future.”

It is though, not just a social media phenomenon. Brands should take care not to become blinkered when assessing how results like these are interpreted across their businesses. This was shown to be the case with another assessment carried out by Kaizo PR that found that reviews on website were actually more influential than comments on Facebook or Twitter.

Kaizo concluded:

  • Rating different information sources, almost half (44%) of consumers said reviews websites helped them decide what to buy, compared to only one in ten (12%) who are influenced by content on Facebook and 5% by content on Twitter.
  • 21% people said news stories in traditional media affect what they buy.
  • Social still plays a valuable role however as, although a third of people on Facebook never Like a brand (32%), a quarter (22%) of us interact with a brand once a month or more on the social network.

Rhodri Harries, Managing Director of Kaizo, said: “We wanted to find out more about the part that social plays in a consumer’s decision to buy. Brands that look at numbers of Likes and expect that to correlate directly to sales aren’t getting the full picture – recent investigations into click farms show just how meaningless Likes can sometimes be.

“What really works is when brands use Facebook to interact with people who already have a relationship with them and create opportunities for their community to reach out to others – usually not even online. It’s important to remember that most of what we share on social media is opinion and news from traditional media. Every company’s PR strategy needs an integrated multi-channel approach which understands how ‘traditional’ media relations feeds into social.”

Interacting with brands

As a persuasion tool, social media has been proven to be a powerful ally for all marketers. However, social media is not yet dominant even if it appears to be. Word-of-mouth is still ranked highly, with information gathered from websites that themselves are trusted portals, is next on most consumers’ lists when looking to justify their own response when making a purchase. Social media suffers from a lack of proof. This will change, as brands begin to understand how they must create in their customers’ eye a level of trust that will lead to a conversion. This is coming, but social media has a long way to go before it is completed trusted by consumers who are in buying mode.

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