min read

Social Proof Psychology and its Impact on Consumer Behavior

Published on
July 9, 2024

Table of contents

What is social proof in psychology or sociology? It simply refers to the phenomenon where individuals look to the behaviors and actions of others to determine their own, especially when they are uncertain. 

Hence, according to social proof psychology, if a large number of people are doing something or perceive something as correct, then it must be the right thing to do or believe.

In today's digital age, social proof has become vitally important, especially in areas such as marketing, branding, and online purchasing decisions. 

With the proliferation of social media, online reviews, and influencer culture, individuals have a vast amount of information at their disposal to witness others' behavior, making social proof an integral part of decision-making processes.

For instance, in e-commerce, customers often check product reviews and ratings before making a purchase. Positive reviews can lead to increased trust in the product or brand and significantly influence the customer's decision to buy. 

The same concept applies to likes, shares, and comments on social media platforms — a high number of these interactions can indicate popular approval and boost perceived value.

Principle of Social Proof: Examples and Explanation 

Recall your first day at college. You were nervous and confused if you should take out your laptop or take notes in your notebook. You look around to confirm. This confirms if it’s acceptable to use a laptop during class hours. Looking for such acceptable behavior is social proof.

In 1935, Muzafer Sherif experimented. In this experiment, people sat in a dark room and looked at a little dot of light that seemed to move, even though it wasn't. Different people saw it move in different ways, but each person always saw it the same way.

Then, a few days later, they did another part of the experiment. This time, people were put in groups with two others. They had to talk out loud about how they thought the light was moving. Even if they had thought differently before, the groups all ended up thinking the same thing. 

To make sure they weren't just agreeing with the group to fit in, they were asked to look at the light by themselves later. But they still thought what the group thought. This shows that when things are unclear, people often believe what others believe.

In one of the all-time best-selling books, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini said - “we view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.” 

In plain English, it means people depend on others to decide if something is doable or not. If people with considerable social influence, like celebrities, do or suggest something, people are more likely to obey.

Tools for Social Proof

Standing out online isn’t as easy as it was earlier. Trust still plays the role of the #1 factor in helping a brand succeed. If a post on social media has the job of displaying social proof, why shouldn’t your website do that job as well?

Source: Linkedin/Tommy Clark

You’re here because you want to leverage social proof on your website in some form. For that, you will need tools. Here are some tools you can use to leverage social proof for your business website.

#1 Testimonial Donut

We are accepting beta users right now. You will get video testimonials for your brand website, free for 6 months. We will design the mockups for you to make it look however you want. All you have to do is choose 5 customers and we will share a link that you can further forward to them. Your customers will record the video using the link and we will create a custom widget that you can add to your website. Video testimonials are better than text testimonials any time of the day, so why not give it a try?

#2 Trust Pulse

Trust Pulse is a real-time event tracking tool that shows pop-up live-streaming events like purchases, registrations, signups, and more. Showing the live activity of the customers increases the chances of conversion by 15% and creates a serious FOMO. You can customize the notifications and widgets to match the website design.

#3 OptinMonster

OptinMonster is a drag-and-drop popup builder. You can generate leads by quoting testimonials of existing customers. You can create campaigns like popups, floating bars, fullscreen interstitials, and more. OptinMonster also has advanced smart triggers such as exit-intent, scroll-depth, and geo-location tracking to give you more control and better chances of conversion.

Here’s an example of a popup as a demo of the social proof effect.

Impact of Social Proof Psychology on Consumer Behavior

In this section, we will deeply explore how social proof influences users’ behavior and subconsciously inclines them to trust you as a business. 

#1 Purchase Confidence and Trust-Building (Better Conversions)

Social proof can help you share transformational stories with your audience, which is most likely to base their decisions on how others have benefited from using your product. Sharing generic stories isn’t going to help anymore.

See how Weight Watcher implements sharing transformations of their customers as social proof for potential customers to trust them. Imagine the rate of conversions after implementing this.

Moreover, consumers commonly use the opinions, testimonials, reviews, or ratings provided by others as a means to gauge the value and reliability of a product or service.

Positive endorsement in the form of testimonials, reviews, or ratings can lead consumers to perceive the product or service as trustworthy, high-quality, and reliable. For example, products with high ratings on e-commerce platforms often receive more orders than those with lower ratings.

Moreover, user testimonials, especially from influencers or experts in a certain field, can stroke potential buyer's confidence by validating the product's worth through a trusted authority. 

This positive acknowledgment works as a validation that the brand is reliable and trustworthy, especially for new customers. This assuages their purchase apprehension, making them more comfortable and confident about their buying decision.

You can also easily get started with collecting testimonials and integrating them on your website, social media, emails, etc., right away by using the super-efficient Testimonial Donut, which provides you with a convenient start on your social proof journey. 

#2 Simplified decisions

It is rightly said, “A confused mind doesn’t buy”. If you want to control the chances of people making a purchase, you should eliminate the confusion that they might have.

If you’re an e-commerce business, including “Editor’s Picks” or “Best Seller” does the magic of simplifying decision-making for your visitors. You can curate quality-assured products and tag them as Best Seller or Editor’s Picks to validate the demand and make people take action. I’m sure you must have seen such tags on e-commerce sites like Amazon or eBay. 

When customers seek validation from people who’ve already purchased from you, theoretically they’ve already made up their minds to make a purchase - All they need is a gentle push.

#3 Fear of missing out and validation

FOMO is a driver for so many sales during festive seasons. We all have been there. It’s exclusive and persuasive enough to remove the friction of purchase and make people buy.

Airbnb does this well with its Airbnb Experiences feature. With this feature, users can book unique activities and tours led by locals. When a user shares photos and the experiences they had on their social handles, it creates a FOMO in their friends. 

This works in favor of Airbnb as a brand & the locals who gave Airbnb users that experience.

How’s that for a FOMO?

#4 Behavioral Influence & Imitation

The influence of social media is a powerful driving force to alter consumer behavior. “TikTok made me buy it” becoming a trend is a classic example of this.

A TikTok user, @natures_food posted a video demonstrating how to prepare a healthy breakfast recipe using natural cereals only. This video went viral and many users imitated this recipe and the hashtag #NaturesCereal got millions of views. This video increased the sales of ingredients mentioned in the video like pomegranates, berries, and coconut water. Nature’s Cereal got even bigger on YouTube, gathering millions upon millions of views.

#5 Competitive advantage with a Solid Brand Perception

Social proof can provide a significant competitive advantage for any business, even if you’re just starting.

When a brand receives positive feedback, its reputation boosts significantly. It enhances the trust in the brand and its perceived value and reliability. This favorable social proof can increase brand loyalty and customer retention and influence prospective consumers to choose that brand over competitors. 

For instance, positive customer reviews on a product page can drive more sales by reassuring potential buyers of the product's quality.

Businesses with a large customer base demonstrate that a large number of customers have chosen their products/services over the competition. That adds to the trustworthiness and reliability of their business.

Conversely, negative reviews or feedback can tarnish a brand's reputation. A single negative incident shared virally on social media can cause significant damage. Recall the recent incident in which Christiano Ronaldo refused to drink a Coca-Cola. That led to huge reputational damage as well as a fall in the stock price of the carbonated drinks company. 

Large ecommerce businesses like Amazon do this well. Highlight the number of reviews a product has increases the chances of purchasing. Who purchases without checking the reviews? I don’t.

Amazon uses the sheer volume of reviews that the paid customers have left for the product, which instills confidence.

Another example would be Michael Jordan turning Air Jordan sneakers into a cultural phenomenon. Nike is still cutting those paychecks every year to retain this competitive advantage.

As a small business, you can focus on getting your customers to leave reviews or share video testimonials to give you that competitive advantage. This adds to the authenticity of your business.

#6 Preference confirmation

Like simplifying decisions, social proof also helps with preference confirmations. People make decisions based on what others prefer. This confirmation fosters a sense of trust, which further reduces uncertainty in the decision-making process.

Social proof takes care of the user experience as well. When people get personalized recommendations based on their preferences, chances of conversions are through the roof.

What governs their preferences? Social proof.

Spotify’s weekly playlists do exactly this to you. It’s personalized based on your preferences, which are further based on other users' preferences shown to you.

Types of Social Proof


Testimonials from satisfied customers or famous personalities can effectively boost a brand's credibility and perfectly establish the social proof principle. They often serve as powerful recommendations, enabling potential customers to imagine the value they could receive from the product or service.


Reviews, especially on third-party sites, provide an unbiased perspective about a product or service. Given that consumers often check reviews before purchasing, positive reviews can greatly sway their decisions in favor of the brand.

Case Studies

Case studies offer a detailed look at a product's success or effectiveness. These real-life success stories can be instrumental in convincing potential B2B clients or customers that the product or service can solve their problems, too.

Social Media Likes and Shares

A high number of social media likes and shares signify a virtual 'thumbs-up' from a large group of people. This can positively influence potential customers to look more favorably at a product or brand.


Endorsements, either from industry experts or influencers, carry a lot of weight. When trusted figures approve of a product, their followers are likely to view that product favorably.

Whether you want to collect reviews and testimonials, gather case studies, or conduct surveys or interviews, we suggest you use Testimonial Donut and its streamlined dashboard to gather and manage these customer responses and feedback. 

Final Thoughts 

According to the author Cialdini, Social Proof is a psychological and social phenomenon where people tend to imitate the actions of others or look at others while making decisions, including decisions for purchasing, business, etc.

Hence, you must utilize social proof psychology for your business, too, and use tools like Testimonial Donut, Trust Pilot, and OptinMonster to build more social proof around your brand. 

You must also have a strong social media game, a good word around your products/services/brand, and leverage social proof Cialdini principles to build your brand. 


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