The phenomenon of social proof is important to virtually every type of business out there. We know this because of many real world examples. For instance, restaurants will seat initial lunch guests by the windows so that people walking by will think it's a popular location. Another great example is nightclubs that make people wait outside in the freezing cold when the club is nearly empty so people will see a crowd lined up outside. In almost every aspect of life, it's really the appearances that drive adoption and conversion and interaction. Many people thrive on the approval of others in this manner and want to blend into the crowd. This is simply how humans operate as imperfect social creatures and is a fact of life.
But despite its extreme importance in the physical world, social proof is even more important online. Online, it might be the most critical factor. Unlike in the physical world where it might take you 5 or 10 minutes to walk or drive to the next store that sells what you're looking for, finding something new online to occupy your time can take less than a second. If you're not impressed by a website in the first second or two, there's nothing that prevents you from closing a tab and moving onto the next option or clicking a new link and moving on. Google search or Facebook search makes that very easy.
The Importance Of Social Proof
We know how important social proof is for virtually every type of business in every niche market out there because of the number of companies in all categories that buy Facebook likes or Twitter Followers for themselves. This is a large part of the way that many firms are able to sell themselves to potential customers.
Many bands and musicians buy Facebook likes, for instance, because they know that the decision makers that decide their fate (obviously not just big record executives, but simple venue operators that are deciding which band to bring in on Friday night). Their entire futures rest on the social proof that they're able to acquire. The more likes and interaction that they have on their page and SoundCloud account, the better their chances of getting the right introductions and making the right moves that further their musical careers.
Why This Helps Your Conversion Rates
This works the same way for all other types of businesses online. Think of what happens when somebody does a search on Facebook or otherwise receives an invite to check out a page or finds a page through some other means. When somebody who has never seen your page before sees your name come up in a Facebook search and sees that you have fewer likes than your competitor, which link is he more likely to click on? And if somebody is invited to check out your page and she sees that you have few likes of your own, she might not take you seriously as a business and move on to the next option. This is how vitally important social proof is online and how important it is to selling yourself.
Social proof obviously isn't the only factor that determines online success, but it definitely is vital to consider its impact in your site conversion and all other seemingly unrelated aspects. For instance, as a new startup, have you ever tried to pitch yourself to TechCrunch or Mashable or BusinessInsider or any other of the big tech media outlets? That's a difficult enough task even with social proof. But can you imagine how hard it is for people to take you seriously without anything positive that indicates that people actually like you? Social proof doesn't just exist in terms of more likes or followers, but through positive word of mouth and great reviews as just a couple of additional examples. If you don't have any of this, you're going to be left behind as a business and aren't going to be able to sell yourself as effectively.