Social Proof

Social proof is having your value validated or demonstrated by people. It can be considered a type of displayed authority.

Common methods include:

  • Mentioned in Ultimate Persuasion:
    • Testimonials;
    • Referrals;
    • Recommendations;
    • Word of mouth;
    • Introductions;
    • Associations;
  • Others:
    • High-demand (queues in stores, full calendars, others);

Underlying Psychology/Biases

Social proof works by simply illustrating in a person’s mind that other people want this, which frequently leads to them wanting it too. It can be augmented by:

  • Included in Ultimate Persuasion:
    • The person’s degree of being influenced by others (the more the person follows other people’s suggestions, the more social proof works. For example, contrarians are practically immune to social proof);
    • The similarity of the recommending people to the target (being recommended something by someone that is exactly like you is much more powerful than being recommended by “someone in general”);
  • Others:
    • The importance of the recommending person (having a famous person buy your product convinces more than the “average Joe” – at least, in most cases);


There are two specific techniques in terms of social proof:

  • The “qualified if“:
    • Can be considered implementation intention applied to social proof;
    • Instead of illustrating a situation of no demand, illustrate one of high demand;
      • “If I have no free slots on my calendar, call me at [ABC]”;
      • “If I’m not available, call my assistant at [ABC]”;
  • Confirmatory gratefulness
    • This technique consists of thanking people for their choice;
      • Airlines mentioning, “Thank you for flying with us”;
      • Ads stating, “Thank you all for the positive referrals”;
    • This illustrates the majority’s choice in the target’s mind;


  • Testimonials
    • The canonical example. Someone taking the time to write a review (or leave a video) justifying their choice;
  • Word of mouth
    • Another example. Someone recommending something to others because they loved it;
  • Associations
    • Another example of social proof. If an important person or organization validates you, it’s even more effective;

Commercial/Known Uses

Key Takeaways

  • Social proof works by showing other people that have already bought (or done your ask). This provides validation, if nothing else, by the fact that others have done it;
  • The closer the recommending person is to the target, the more effectively this works. The person wants a recommendation from “another me”;
  • Social proof can be considered a type of displayed authority. It’s other people stating your authority, not you;
  • It can be leveraged in multiple formats, with the same effect. Word of mouth, testimonials, recommendations, gratefulness or others;