Robert Cialdini’s Principles – Social Proof Explained

Robert Cialdini’s Principles – Social Proof Explained


Social proof, also called consensus if you wish to use a fancy word.

I have briefly introduced Robert Cialdini and his Influence book in the last week’s blog post, so feel free to read that first.

Apart from the fancy word, there’s nothing complicated about the concept. However, I think it’s one of the most important, and perhaps, overlooked ones!

After social media took off big time in the 00s – is that how you call them – business took a hit, not in regard to sales, but in terms of the social aspect of it.

old motor advertising sign

You didn’t have to go around and promote your business with leaflets anymore. Or old advertising signs. You could just set up an online shop and promote it on social media.

I’m not trying to say that it was easy, but it was all new and whoever was willing to make the step ahead, was not short of sales.

However, this also led to estrangement – people didn’t talk to each other as much and that concept has exploded now! You don’t have to go anywhere to get anything! Everyone has something to sell online! Even supermarkets let you do your shopping this way.

This obviously led to a lot of competition. Trying to sell online is incredibly difficult due to the amount of content out there! How do you choose?

Turns out you choose what other people have chosen before you.


You need reviews and testimonials. And people will know if they’re fake!

one out of five review stars

Ask every client you have for a short testimonial, one sentence max! They don’t need to write a book about you. It’ll only take them a few seconds.

You can also help them with the wording to make sure they don’t just say:

  • “Great service.”
  • “Good experience.”
  • “Happy overall”

People have little time and can’t be bothered to think of a more colourful way to describe their experience with you.

Encourage them to share their story. Briefly. They could say, for example:

  • “Silvie saved me many hours of thinking about the content of my About page.”
  • “John has saved me money by recommending a similar, but cheaper brand of paint to use on my walls.”
  • “This protein supplement helped me gain muscle, as I was struggling with that.”

Politely ask them to be specific with their reviews. If you are a new online business selling services trying to attract new clients, offer free basic service that’s not going to take a lot of your time in exchange for a testimonial you can use on your website or social media.

Story Highlights on Instagram are a great place to showcase your social proof. When your potential customers see it, they’ll be more inclined to buy from you.

black and pink instagram logo

Make sure the testimonials and reviews all contain at least a full name of the person, unless there’s a reason not to include it. There could be many – you run a business that needs to be discreet (adult toys), or the person simply doesn’t with their name to be online.

Anonymous reviews are not automatically bad, but people like to see the name and preferably occupation.

Occupation could be very helpful way to make the review relatable – more about this in next Friday’s post about a different principle called “Liking”.


People always do what others do – especially when unsure! There’s nothing wrong about that. We’re social creatures and we have genes coded in this way.

Just think about it and try to imagine an early civilisation. People learn by watching others – usually elders and more experienced ones.

You don’t eat the bright red berries because someone told you that they’re poisonous, but because nobody else eats them.

You can apply this concept to the modern society. If you are a morning person and catch a train early, you may see a lot of people on the platform holding a cup of coffee. Why should you not do it? It’s quick, convenient and it saves time to buy it in the kiosk rather than making one at home at 5 AM. If you’re already not one of them, it’s likely you will be in a couple of weeks or months.

Think queuing. Especially the Brits will know what I’m talking about. Queuing is a national sport here. People queue just because other people are doing it! It’s a fact.

queue of people's statues

And not just Brits are guilty of this. Just remember last time you were in the airport trying to get to your gate. There’s usually a lot of people walking at the same time in clusters. What if the cluster hits a queue that’s already waiting for boarding? It queues too! Why? Because everyone else is.

This behaviour is very important for businesses, even though you might have not thought about it.

No, people are not sheep, but if you research a product or service, you expect some third party validation before whipping your credit card out. You want to know that someone already bought this and didn’t get scammed.

Maybe this social proof wouldn’t be a thing if there weren’t so many scammers out there. And they’re becoming more clever every single day.

Which brings me to:


That’s right. Did you know that you can pay people to give you a good review? And they are so free of shame that they even let you use their profile picture and a full name.

If you are after a product, you probably did your research, visited many sites and did your comparing.

But there are a lot of people out there who play the emotional card – they usually hang around on social media, especially Instagram, and make their product sound so good that it makes you feel stupid for not buying it.

Unfortunately, I cannot give you advice that would help you to avoid 100% of scammers.

But I have a few. Avoid anyone who uses these sentences (and if you are a business, don’t use these while promoting your service):

  • “Get the course for £27. Today only. Full value £2 000.”
  • “How to get clients with no experience.” (I don’t think I’d like to pay anyone with absolutely no experience – I’ve worked really hard building my portfolio, writing articles and volunteering for a local magazine. Experience doesn’t always have to be paid!)
  • “Have 6-figure income in 3 months.”

I know it sounds like a common sense not to believe these claims.

These three sentences, standing alone, are obviously a scam. But embedded well in content may as well persuade you.

I have to admit I have clicked on some of these. I have even lost money on some. These people take a lot of time to create their content, so that it evokes an abrupt emotion in you. An emotion that simply wouldn’t allow you to miss out on this offer.

These people also use fake testimonials and I suggest you to avoid them.

If you want to gain a new knowledge, go for an accredited organisation.

If you want to hire a copywriter, ask to see their portfolio, accreditation, or you can even ask them to draft something for you.

It’s common for content creators to draft a copy for the client to see if the tone of voice sits well with their own.

And if you own a business? Don’t be shy to showcase your skills! People want to see them. Put all the good reviews you have into a spotlight today!


The best way to do this is to ask a client to post a review on their own social media, so that you can re-share it to your own profile.

This is a fool-proof way of showing that this person actually said that about you.

Ask them to link their website to yours if possible. I’ve asked one of my clients to add a link to my site under her About page I drafted for her. It’s not intrusive on her page, but it massively helps me.

chain links

Also, doing this helps with your site’s SEO – Google sees links as relevance. If someone linked to your website, it must have been useful for them.

It also is as legit as possible – you cannot just go on someone’s site to create a link back to yours.

Backlinks are like an invisible testimonial – if Google trusts your site, why the customer shouldn’t do the same?

That’s all guys, thank you for reading and I’m looking forward to “see” you next week. Next post is about Cialdini’s Liking principle.

If you need help with your content, give me a shout.

You can use the contact form on this site, or DM me on Instagram @wordsbysilvie.

Have a great Friday everyone!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *