Imagine this: you’re a manager who needs to move people over from BlackBerrys to iPhones. You may or may not find that to be a challenging situation, but also imagine the department you are “selling” this change to was actually the department that had been in favor of using BlackBerrys to begin with years ago!
You’d be savvy if you had the insight to use social proof to show that other people within the company, and outside the company, were already adopting and feeling positive about the switch-over.
But also imagine there are still two employees in this department who are not in support of you or the initiative. You know for a fact they are not on board with the changeover, and since they are in an operations/IT capacity, you know how much you need them on board for this to be a success!
You have two choices of people who you feel can aid you as you sell the idea to them:
- Tanya, who is not in an IT role, but as a rising star in the company, she has a lot of support within the operations/IT division. In fact, she’s a trusted source throughout the company. You know they–and others across the company–see her as a leader, which isn’t surprising, since she is strategic, succinct and direct as a manager.
- Ben, a quiet, “B player” type who was also on the same team that made the initial recommendation to choose BlackBerrys when the company first gave its employees cell phones. He has been in his operations/IT role for the same amount of time as the two people who are reluctant, and almost unwilling, to make this change.
Ben would be a far better person for you to use to give a testimonial about how and why he’s supportive of the move. Why? Because even though he doesn’t hold as much clout in the organization, he’s in a likeminded role as the two people who don’t agree with the change.
He’s an example of how social proof is truly activated by the idea of similarity. This is why many times the most effective testimonials on TV are the ones that feature people we feel are “just like us,” or those that show symptoms or problems that we can directly relate with.
We tend to discount how much influence other people have on our day-to-day decisions, but when we see ourselves in someone else, and they show or act in a way in support of a product or service, it’s extremely influential on us.
The other activators of social proof that can push us to follow others include:
- A situation that could end in shame, so we act in ways to “save face,” many times in a defensive manner;
- When there is a great deal of uncertainty around how we should act;
- A behavior that’s made more available to us, thus making it seem more common.
Not all of these situations are necessarily negative–maybe you spoke with a friend who was “ahead” of you when it came to their personal finances/savings, or maybe it was a family member who you saw making lifestyle changes to lose weight. In turn, seeing these situations could have motivated you to start reflecting or to even make improvements to your personal life.
Can you think of situations where you were motivated when you saw a close friend or a family member take on a certain behavior?