From one to many: How social proof can help your cause


Whether in stores or on your website, people go where others are.

When I have a day out running errands, sometimes it feels like people are following me. Not in the creepy sense. But I’ll go into a store that’s almost empty, and a few minutes later it’s full of people. This happens again and again.

It turns out, I’m not imagining things.

There is actual science behind this. A study at the University of Leeds found that 95% of people followed others when asked to walk around randomly in a hall. Other studies have shown that people follow the crowd in where they’re gazing, stores they visit, products they buy, and even when voting for candidates.

This kind of behavior has helped humans survive – if one person has already checked out a new location or tried a new food, it must be safe. In the digital age, you can use this kind of “herd behavior” to your advantage on your website to get people to take action.


To do:

Find places on your website where you can show “social proof.” Here are some examples:

  • Testimonials
  • Ratings for your products/services
  • Photos of people using your products/services or volunteering
  • Number of people signed up for your e-newsletter, donated, volunteered, or signed up for an event
  • Display the numbers of shares in social share buttons

Note: If you are just starting out, showing how many people have joined your cause may backfire. People may mistakenly assume that since not many people have backed your cause, something must be wrong.

Think about it: If you saw something that said “4 people have already signed up for this webinar” you might think, “Wow, they must give terrible webinars if only four people are signed up…” In reality, the reason there are so few people signed up could be that the webinar registration just opened. In this case, wait until more people have signed up until you use social proof to encourage more people to join.

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