It’s best that I begin with a quote from the man who coined the idea of “Social Proof,” Robert Cialdini:
We view a behavior as more correct…to the degree
that we see others performing it”
Seems simple enough, but in reality our everyday decision-making engine runs on this very concept. If you take a look at the graphic above you’ll see a line of people standing outside of Store A, and only a couple of people standing outside of Store B. As you pass by you’re most likely thinking, “Store A” must be better otherwise people would be in Store B. This type of psychology is based on the idea that the people waiting in line outside of Store A know something that you didn’t. If you were lost in the woods it’s safer to wait until the cocky gentleman eats those berries to see if they are poisonous, rather than experimenting yourself.
Now take this concept to a technological level. Mobile applications that are powered by GeoLocation like: Foursquare, GoWalla, SCVNGR, and now Facebook Places use this idea of “Check Ins” to duplicate the “Social Proof” psychology. If you are wandering around the city of Boston and open your Foursquare application, you might notice that most of your friends are at 21st Amendment, a popular downtown city bar. Naturally you probably think: “Oh I should be there, since everyone is there and probably having fun without me.” Hence, your friends’ behavior was deemed more correct…so naturally you followed them there.
Fuse the technological and psychological ideas together and you can see how these mobile applications are extremely powerful marketing platforms for businesses. Whether they are choosing a place to eat, the best hardware store, or what to do for entertainment that night, we now look to our phones for the reassurance of “Social Proof.” Our phones’ GPS applications are the new Pied Piper, leading people to your store, and guiding the pack.