4 Underlying Psychological Principles of Social Proof as a Marketing Tool

Social proof

Social proof is a piece of evidence from your customers’ peers that verifies some part of your argument. In layman terms, social proof is about giving evidence from your existing buyers about your product or service to convince potential buyers to buy themselves.

Put simply, if we see proof from others that a product/service is high quality, we’re more likely to buy it ourselves.

This marketing tactic has been widely used by brands in the online and offline world. Thanks to the advent of online shopping and the internet becoming the go-to resource for product reviews, there is a surge in marketing apps for social proof.

But how does social proof really work? Here are a few underlying principles of social proof that make this marketing strategy so efficient.


Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

Officially defined as “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent”, the term fear of missing out is fairly recent in psychology, as it was coined just 20 years ago. In essence, it’s a fear that other people may be having fun and enjoying themselves without you. The phenomenon is very much real and it’s more present in some people than it is in others. The good news is that you can use it for marketing purposes and that it’s one of the foundations of social proof as a marketing method.

According to recent research, 64% of the population experiences FOMO, most notably the younger generations aged 18-30. The biggest reason for this fear is the idea of not being in the know or informed about the latest and greatest things happening around them.

Fear of missing out


Simply put, a product or service that gets an abundance of great reviews is something that makes us think we’re missing out on quality service, great fun or something completely different. The more social proof (reviews, testimonials, etc.) there is, the likelier we are to experience FOMO.

So, how does this psychological phenomenon translate to marketing? It turns out that 60% of Millennials make a purchase as a result of FOMO, usually within 24 hours from experiencing it. Whatever you’re selling, focus on encouraging FOMO as a marketing tactic and you will see your sales soar.

One of the ways to leverage FOMO is to display recent purchases with notifications. That way, customers know an item might sell out. If you really want to drive this point forward, you can show the number of items in stock. Finally, you can openly state that you’re using FOMO and offer visitors to get on your email list so as not to miss out in the future. After that, you can start reaching out to them using one of these Mailchimp Alternatives and nurture them further.


Transparency has never been more important

Here’s a newsflash: people, in general, don’t trust businesses. Moreover, today’s consumers value transparency more than ever before. According to research from Sproutsocial, 86% of Americans believe that transparency in business is more important than ever before.

Just a decade ago, any company could get away with withholding information or “twisting the truth”, when the internet wasn’t as pervasive as today. Nowadays, consumers are more tech-savvy and more distrustful and they will research your brand and product online before making a purchase.


Social proof is one of the best ways to increase transparency in your business, especially if it’s on your business’ website. According to research, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as they trust their own friends. That’s a pretty important statistic, especially once you know that 91% of all consumers read online reviews before committing to a purchase.

When it comes to external sources (other websites, review platforms like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Capterra, depending on your industry), aim to build transparency through honesty in your marketing. As for your own website, incorporate reviews and testimonials as a core part of your social proof marketing strategy, using a review tool or video testimonial platform such as Trust.



Also known as the need to belong, this is one of the most important intrinsic motivators in human beings. On some level, each of us yearns to belong to a certain group and seeks social acceptance. Whether it’s your family, group of friends or coworkers, we are biologically wired to want to belong to a group.

Even without physically being a part of a group, you can invoke a sense of belonging in your consumers. Once they see a group of people showing interest in your products/services, consumers will be more likely to make a purchase themselves in order to belong to this group.

The way you can leverage this as social proof is to display recent purchases as notifications to people on your website. As they see people like them buying products that interest them, visitors will be more likely to convert and become buyers themselves.

Alternatively, you can use expert social proof and invite someone who’s a professional in their field to talk about your offer. For example, Brian Dean of Backlinko is a world-renowned SEO and marketing expert who frequently endorses tools such as Ahrefs in his content. One of the reasons why his audience will (likely) try out these tools themselves is to belong to a group of experts such as Brian Dean.

Finally, there is celebrity social proof, where a celebrity endorses a certain product or service. We are more likely to use it ourselves to belong to the same group as a celebrity we follow and follow.


Implicit egotism

As much as we want to belong, at the same time, we have a strong love of self. Implicit egotism is a theory where we naturally gravitate to people and objects which resemble ourselves. This unconscious process is very powerful and it’s one of the basics of social proof.

For example, you’re looking for new roofing. You go to a local roofing company website and see a testimonial by Brenda, a middle-aged woman from a town nearby, living with a family and pets, you’d be more likely to buy roofing from this company because the person is almost like you.

Okay, you may not be Brenda from some American suburb, but the point still holds. We value the opinions of those who are similar to us. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to include as much information as possible in your social proof. Ideally, have photos and names of people along with their reviews and testimonials so that visitors can identify with your previous buyers and get one step closer to purchasing.



Social proof is one of the most potent tactics that today’s marketers have at their disposal. With modern video testimonial platforms like Trust, it’s become easier than ever to collect and display social proof that turns visitors into buyers. These three powerful psychological mechanisms are the cornerstone of every successful social proof marketing strategy – make sure to use them to their fullest.

Other popular articles