By Josh Silver
You will never escape the will of the mob; about the best anyone has ever figured out how to do is herd them into voting booths. ~ Barry Shein
Why is it that millions of people flock to certain websites and other sites are left to decay and rust? Why are some sites instant success stories, while some just never seem to get a leg up and are seen as downright lame? Many factors can influence a successful marketing campaign but recent thought has brought forward a new idea which may shape the way that people market their websites. This concept, known as social proofing, can greatly influence the user base of any site.
The idea is simple; people do things when they know that others are doing the same thing. When you see people you admire—or realistically, mass numbers of people you don’t care about—doing the same thing, you immediately assume that what they are doing is ‘hip’ or ‘cool’. In layman’s terms, it’s the herd mentality. The best way for a new site to generate social proofing is to create links so your site can be shareable through social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and so on and so forth.
There are several different types of social proofing: expert, celebrity, user, wisdom of the crowds, and wisdom of your friends. We are all slaves to the herd. How many of us assume that a restaurant must be good when we see a large group of people surrounding it, waiting to get in? Watching celebrities, so-called experts, mass groups of people, and our peers is often the way that we decide what we wear, what we eat, what to read, what to watch, and how we talk in general.
All of these forms of social proofing have unconsciously worked their way into our lives. I don’t know why I always seem to click on the top rated song of the week at the iTunes Store. But I do. I’m either assuming that other people have better taste than me or I simply want to try and like music 50 million people already enjoy. Whichever way you slice it, we are all held accountable to the herd mentality. Of course, it’s not all bad. One day we may all turn into characters from George Orwell’s 1984 (have we not already?)—but herds can make us stronger too. And hopefully we can use that strength for good. Nobody’s going to mess with 6 billion people all doing the same thing. So let us all get in line, bow our heads, and MOOO.