What is Social Proof, and How Does It Relate to Video?

Whether you know the term “social proof” or not, you’ve almost definitely experienced the concept. If you’ve ever tried a new yoga studio because a friend suggested it, or bought a skincare product because dermatologists recommended it, you’ve been swayed by the power of social proof. 

What is Social Proof?

Social proof is the idea that we are innately influenced by the opinions and actions of other people. It draws on the fact that humans are social creatures by nature. We’re drawn to be a part of the group, even if that group is something trivial like “group of people eating at the trendy new brunch spot.” 

Interestingly, social proof can be positive or negative. If your sister tells you she loves the new shoes she just purchased, her influence on your own decision to buy the shoes is probably positive. But, if you’re in the market for a new vacuum, and you see dozens of bad reviews online for a particular model, it’ll probably negatively influence your purchase intent. In either situation, social proof is powerful. 

Social proof is why product reviews, testimonials, and influencers are so effective in driving sales. These factors add an element of trust to a new purchase, swaying prospective customers who might need a little convincing. Social proof can be especially influential as a marketing tool for online retailers, where the customer can’t actually interact with the offering in-store. Other people’s input helps close the gap between someone’s expectations from the limited information provided online and what they will actually experience if they buy the product. 

Social proof takes several common forms, but there are some discrepancies about how many types there are and how they overlap. By our definition at Lemonlight, there are six types: expert, celebrity, user, wisdom of the crowd, wisdom of your friends, and certification. Other lists may break them down slightly differently, but the core concepts are the same. 

Here, we’ll explain each one and highlight the applications when it comes to video content. Let’s get started!

1. Expert

Expert social proof occurs when someone influential in a given space acknowledges your brand. It’s the reason toothpaste brands tout the fact that they’re “dentist-recommended” and the reason brands may see a boost if they’re referenced in prestigious publications like Forbes or Time

For video content, a great way to incorporate expert social proof is to share any examples of experts interacting with your brand. For example, the toothpaste brands we mentioned above will often include “#1 dentist recommended” in their commercials. They’re trying to convey the fact that experts support their product. If your brand has anything like this to share, make sure to include it as a talking point in your video content. 

2. Celebrity

Celebrity social proof occurs when a celebrity mentions your brand. This type of social proof is the reason why celebrities are paid exorbitant amounts of money to sponsor brands, and it’s also the reason why celebrities can tank a brand’s reputation by sharing negative opinions. 

Celebrity social proof is often used in video content in the form of tv commercials. When the Super Bowl comes around, for example, almost every ad has some celebrity involved in it. Why? The brands want to sway viewers with the power of celebrity social proof.

The video below is a great example. It uses Sean Lowe and Catherine Giudici, a couple who met and found fame on popular tv show “The Bachelor,” to promote a room makeover service. Their celebrity status lends credibility to the rest of the ad because people know who they are. Celebrity social proof in action!

3. User

User social proof occurs when your existing users share their experiences with your brand’s product or service. There are many avenues for them to share their experiences, and the options seem to increase every day. Two common examples are sharing about the experience on social media or leaving ratings or reviews online. 

When it comes to video content, user social proof is why testimonial videos are so common—and so powerful. Testimonials allow prospective customers to hear a personal account of what the brand accomplished for them, convincing them of the benefits in a more personal, authentic way. 

4. Wisdom of the crowd

Wisdom of the crowd is the idea that if tons of people are associated with a particular brand or experience, there must be something good about it. It affects us in everyday we probably don’t even realize. For example, if you’re looking for a coffee shop and you pass one that’s empty and one that’s crowded, you’ll probably subconsciously assume that the crowded one will be better.

Wisdom of the crowd is a less straightforward approach to include in video content, but it’s just as powerful as the others. There are a few ways you can include it. For example, if you’re filming your business, having a crowd of people enjoying your product or service will be more enticing than shooting an empty room. 

Another option is to point out how many customers you’ve served in the past. Many brands will include a line in their video content that says something like, “50,000 customers served,” or “Join the 5,000 businesses that trust us for their needs.” These pieces of information subtly suggest that you should join the crowd. 

5. Wisdom of your friends

Wisdom of your friends is the influence of a personal connection who interacts with the brand. For example, if you see that a friend “likes” a brand’s page on Instagram, you might be more likely to trust the product offering. Wisdom of your friends can be more direct, too, like if a friend directly recommends a brand to you. In either case, your friend acts as verification that the brand can be trusted.

Wisdom of your friends can be used in video content by encouraging people to share your information. For example, at the end of your video, you might ask that viewers tag someone in the comment section of the post. This ask prompts people to think about who they know that might enjoy the brand or the video content. 

6. Certification

Finally, certification is a type of social proof that occurs when your brand gets some kind of official approval. Think the blue “verified” check on Twitter, professional certifications, or awards that your brand has won. 

In video content, many brands will list some of their qualifications to influence this type of social proof. They might share awards they’ve recently won, for example, or share that they’re verified by a prestigious organization in their industry. In either case, they’re making the connection between their brand and some kind of official achievement. 

This video for our client, The University of Michigan, is a great example. It highlights faculty achievements that act as a certification for the quality of education that the school offers. 

With so many types of social proof to choose from, there’s no reason not to use the concept to sway viewers in your next video. Whether you focus heavily on one of these types or include a reference to each of them, you’ll be doing your brand a favor by incorporating this powerful psychological concept. Don’t miss out!


Alexa Nizam

Alexa Nizam