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UserTesting Tuesday: Social Proof Causes Swear Words And Bad Grammar

UserTesting Tuesday: Social Proof Causes Swear Words And Bad Grammar

Phil Sharp  |  February 04, 2013

In Robert Cialdini’s amazing book, Influence, he talks about the principle of "social proof." According to Cialdini, the principle states, “one means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct.”

This explains why canned laughter in TV shows makes us think the shows are funnier (even though we all think the actual laugh track is annoying). And it also explains why you’re more likely to tip at a bar or coffee shop if there’s already money in the jar. We take cues from what’s going on around us.

Audience Laughing

Canned laugher in TV shows is annoying, but effective

To show us an example of the power of social proof, we used this week’s UserTesting Tuesday to see what we could learn from We asked three testers to do the one thing on the site that they’d want to do. Surprisingly, all three testers had extreme reactions when they stumbled upon one particular page.

It universally caused swearing and bad grammar.

UserTesting Tuesday:


Task: Think of one thing that you'd want to do on this site. Try to do that one thing.

Watch The Video: SEOmoz Social Proof Highlight Reel

Phil’s 3 Key Takeaways:

  1. “I’m sold just by who uses this” – Social proof is a powerful thing. Make it easy for your customers to trust you by showing them some of the other smart companies that already do.
  2. Simple works – SEOmoz’s customer page is simply a list of logos on a white background – and it works very well. If you’re designing a page to show off your customers, perhaps try keeping it simple so that your customers can be the star of the show.
  3. If you got it, flaunt it – If you’re fortunate enough to have a list of well-known customers then test featuring that list in as many places as you can. Try featuring your customers prominently on your home page. Try giving them a page of their own. Or, like SEOmoz, try adding them to your “Features” page if you have one. Are there experts that have said nice things about you? Try adding those.If you don’t have a list of well-known customers, then you can use social proof with your customer reviews and sales numbers. Feature products with lots of reviews, create an icon for your best-selling or highest-rated item, or make it easy for people to share about you through social networks. The options are just about endless.

Enough from me…what did you take away from the highlight reel? What are your favorite examples of social proof? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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About the author:

Phil is the former VP of Marketing at UserTesting, where he directed the marketing strategy, communications, online campaigns, and web optimization.