By Michelle Bruno
We know instinctively that consumers make decisions about products to buy and services to procure based on what others say and do. This “social proof” is a fundamental principle in marketing, advertising and sales. Event organizers can use social proof as well to increase registrations and conversions (registrants that actually attend) with more velocity and at a lower cost. In the future, social proof could, potentially, enable them to curate whole audiences.
The herd mentality
Social proof is a tendency for people to imitate a behavior based on the assumption that something is better or correct if others—especially those they deem more influential or knowledgeable—engage in it. Brands use celebrity endorsements to sell more products. Restaurants create waiting lists and lines in order to create more demand. Event organizers use delegate testimonials to recruit more attendees. Social proof is a powerful motivator that appeals to basic human instincts.
Social media platforms have automated the concept of social proof. From the very beginning, a person was considered more valuable on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and elsewhere if they had more followers and friends. Content is considered more relevant when it receives more views, Likes and comments. These demonstrations of legitimacy open the door to more exposure and opportunities for individuals and companies who know how to leverage social proof and social media.
Who do consumers trust?
The phenomenon of online recommendations (even from total strangers) for everything from restaurants and hotels to plumbers and doctors has revolutionized consumer buying. The 2015 Global Trust in Advertising Report from Nielsen reveals the following:
“The most credible advertising comes straight from the people we know and trust. More than eight-in-10 global respondents (83%) say they completely or somewhat trust the recommendations of friends and family. But trust isn’t confined only to those in our inner circle. In fact, two-thirds (66%) say they trust consumer opinions posted online—the third-most-trusted format.
Owned (brand-managed) online channels are also among the most trusted advertising formats. In fact, branded websites are the second-most trusted format, with 70% of global respondents saying they completely or somewhat trust these sites. In addition, more than half of respondents (56%) trust emails they signed up for.”
What does this mean for event organizers?
Many organizers understand the value of social proof already. They use it in their offline marketing channels regularly with statements attesting to the numbers of individuals already registered, brands currently exhibiting and thought leaders endorsing the event. A growing number also believe in and have made considerable investments in social media platforms. The next step is to monetize these social networks using the principles of social proof.
Social registration and social proof
Data collected from existing customers by GleanIn indicate that by using social registration (tools to invite others from attendees’ personal social networks to the same event) conversion rates increase from between fifteen and thirty-six percent. Because social registration combines social proof and social networking, it is likely the most effective marketing channel for event organizers.
Social proof may also inspire another phenomenon. As more attendee marketing is done via social networks and more individuals are allowed to invite people of like minds and interests, the audiences themselves will begin to take shape in new ways. This ability to auto-curate an audience and potentially make attendee registration and attendance “go viral” could have a profound effect on how organizers use social networks and social registration to grow their events.