BLOG 8th November 2017

Social Proof: harness your audience loyalty

What is it?

Social Proof is the idea that audiences will be influenced by and adjust their actions according to how other individuals are behaving.   

This could be anything from watching a TV show on Netflix because it is trending or buying a product on Amazon because it has positive reviews.

Why is it important for cultural organisations?

Word of mouth is often one of the most popular reasons people attend a cultural activity.  However, social proof is a lot more than that!

Social Proof can be used to encourage your existing audience to try new things.  It also allows you to demonstrate to new potential audiences the positive experiences that your current audiences are having.

Using social proof well allows you to take control of how you present what your audiences are experiencing.

How do you know what your audiences are experiencing?

Well, this is where research comes in!

In order to demonstrate social proof, you need the research to use as the ‘proof’.

Research can provide you with the facts and figures about your audiences. This can come in many forms - demographic, attitudes towards your organisation, what audiences are enjoying.

Away from the facts and figures research can also help you collect honest and insightful reviews from your audience, in their own words.

Research about your audiences can help produce a snapshot of who your current audience is so that you are able to direct your social proof towards individuals like your current audience and influence their behaviour.

But what if you haven’t got any research? Well, one small thing you can start with is to look at existing research that's relevant to your sector or audience. You can also start to listen to your audience online, and not just on your own social channels. Check out TripAdvisor, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for mention of your organisation or venue. Gather images and hear what people are saying about you online. If you work in a larger organisation, you might even consider setting up a google email alert to notify you any time your organisation is mentioned online.

If you’d like a much more accurate picture of what your audiences are experiencing, the next step might be doing some surveys, or commissioning a report. If you’re not sure where to start, you can always book in with us for a free one-to-one audience appointment to help figure things out.

Types of Social Proof

There are various types of social proof, but for arts, culture, and heritage organisations these are the three types which can be the most useful and effective to implement.

1. User Social Proof

This consists of using positive feedback from your actual audience. This would typically take the form of reviews and recommendations from your current audience.

Many hotels include customer reviews as part of their website. You could use your website to highlight reviews you have received on TripAdvisor, or add in any comments from visitors you’ve received via comment cards or surveys. You could also add a twitter feed or screenshots of comments to highlight what people are saying about you on social media.

Remember to keep it personal. Include images and names of your reviewers if you can. If your reviewers reflect your target audience – all the better. Longer visitor reviews can tell the story of a 'day-out' at your venue, or how a visit changed something for them or gave them an emotional experience.


2. Wisdom of the Crowds

This plays on the notion of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). When lots of people are attending, others want to follow suit and also want to book.

It's similar to seeing an empty restaurant and busy one side by side - we'll often be swayed by popularity and a limited supply. Companies like Ticketmaster highlight the current ‘hot tickets’ that are currently popular among other bookers. Netflix suggests new TV shows and movies options based on popularity.

Highlighting recent bookings or limited availability through your ticketing platform is a great way to bring your potential bookers towards a purchase. You could even use physical displays in your venue, showing a pile of available tickets reducing throughout the day (even if you're not selling that many in reality!)


3. Wisdom of your Friends

Similar to the wisdom of the crowds, but this time the recommendation is from people we know and trust.

You might come across this when facebook recommends pages to you that your friends have interacted with. Websites like Stitchfix encourages friends to recommend their product to other friends by way of a reward, which both incentivises current customers and new customers.


This type of social proof is a little trickier to obtain, but you can use demographic research to find out who your current audience is and then target your efforts towards individuals similar to them.

Use images of your target audience enjoying your venue or event in your marketing. If people see that people just like them are attending there will be increased trust ‘proof’. If you have a venue, encourage your visitors to tag you or check in to your location on Instagram. Another way you can implement this would be by offering a discount voucher for your loyal customers to give to a friend.

If you'd support with implementing social proof in your own organisation, feel free to contact us for a chat.

Holly Lewis

Research Intern

Understand your audience, develop your strategy today. TALK TO US