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What is social proof, and how is it used in PR?

By Lindsey Chastain

Harnessing the psychology of social validation.


https://www.axiapr.com/hubfs/blog-files/blog%20posts%20spoken/social%20proof%20and%20pr.mp3Social proof refers to the psychological phenomenon where people look to the behavior and actions of others to help guide their own behavior and attitudes.


In public relations, building social proof can be key to driving interest, establishing credibility, and prompting action from target audiences. When it comes to influencing public perception and attitudes, social proof is one of the most potent tools available. 


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Social proof looks at human psychology.

Humans are inherently social creatures, and we commonly look to peer groups, communities, and the broader public for cues on how to act, what to think, and how to make decisions. When a large number of people appear to endorse something, its instinctual is to view it as safe, popular, and worth exploring further. Likewise, when something seems unpopular or lacking in public support, many people will instinctively avoid it.


Savvy public relations professionals understand this tendency and actively work to build social proof for the brands, causes, and organizations they represent to establish brand credibility. Whether promoting a new consumer product, raising awareness for a nonprofit, or managing publicity for a high-profile individual, cultivating the perception that others support, use and appreciate whoever or whatever is being promoted goes a long way.


How can your company build social proof?

Some of the most common and effective tactics for building social proof include:

  • Securing celebrity and influencer endorsements: Well-liked public figures lending their name and image to endorse a product or brand carries weight with their fans and followers.
  • Promoting industry awards and favorable reviews: Third-party validation and endorsements, such as awards or positive media coverage, serve as credible social proof.
  • Publicizing readership, subscribers and followers: Communicating measures of existing customer or follower bases demonstrates public traction.
  • Employing user-generated content: Authentic reviews, testimonials and recommendations from real consumers build credible social proof.
  • Strategic alliance partnerships: Aligning with established, well-regarded organizations and brands allows their positive associations to extend to you.


Social proof’s job is to impact public perception.

Extensive research on social proof over the decades reveals just how profoundly it impacts people’s behaviors and beliefs. Some notable examples include:

  • 58% of consumers say they will spend more on a product if it has good review, and 75% of consumers say positive reviews help build their trust in a company.
  • 30% of consumers said that influencer partnerships make them more likely to purchase a product.
  • 82% of Americans ask family and friends for recommendations on products and services before purchasing, while 83% of consumers will recommend a product or service they follow on social media to friends and family.

Wielding social proof responsibly and thoughtfully is key for ethical and effective public relations activities. When leveraged judiciously, it can be monumentally impactful — which is why building diverse forms of social proof should be central to most PR campaigns.


For more tips like these, register for Axia’s free 60-Second Impact, packed with tips and tools on how to use PR to promote and grow your company.


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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Topics: shared media, social media

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