Social Proof—Peer Pressure—Helps Speed Up Influence. INFLUENCE SERIES #5

Use the 3 Forms of Social Proof to Speed-Up Your Rate of Influence

Social proof—it’s peer pressure. We learn how to act by watching the behavior of others. There are three forms of social proof—internal, external, and personal. And you can use all of these forms of peer pressure to increase the rate by which you have influence with others.


Another form of influence that you can use to speed up the rate by which you have influence is “social proof.”

Social proof is peer pressure. I’m sure all of you as kids got scolded by your parents, “If your friends jumped off the roof of the garage, would you follow them?!” “If your friends did something dumb, would you do that too?” As a parent of two teens, I know that has never come out of my mouth before. And yet, it’s social proof.

Social proof. We learn how to act by watching the behavior of others. And it comes in three varieties that we can use within our world at work or elsewhere: (1) internal examples; (2) external examples; and (3) personal examples.

Internal examples of social proof: Find other people or functions that you can hold up as an example that others would want to emulate. Whenever you look at best practices; whenever you can show an example of “Here was another part of the organization that did something really good and you want to be just like them, don’t you?” You’re using the internal form of social proof.

How do you use it when it’s external? You look at either your peer group or you look at your competitors and now it’s called benchmarking. So, if your organization has functions that want to be like Google or Microsoft, you can hold them up as an example. If there are organizations that are philanthropic or do good work, or are highly profitable and you’d like to be like them, you can use them as examples.

Perhaps the most powerful form of social proof—personal. Can I find an example where you have done something that I’d like you to do again? And if I can hold your own behavior up as an example, that’s powerful. If I can show examples of things that I have done, those are also forms of personal social proof. But it’s only going to be effective if you have some level of respect for me.

Those three forms of social proof can be very powerful in getting other people to follow the leader, to be like others, to want to emulate others, and speed up the rate by which you have influence with others.