The bystander effect refers to how people react upon experiencing a sudden event in a social situation. Bystanders seem to largely remain apathetic to someone in dire need of immediate help, even out in public when a large crowd is present. Research suggests a lone bystander seeing a person in physical need is far more likely to help than if they were part of a crowd. Studies suggest, the larger the crowd the less likely it is that someone will respond—providing nobody else breaks the trend and reacts. This reveals something intriguing about human behaviour:

Most people will look to other people first to see how they react before reacting themselves. This is ‘social validation’.

Social validation is the behaviour where people tend to copy what others do. Although many individuals would like to think of themselves as independent thinkers and unique, they are still likely to feel the need to belong to a group or fit in.

When you understand the power of social validation and how it can be used to increase sales through marketing, you may consider structuring your design and content in a way that supports these principles. For example, on your corporate brochure you may like to highlight popular, trendsetting people or organisations that use your products or services. Not having any real case-study examples shouldn’t stop you from using suggestive imagery that you’re a socially valid option.

When buying products online, people often try to get the opinions of others before making their decision. They need to make sure they are doing the right thing by validating it with others before making a decision. It is a natural way many people come to a buying decision and feel secure that they are making the right choice.
With online chat, forums and social media such as Facebook online, social validation has gone to the next level. People are searching for websites they can interact with, and as a result many businesses are looking for ways to get a piece of this action. If you intend on including these kinds of Web 2.0 tools in your own website, ensure you have the time to monitor and contribute to the discussions and content being added. If you are not in control of your site and online presence, and happen to get some ‘bad eggs’ commenting, things can spiral out of control quickly and other users will be influenced due to their need to belong in the crowd.

Using product reviews, testimonials and opinions are a great way to generate more business. These are one of the main means of determining whether it’s worthwhile to buy a product or service. These elements in your marketing material help the prospect feel secure that buying your product or service is a good decision. Even though these reviews and ratings are made by strangers, most people still consider them as an important source of information. It is also important that reviews and ratings should have a persona or identity behind them. Reviews and ratings made by unknown people tend to have the least influence. Reviews and ratings that are accompanied by the person’s name, along with any other related information, are the most influential and help build trust among customers who read them.

Aside from personal reviews made by people, using graphs and statistics may further influence an online customer’s buying decisions. This is more true with some personality types than others. Customer ratings made in the form of a graph or chart may appeal to a customer’s need for more information on which to base their decision to buy. This will further strengthen their resolve that they are making the right decision.

Case Study: Dove

In 2005 Dove conducted a study that indicated only 2% of women described themselves as beautiful. This lead to the ‘Real Beauty’ Campaign that featured images of women with various body shapes and appearances. These powerful visuals went a long way in breaking down paradigms of what it is to be beautiful, creating a new level of social acceptance for women.

These images of women, comfortable and happy in there own skin became something women could look to and feel socially validated. Just image what loyalty and respect the Dove brand generated by pouring resources and energy into this campaign. The Body Shop has a similar ethos regarding women and possibly established this brand value long before Dove however, without the powerful imagery, they didn’t create the same impact.

This content was originally published on Omnific Design before we rebranded as Uplift 360.