Negative Social Proof Does Not Work

Negative Social Proof

Should you use negative social proof?

No!

Should you use positive social proof?

Yes!

Using positive social proof on your websites and sales pages to show what other people think of your product can work.

But when you start using negative social proof, your strategy can backfire and cause your sales to drop significantly.

At times, marketers actually use this unknowingly.

For instance, when trying to create a sense of urgency, you can say something like “Last time, a lot of people missed out on this offer; this time ensure you are not one of them,” or “only a small percentage of people who read this email will be smart to embrace this offer before it’s too late.”

Both these statements indicate that there are a lot of people who are not buying your product.

And since many people tend to follow the actions of other people, this social proof will encourage your prospect to follow the majority of others and not purchase your product.

Another example, Robert Green carried out an experiment where he was measuring the effects of signs posted in the Arizona Petrified Forest to warn people against stealing petrified wood.

From his findings, three signs were found to include negative social proof that actually increased theft.

One of the signs read “We have noted that many visitors have removed petrified woods from the park thereby destroying the natural state of Petrified Forest.” Green’s experiment found that this sign tripled the number of thefts because it demonstrated that many past visitors were already stealing.

And since people like following the crowd, the sign motivated people to follow the majority.

Here are more examples of how negative social proof have the opposite effect.

35 percent of teens who engage in sex do not always use condoms.

This instills the idea that many teens are not using condoms and therefore a majority of them will be encouraged by the statement rather than taking it as a warning.

This year, Americans will produce more pollution and litter than ever before.

This will make people think, it’s okay to litter since everyone is doing it.

In the last general election, over 22 million people did not take part in the voting process.

This will act as a motivation to many since they will be saying, “all those people did not vote, why should I?

50% of women have claimed to have been harassed at least once in their workplace.

This will make many men continue doing it since other men are doing it as well.

Although these messages were published with good intentions, you can see they had the exact opposite effect of what they were intended to do.

Instead of using negative statistics use positive ones.

For instance, if you are marketing a plugin that will enhance the security of a WordPress blog, avoid saying “70 percent of WordPress owners do not have adequate security measures for their blogs which leaves their website open to easy hacking.”

If you are selling a weight loss product, do not say that 80 percent of overweight people don’t lose weight because of their failure to stick to a given diet.

So, how can you avoid negative social proof? By not focusing on undesirable behavior.

Instead of showing how many people are not doing something, show that a certain percentage is doing it.

You should only emphasize a negative statement when the behavior is:

  • Immoral
  • Illegal
  • Stupid
  • Irresponsible
  • Reprehensible
  • Outdated

And most of all – universally scorned.

That way, they will work for you rather than against you.