I'm wondering to what extent Social Proof helps the Conversion Rate of websites and marketing.

Specifically I'm wondering what effect Social Proof would have on Conversion Rate for a sample task in an online context. Lots of marketing material espouses it's effectiveness but I would like academic research on the matter.

There's some basic research I've found that shows yes, people do things their friends do (such as some of the studies referenced in the Wikipedia article) but this is not specific to new methods of Social PRoof.

What quantitative research has been done in regards to social proof effects website conversion with modern Social Proof techniques like Facebook likes and Amazon customer reviews?

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    $\begingroup$ I have found This Paper already but their scope seems excessively broad; even expert reviews are considered "social media", I'm more interested in social proof of one's peers, Amazon reviews of a movie, not Ebert's review. Expert opinions have different and complicated effects. $\endgroup$
    – Ben Brocka
    Jan 25, 2012 at 14:26
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    $\begingroup$ Agh, I have SO MUCH data on this but I can't access it. I'm in internet marketing - and I do exactly this. Maybe one day. $\endgroup$
    – user3433
    Aug 23, 2013 at 1:06
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    $\begingroup$ I will say though that in my experience running paid ads on Facebook, I did not see much of an increase when we just ran the ad vs. when we ran the ad with a picture of their friend's who liked it. It largely depends on the product too. Like, let's say...hair regrowth....ironically a big seller on Facebook (don't ask me how I know lol), not many people are going to be affected by the likes of their Facebook friends for that...and noone is really going to want to like that page anyway. $\endgroup$
    – user3433
    Aug 23, 2013 at 5:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Taal ah, that's interesting to know at least. And I'm unsurprised you can't share; marketers are bad at sharing, heh. $\endgroup$
    – Ben Brocka
    Aug 23, 2013 at 13:19
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe this article could be of interest qbox.wharton.upenn.edu/documents/mktg/research/… $\endgroup$
    – user3554
    Aug 24, 2013 at 10:50

1 Answer 1


This is a partial answer, but there are a number of academic studies on this topic. The findings of the Berkeley article "Long Tail or Steep Tail? A Field Investigation into How Online Popularity Information Affects the Distribution of Customer Choices" (Tucker and Zhang, 2007) suggest that

evidence of a complementary effect, where the steep tail indicates new interest in the most popular vendors from outside, with negligible cannibalization of interest for less popular vendors. The ndings suggest that popularity information can serve as a powerful marketing tool that facilitates product category growth. They also explain the prevalence of rm practices to highlight bestsellers.

where 'long tail' refers to customers buying low-volume products and 'steep tail' refers to the flocking to popular products.

A couple of key conclusions from that study:

We find strong evidence for a steep tail effect, where customers are more likely to click on the most popular vendors when the popularity information is publicized and made salient through ranking the vendors on the page by popularity.

and that there was little negative effects to less popular product sales

If a steep tail effect exists, and if it complements the long tail, websites such as Google.com and Digg.com can increase overall number of clicks at little cost to the less popular listings.

A caveat of sorts is stated in the article "On the Depth and Dynamics of Online Search Behavior" (Johnson et al. 2004) in that their study showed a bit of 'consumer inertia', in that their study

show that the amount of online search is actually quite limited.


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