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The Influence of Friends and Strangers

bestseller_graphicsmall1Walk into a Barnes and Noble store and the first thing you will see is a stack of books on a table with a sign that reads: New York Times® Best Sellers. The words, “Best Seller” has a tremendous impact on the decision to buy. Booksellers – both those that sell through traditional brick and mortar locations, as well as those that sell online – understand the power of social influence.

Consider the following statistics about social influence: 78% of consumers say companies’ posts on social media influence their purchases (Source: Forbes), and 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (Source:Search Engine Journal).

We make purchase decisions based on the feedback and comments of friends and strangers. Sometimes organizations use social influence as part of a larger marketing strategy and purposefully integrate it into the selling process (Think TripAdvisor and Amazon reviews). Other times social influence is spontaneous, as where a few days before spring break each year a friend will post a question on Facebook asking for book suggestions for an upcoming vacation and will leave town with a book recommended by a friend.

Next time you want to sell registrations, subscriptions, products, sponsorships, advertising or membership, promote the most popular option by adding the words: Best seller or most popular to your promotional copy. And don’t forget to add reviews and comments to show why people chose one option over another.

Sheri Jacobs, CAE is the author of The Art of Membership: How to Attract, Retain and Cement Member Loyalty (ASAE Series) published by ASAE and Jossey-Bass (January 2014).