When I first saw this Alpecin advert I was immediately impressed. I tried to break down what it was I was so impressed by. I realised that I was assured by its arrogance. A simple advert and a simple brand. Completely new to the UK market. “It sold over two million bottles in Germany last year”; I translate this as “your German counterparts are using it and so should you”. You might think my translation is a slight leap, however, the next statement in the advert is: “To find out why, get down to Boots, leading supermarkets or pharmacies”. They are so confident in the product that they don’t need to say anything more about it. Their sales pitch is the statistic about Germany.

How and to what extent do social pressures constrain people’s opinions?

Psychologists have revealed that most people, even the most assertive and independent of us, will conform to social pressure when we are in a situation with a group of other people.

The classic experiment by Asch in 1955 involved a group of people being shown a vertical line and then being asked to identify its identical line from a set of another three lines. The experiment showed that when people do this task by themselves, they perform it really well. However, put them in a group and the results tell a whole different story.

The original experiment involved a group of 9 men being tested in this task at the same time. However, only one of the men was a true participant – the rest were confederates of the experiment. The majority of the men were asked to give a unanimous wrong answer and the experiment was to see if the genuine participant would agree with them or not.

75% of the participants agreed with the majority at least once. There were big individual differences between participants. About 25% of the participants would never agree with the majority, while other participants agreed with majority opinion most of the time.

Why do people conform to social pressure?

After the original experiment the participants were asked what the reasons were for their answers. Their reasons were varied:

– Non-conformers said they had confidence in their own judgement and had the ability to recover from doubt.

– Other non-conformers said that they thought the majority were actually correct but continued to disagree because they felt they had a responsibility to say what they thought they could see.

– Some of the conformers said that they questioned their own judgement which made them think they were wrong, the majority were right and so they went with the majority answer.

– Other conformers suspected that the others were simply copying the first person’s answer but still conformed anyway.

This reveals a few of the layers of how social pressure causes different types of characters to react – the most important point being that for whatever reason, the majority would rather conform than not.

How does social pressure relate to your video production?

The psychology of social pressure and majority opinion is ingrained in how social media functions. Whether we realise it or not, it is the tendency of people to conform that we are trying to harness when using social media to grow our audiences.

In order to ‘social proof’ your videos, you need to use techniques that persuade your audience that social opinion is in favour of your product or brand. Here are some examples:

Vox pops & testimonial videos

These types of video production basically constitute word of mouth recommendations on video. This is an extremely powerful tool, assuming that the testimonials are authentic – do not even try to fake it – you will be found out and it will be embarrassing. It is very persuasive to see people just like you telling you that they have benefited from a particular product or service, how they have specifically benefited and that you will too.

Using statistics in video production

Using statistics in your video in the right way can be extremely persuasive. You can use statistics to demonstrate what people think and feel about your product and you can demonstrate that ‘the majority’ are in favour of what you have to offer. The Alpecin advert uses one statistic about sales in Germany to convince men in the UK that they should buy their product.

Use footage of events

This is a slightly more subtle approach but if you can use footage of successful events that show a lot of people getting a lot out of your event, you will be giving your audience the impression that your event was of high quality and leave them feeling like they should have been there.

Sharing popular video content, again, and again

You may have had success with particular videos or other content in the past. By success, think in terms of number of views, shares likes, retweets. You can harness the potential of these successes to garner more likes etc by thinking of creative ways to bring this same content to future audiences. A good way to do this might be having features on your website such as ‘most liked video’s this year’, ‘most read articles this month’, or ‘most popular’. This will help extend the life cycle of your successful content helping it reach more and more people. Your audience will be interested in what other people have been interested in.

I hope you have gained some insight into how the psychology of social pressure is relevant to how you market your product and that you now have some ideas about how to ‘social proof’ your video productions.