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The Power of Social Proof and Putting Your Readers First

The Power of Social Proof and Putting Your Readers First

By Pat Flynn on

Last week, I posted a question asking all of you whether you prefer a full post or a partial post in your RSS feed.

The argument was that a full post is what most subscribers favor, but showing a full post keeps people off of your site. On the other hand, you could get more traffic coming to your site by showing a partial post or “teaser”, but then it would defeat the purpose of having an RSS feed in the first place.

The response was amazing. In fact, more than 60 individual people commented with their opinion – and almost all of them favored ‘full post’.

Although we can easily conclude that a full post is the way to go, I wanted to illustrate two principles that came about as a result of asking this simple question: social proof and putting your readers first.

Social Proof

Social proof is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when people’s decisions are influenced by making the assumption that surrounding people know more about certain situations than you do.

In layman’s terms: groups of people have influence, and the larger the group, the more influence they have.

For example, if you’re at the mall and you see a huge crowd of people huddled around a store, you’re more than likely going to check it out, or at least acknowledge the crowd of people and wonder what the big deal is.

I decided to write last week’s post about the RSS feed as an “Ask the Reader” because I knew that what you all said as a whole would be more powerful than anything I could suggest or recommend. There is proof in the 60+ comments about what works and what doesn’t.

“The only recommendation better than the one given by somebody else is the one given by a group of somebody elses.”

We all know the power of “somebody else’s recommendation”. That’s exactly why products (both online and off) have testimonials! It’s one thing for a company to say their product is good, but it’s becomes more believable when it’s somebody else providing you that recommendation – especially when it’s a friend, and doubly especially when it’s a group of friends.

The comment section of your blog is a PERFECT place to showcase social proof. If you have something you’d like to prove, why not let your readers do it for you and make it a much more powerful statement.

If you read through the comments section of the post, you’ll actually notice a few people say they will change from a partial to a full post RSS feed. It’s not because of anything I said – I just asked a question.

That’s the power of the masses.

Putting Your Readers First

The second principle that came about from last week’s post deals with the idea of what happens when you put your readers’ best interests first.

As one commenter, Dexter from CashDoodle put it:

“[In a full post RSS feed…] If you are writing engaging content, posing contentious arguments, asking relevant questions and providing a call to action, people will head over to your blog to complete the transaction…”

He then followed up by saying:

“…we keep saying that writing a blog is about giving. Giving value to your readers. Forcing a reader back to your blog makes it about you, and what YOU want.”

It’s true – putting in a partial feed just to get clicks and traffic to your blog is a selfish thing to do, in my opinion. But the fact is that you can still get as much traffic from your RSS subscribers by providing your full post. Actually, you could get more traffic if, like Dexter said, you’re engaging your audience, asking relevant questions and including proper calls to action.

Putting my readers’ best interests first is something I always try to do here on SPI, and it has always come back around to reward me in one way or another.

Help others first, and they’ll be happy to help you out later. Karma…it’s out there.

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