Ken McCarthy

Social proof, rich jerks, and Google

(Editors note: This piece was written in 2005 and is still applicable today.)

It’s all the rage… for the moment

Social Proof.

If you get a hold of Robert Cialdini’s book INFLUENCE there’s a whole chapter where you can read all about it.

Cialdini is pronounced “Chal-DEE-nee”. His book is available on Amazon for a few bucks.

INFLUENCE was written in 1984 and it’s based on some little known, but amazing discoveries Cialdini uncovered that were hidden away in the field of social psychology.

Very simply, social psychology is the science of how people behave when they’re in groups.

Fact: When people are in groups and interacting with other people, they behave very differently than when they’re alone.

There’s lots for us marketers to learn from the scientists who study social psychology and Cialdini’s easy-to-read book is a super survey of all the key ideas as they apply to marketing.

But a word of caution…

One of the examples Cialdini uses to explain the power of social proof is the infamous Jonestown Massacre of 1978.

That’s when over 700 people apparently committed mass suicide by drinking poisoned Kool Aid at the command of a madman named Jim Jones.

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “drinking the Kool Aid” that’s where it comes from.

It means any time people mindlessly follow a stupid and/or destructive path because they’ve been tricked into it by fraudulent social proof.

Internet scam artists are masters of manipulating people with the power of social proof.

Here’s how it works…

A guru appears out of nowhere, there’s hundreds (maybe thousands) of posts about how great he is, a big buzz gets created, and people stampede to buy the product which – more often then not – turns out to be total crap.

Where did all the positive posts come from if the product isn’t very good?

From affiliate re-sellers who didn’t care whether the product was any good or not. They just wanted a product they could sell fast and easy.

Now let me ask you a question…

Does that sound like a good foundation for building a business?

Let me define what “building a business” means…

* It means making some money today and more money tomorrow.

* It means creating something that produces ever-growing income

* It means creating something that you can be proud of and that other people of quality want to get involved in

Hit-and-run marketing based on bogus social proof scams is not business building.

It’s true that in the business opportunity field (which includes Internet marketing), the marketplace is so big and dynamic – and hungry – that you can make ‘fast money’ with junk promotional techniques, but
look at the track record of the guys who follow this path…

They have one big ‘hit’ and then people wise up and you never hear from them again.

Or, if they do stick around, they limp along with ever-diminishing reputations.

One way these guys hang on is by banding together and agreeing to endorse each other’s products, no matter how bad, bogus or full
of BS they are.

It’s the Jonestown version of Social Proof.

Is there a legitimate way to use Social Proof?

Of course!

And you don’t need to enter the ‘inner circle’ of Internet BS artists to find out what it is.

Step One: Find a marketplace that needs something new and positive in it

Step Two: Create or source a product that truly meets that need

Step Three: Tell your story through all the usual advertising and promotional methods

Step Four: Collect legitimate testimonials from happy customers and share them with prospects.

Step Five: Approach and enroll other ethical marketers in your niche to help you sell your worthwhile product to their customers.

This method lets you harness the power of social proof and create a massive ‘buzz’ – but it does it the right way.

Here’s the weird thing:

It doesn’t take any more time of effort to do it the right way.

All these ‘rich jerks’ with their bogus social proof scams actually make LESS money than the people who play it straight.

Let me give you just one example…

In 1998, two college kids decided to do something about the terrible state of Internet search engines.

Instead of being happy with ‘good enough,’ they burned some midnight oil to create a product that actually did what it was supposed to do.

At first, no one cared about what they were doing.

Internet ‘hot shots’ told them they were wasting their time. “Good enough is good enough.”

But they persisted.

They launched their superior product, people loved it, they told their friends, and finally the experts got on board

Today their ‘little’ company which was started in a dorm room with borrowed computers is now the most highly valued media company on earth.

You may have heard of it: Google.

Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were just declared by Forbes Magazine the 16th richest people in the world each. Just seven years after opening their doors.

Was it worth it to them to take a little extra time to do it the right way?

You tell me.

In everything in life, there’s a high road and a low road.

The Google guys took the high road and it made all the difference in the world to them – and to the millions of people who’ve benefited from their truly excellent product.

You’ve got the very same choice.

You can chase fads cooked up by ‘rich jerks’ or you can get a solid education in the Internet business and learn how to bring real value to people and create real wealth for yourself in an honorable way.

‘Honor’ may not be a world that’s valued much in today’s society, but if you’ve read this far, I have a hunch it still means something to you.

If you’d like to learn a method that may not get you ‘rich qwick’ but will help you get rich SOLID, check out the System approach to Internet marketing.

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