But everyone else is doing that…

Blog post

My eleven-year-old, in his desire to influence his parents, has been known to utter the phrase “But everyone else is going…” I credit my firm interrogation techniques for him not using this argument any longer: they force him to admit that “everyone else” is actually three people and to accept that other people going doesn’t mean he should, too.

But however smart we become as parents, the truth is that the tactic of eleven-year-old boys does work, as long as it’s not being employed by eleven-year-old boys. And we all tend to be much more influenced by social proof than we might care to admit. Rolf Dobelli in The art of thinking clearly highlights the many times we do something – whether it’s leaving a coin on a plate when service is already included or joining a group of people staring at the sky – because others are doing it. Dobelli’s aim is to build our defences against such faulty thinking. But why not exploit it for the greater good – well at least the greater good of sharing thought leadership?

We’re not sure if this was the thinking behind the “Most Read / Most Shared / Most Comments” feature on the strategy+business website but it certainly has me looking at content because “everyone else” has; content that I might never have found or considered had it not been for social proof. And I wonder if this approach might be even more powerful if applied at a sector level: if “everyone else” in your sector has read something, wouldn’t you want to read it too?