au⋅thor⋅i⋅ty [uh-thawr-i-tee, uh-thor-]
–noun, plural -ties.
An accepted source of information, advice, etc.
An expert on a subject: He is an authority on baseball.
Persuasive force; conviction: She spoke with authority.
People will tend to obey authority figures, even if they are asked to perform objectionable acts.
If people commit, orally or in writing, to an idea or goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment. Even if the original incentive or motivation is removed after they have already agreed, they will continue to honor the agreement.
A wonderfully powerful example of the principle of Social Proof at work online is the use of customer testimonials. Many product or services websites have customer testimonials in one form or another, usually in the form of a short written testimonial about a paragraph in length with the customer’s name, title and location.
Sometimes these testimonials get watered down and instead of including the customers full info like Cynthia Jones, 31yrs old, Scranton, PA it becomes Cynthia, Scranton, PA. This watering down of the testimonial removes the feeling of authenticity and transparency and makes consumers wonder if the testimonial is just pure fiction.
So when I recently ran across 37 Signal’s video testimonials for their project management software Basecamp, I was very impressed. Not only do the Basecamp video testimonials portray real people and the business problems Basecamp solved for them, but there are several testimonials so it is easier to find a testimonial from someone like you, which is makes the testimonial more relevant and meaningful.
37 Signals even blogged about their experience of creating the videos here.