"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
Information & inspiration to hone your craft and increase your cash...Since 2009

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Are You Following All the "Cool Kids" Online? How to Use "Social Proof" Properly

Remember back in high school, when being part of the "in-crowd" made you cool?
How "group think" influenced what we wore, who we hung out with, and what we valued?

Let's face it: we were immature, impressionable, and many times lacked the confidence and cognitive ability to think on our own and stand up for what we believed in.
And nobody, (heaven forbid) wanted to stand out and be considered different.

Pretty silly, huh? :-)
Though times have changed, a similar scenario plays out when it comes to, "cliques," blog following and online worship. It's a phenomenon known as "Social Proof".

What is it? I'm glad you asked.

Social Proof is a behavioral term that loosely translated, means that when people, uncertain of how they should act, will choose to follow the activities and actions of the masses.

In other words, if a person visits a new blog and sees a large subscriber count, he or she would be more inclined to join it, as opposed to one where there are few noted followers. Or, take for example, how popular "Tweets" are shared over and over, sometimes with little regard to content or credibility. "Perceived value" is really what is at work here.

So, what's my point?

Social Proof, when used properly, can have positive results. But it can also be misleading and restrict our choices, (not to mention, stunt our intellectual growth) .

With this in mind, here are a few things to consider before conforming to Social Proof.
  •  The popular choice is not always the best choice. It depends on individual circumstances, values, and personal taste. Here's a case in point. Sometimes I have opted to see movies at the show based upon ratings and box office earnings. I naturally assumed that the more popular the flick, the more likely it would be "quality" entertainment, and worth my money and time. Wrong! I don't always agree with the "Red Carpet" choices, and frankly, neither should you. 
  • Though it's great to "follow the pack" sometimes, make sure that there's something in it for you--not just the prestige of association. For example, some folks will follow the "big name" bloggers, not because they necessarily deem them better than the rest of us mere mortals, but because it's what everybody else is doing. Sometimes, the "road less traveled" can lead to some great discoveries. Be open to it. Venture your own path.
  • Readers will often post comments to these A-list sites in order to be seen and validated. Don't get me wrong; many of the "cool kids" online merit popularity, but some may not. Diversify. You just might find that there's quality content and valuable connections with lesser known bloggers as well. Just like the cool kids, us Nerds need love too. :-)
  • Size is not always a qualifier of quality.
To get the best online experience and discover the sites that are uniquely suited for your needs, interests and goals, "you better shop around."

Agree or disagree? How would you define a "small" Blog?
Do you follow the "cool kids"? Do tell. :-)


  1. Jennifer: I try to follow a blog where the writer speaks to me through his or her posts. But, I am human and I need to consider if I have 'social proofed.'

  2. Jennifer Brown BanksFebruary 20, 2013 at 7:42 AM


    Good answer. I think we all have that need; it should just be balanced. I personally, have found some excellent sites that were very small yet the blogger "spoke to me". :-) But I follow the big and the small. Thanks for your thoughts today.

  3. I agree, balance is important. Glad you brought this up - I've long thought that some of the bigger, hyped, "cool kid" kinds of things were overrated. Sometimes you wonder if maybe you're the only one thinking this. I remember thinking this way many years ago in reference to the so called literary classics, too. I just didn't get the hype over some of them either. Thanks for sharing your insight. I'm thinking we should form our own cool kids group of a different variety. :)

  4. Jennifer Brown BanksFebruary 20, 2013 at 12:59 PM


    And I'd nominate you for president! :-) I think that "blind" allegiance to anything should be avoided (and evaluated), if possible. :-)

    Good to hear from you on this.

  5. I think a mix of both is good. Personally, if a blog is well-written or interesting to me, I don't mind how many people are following it. I read to enrich my own writing and life.

  6. Jennifer Brown BanksFebruary 20, 2013 at 7:13 PM

    Hi Christine,

    How great to hear from you today. I totally agree with your approach on Blog following; it should be personally enriching.
    And big or small Blogs would both potentially qualify, (IMHO) in my humble opinion. :-) Thanks for weighing in here.

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  8. Recently in a discussion about working in a job, in a self employed job, or as an Entrepreneur growing your own Business or Businesses, I saw the comparation between people working in a Job as being Immitators, and Entrepreneurs being

    - Innovators -

    I do think that Innovators are more inclined to 'Invent their own Math', with no guarantee that there (instantly) will be a big Social Following or 'Fan Base'.

    Although as you know - for example when you look at my blog(s) - it can be very Impressive :)

  9. Jennifer Brown BanksFebruary 21, 2013 at 4:15 AM


    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  11. Jen, You are one of the "cool kids" to me and I'd think that if I was your only follower. You always give us something worthwhile. And now I've heard of Social Proof. Geez, it's hard to keep up sometimes! So glad you're on top of it - then I don't have to be. Hugs.

  12. Jennifer Brown BanksFebruary 22, 2013 at 2:00 PM


    You're the greatest! I always love to hear from you. Either you make me laugh, or somehow think more deeply. :-) Thanks much!

  13. I found your blog through your FundsforWriters article (which I loved by the way!). You are right - the biggest follow count on blogs, doesn't always mean legit, real readers. I know many who have high follow counts and their blogs are less than decent. On the other hand, I know MANY bloggers who I feel, if quality meant quantity, than they should be rolling in the follower dough (so to speak).

    1. Jennifer Brown BanksFebruary 23, 2013 at 5:26 AM


      Welcome! What a pleasure to have you join our community, here at Pen and Prosper.
      I like you already! :-)
      One of my favorite things is when new followers introduce themselves and leave a comment. I greatly appreciate your time and support. Be well. :-)

    2. Jennifer Brown BanksFebruary 23, 2013 at 5:37 AM


      Nicole, I knew your named seemed familiar, but I didn't know just why. Alas, I have discovered it! I enjoyed reading your post recently on ghost writing at Men with Pens. Congrats!

  14. Hi Jennifer,
    This is my first time visiting your blog and I like it. I just dropped by to say that I have really enjoyed your articles that have been published on Funds for Writers - one of which I just read.

    I'll be back.

    1. Jennifer Brown BanksFebruary 23, 2013 at 12:38 PM


      I have just checked out your site and bookmarked it as well. :-)

  15. Jennifer Brown BanksFebruary 23, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    Hi Writerchick,

    Wonderful to have you here, welcome! Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment and your time. FFW is one of my favs and I do hope you'll consider becoming a regular follower here, by signing up for updates. "Until we meet again..." :-)