Social validation occurs when we feel as though what we’re doing follows the social norm. When we have the ‘approval’ (implicitly or explicitly) of our peers, we are more likely to want/do/say something. Social validation can work on websites as well. User ratings, comments, and feedback in whatever other form it may take, influences our decisions whether we know it or not. (Weinschenk, 2009)
One website that uses social validation very effectively, is Thinkgeek.com.
A purveyor of all things g33ky, Thinkgeek.com uses several forms of social validation; some that are mentioned by Weinschenk (2009) and some that are not. For example, Thinkgeek.com uses Facebook “liking”, and announces how many people have “liked” each item. They also have customer comments just under the product. Thinkgeek.com also promotes the idea tthat the customers are all a family of sorts; wayward nerds in search of a place to call home, and they’ve provided that home along with our own monkey, Timmy. Following this lead, which not only Thinkgeek.com utilizes for social validation (e.g., Timmy and the staff think you’ll like a Spiderman hoodie, etc.), but the customers also use it in comments (e.g., A Think Geek girl knows when to ‘Bazinga’, etc.).
One very unique social validation technique Thinkgeek.com uses, is that hey actually encourage and promote photos of customers using the products they sell. The call this ‘Customer Action Shots’. On every item’s page, as well as the home page, there are photos that customers have sent in to model the product they’ve purchased from Thinkgeek.com. Weinschenk (2009) notes that the more we feel we know someone, and can relate to them, the more we trust their judgement. She notes that when we don’t have enough information about them, we tend to take their comments and suggestions into consideration less than we would have (2009). How better to “get to know” someone, than to see a picture of them in their natural setting? In addition, encouraging us to take pictures of ourselves using our products, promotes the feeling of family that Thinkgeek.com works so hard to provide.
Knowing that others are buying or using the same products that we are interested in, helps us feel confident in our decisions; particularly as consumers. Thinkgeek.com uses social validation to nearly its full extent. Many of Weinschenk’s suggestions to web designers, for how social validation can be used to promote sales, customer loyaly, and customer satisfaction, can be found here; a notion that Thinkgeek.com would take g33ky pride in.
Thinkgeek.com. (2011). Retrieved from: http://www.thinkgeek.com/
Weinschenk, S. (2009). Neuro web design: What makes them click? Berkeley: New Riders.