Although I grew up taking ballet, tap, and jazz classes, a middle school dance was still a huge feat to face. It is a completely different type of dancing—it’s dancing that isn’t structured and dancing where you feel like all of your peers are ultimately judging you.  So what did I do?  How did I handle this so that I wouldn’t face ultimate social demise?  Simple.  I just copied everyone else’s dancing!

This phenomenon is known as informational social influence. Informational social influence states that:

“When we do not know how to behave, we copy other people.”

Humans tend to copy other people because we tend to assume that other people know what they are doing and also because we want to fit in (the theory of social norm).

A study done by Alex Lasky of Opower tested and proved how strong of an influence information social influence is. Lasky’s study consisted of an experiment in which he tested which method of messaging best encouraged others to save energy:

  1. You can save $54 this month.
  2. You can save the planet.
  3. You can be a good citizen.
  4. Your neighbors are doing better than you.

Which method do you think worked and led a reduction in household energy usage? Lasky’s experiment found that the fourth message—“Your neighbors are doing better than you”—led to a 2% reduction in household energy usage.  The other three messages led to absolutely no increase in energy savings.

Information social influence is a technique widely used in marketing today. Marketers use it to target our inner competitiveness between others and, subconsciously, do what they want us to (whether that is buy a product or even degrade a competitor).  Where have you seen informational social influence in marketing today?  Be sure to comment below!