Startup Journal: Social Proof and Seeing What You Preach
Social proof is a beautiful thing. It's such a powerful phenomenon, where we validate by products and experiences by what someone else said.
Everybody wants to feel validated. So when you see and hear people living out what you and your startup have been preaching, it's impossible not to feel some sense of pride.
This has happened to every member of our team at least once. When Mark Zuckerberg said, "We think you should be able to message a business like you would message a friend," at the 2016 Facebook Developer Conference (F8), we all gave ourselves a little pat on the back.
We've been preaching that since 2014!
Getting good reviews from our beta testers was big. Watching businesses actually achieve the results we told them were possible has been huge!
We've had several of these big social proof moments, and I'm sure everyone on our team could give you a different story that stands out for them. One of my big social proof moments came over Mother's Day weekend.
My Social Proof Moment
Our family was all together for the weekend, which was great. We spent Saturday afternoon sitting on the porch, drinking coffee, and just shooting the breeze.
Book and reading are big deals in our family. My dad's always reading something new and amazing from the New York Times Bestseller List. I myself read a book a week for a year, and my older sister and brother-in-law have a very respectable personal library going on.
As always, a book reference came up during the conversation, to which my sister said something that made me smile.
"Can you text that to me?"
What a beautiful moment! Something we continually preach is that people prefer texting.
The statistics show it, and you see it in everyday life all the time. In this case, my sister wanted a way to remember the book my dad had referenced. She wanted a record that she could always have and not worry about losing.
There were other options. She could have fumbled around for a pen and a scrap piece of paper to write it on. She could have looked it up on Amazon right then and saved it.
An email would have gotten the job done. She could have typed it into her phone's Notes app. But what did she do?
She said "Can you text that to me?"
Why? Because it's easy. Because that's the way she - and millions like her - prefer to save and process that kind of information.
Now, my sister, I guarantee, was not thinking through her question in this much detail. She wasn't thinking "Text that to me for XYZ reason." Texting's just what people do. It's how we communicate.
But it was a fun experience watching the situation unravel. It's like a psychologist with a patient.
You see them do X or say Y, and even though they may be oblivious to its connotations and implications, you start playing through the research and case studies in your mind. You know what's going on.
Why Social Proof Moments are So Important
For me, these real life social proof moments are a somewhat common occurrence. After all, people send and receive 85+ text messages every day. There's plenty of room for opportunity!
To tell you the truth, these moments might be what give me the encouragement to keep going in this startup environment.
We might not be the single most talented group of individuals in the world, or have the most money backing us, but we do know what we're talking about. That validation is powerful.
Whatever your profession, there are going to be times when it's really tough to get through, to jump that next hurdle, and where you'll struggle to reach stability.
If you've been through that, you understand these social proof moments, and how wonderful that validation can feel! They can be just the pick-me-up you need.
When you're an entrepreneur or part of a new business, this kind of stuff is your life.
You know all these things are happening, so you provide a solution. You start sharing that solution in every way imaginable, and eventually get discouraged when you have trouble getting people on board.
Then you see what you've been saying all along actually happen, and you're left with a renewed sense of conviction!
One More for the Road
Before Text Request, I worked in financial planning. I was working with this one guy - married, two kids, successful career - and I was encouraging him to bite the bullet on disability insurance, because something is always going to happen to someone.
He wasn't entirely convinced at the time (something I feel terrible about to this day), so I encouraged him to think it over. A week later, I followed up.
He shared with me that the morning before, he'd been diagnosed with colon cancer. His world was shattered.
In the worst way imaginable, I was validated. We all get our social proof moments. Some of those moments are more powerful than others. After that call, I've never left the house without telling my wife I love her, because I really never know what's going to happen.
I can't say I'm at all glad about that man's situation, but it encouraged me to do my job better. It affirmed what I knew to be true, and helped me to keep going.
In a far less morbid sense, these are the moments you live for as part of a startup. After all the wear and tear, after pitching your idea hundreds of times to people who don't seem to get it, those brief moments of "you just proved my point" are everything!
These social proof moments are what validate our work and encourage us to keep going. We all have them! Some we'll want to share publicly everywhere we can, including our website's home page. Others we might keep to ourselves.
Either way, they keep us driving. What's your social proof moment? What real life examples keep you going?