Social proof: How far can we go to get it?

Many wannabe experts online (anywhere really) try to provide social proof to keep readers from bouncing away from their sites. Social proof is usually a good thing though. It can help you gauge whether or not you should trust that person by showing that other people have already.

For example, if you visit the “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” blog, you’ll notice in the right sidebar that Ramit shares a bit about himself:

“I’m the New York Times bestselling author of I Will Teach You To Be Rich. I cofounded PBwiki and graduated from Stanford.”

From there he lists some of the places he’s been featured like The Wall Street Journal, NPR, and so on.

Especially given the scammy-sounding name of his blog, I actually appreciate him sharing about himself because it shows that other people/places respect his work. As a result, I take his advice more seriously.

Here’s my question though: How far should we go to get that social proof?

The other day I heard about someone who used a script to artificially jack up his YouTube views. Evidently, after the number reached about 10,000, his video began circulating virally on its own.

That’s not an uncommon tactic.

The New York Times quoted Tim Ferris as an “expert” on a particular type of tea. As a result, Tim was able to say he’s been featured there. Truth is, I’d probably say the same thing. After all, does it really matter how you’re quoted if you’re only telling people you were quoted?

I know that perception is what matters for people. If they think you’re smart/ trustworthy/whatever, then you are… to them. But how far should we go to get that? How much of a difference should there be between our perception and theirs?

This gets particularly difficult if we think what we have to offer really is worth it. Because then it gets into the area of ends vs. means. Should I flash that society badge so one person will get on board with what I’m saying?

Here are a few other questions to consider…

  • Should a blogger combine their subscriber number with their Twitter follower number and say that’s how many people follow them? Should they throw in their Facebook fans and friends as well?
  • Should I throw a New York Times logo into my sidebar? I’ve never been featured there, but hey… I’m a fan!
  • Should colleges give out degrees?