I’m showing this apartment to 5 more people today

95% of people are convinced to do things by the other 5%

The Exchange

I’m scrolling through StreetEasy and I see an apartment that can fit full sized beds. Wow, I need to see this. I click through to send a note to the broker to see it. Right above the message box I see that 14 people have saved this listing. Deep breath…I need to send immediately.

“Can you show the apartment at 6pm tonight?” I messaged.

“Yes. Meet you there at 6pm”, the broker replied.

4 hours later…

“So what’d you guys think?” the broker asked as we were walking out of the building.

“It’s OK. I wish there were 3 bedrooms instead of 1” I replied

“Nice to meet you! Give me one second I just need to finish up with this group” the broker said to the 3 women waiting outside the front door. “Sorry about that. Today is crazy. I’m showing this now and to six more groups tonight.”

“Wow, a lot of people must be interested in this” I thought to myself.

Definitely not where we’re living :) — photo credit: therealdeal.com

The Power of Social Proof

Social proof is incredibly powerful. It’s also exacerbated in apartment searching, an activity that you do at most once a year.

Social proof is a psychological and social phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior in a given situation.
Social proof is considered prominent in ambiguous social situations where people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior, and is driven by the assumption that the surrounding people possess more knowledge about the current situation.

It’s no surprise that websites make use of it by showing how many other people saved a listing. Is that relevant to you? No, not really. When you show up to a website you often see testimonials. Why? You want to know what other people think, even though you know it’s just marketing. When you’re in a new place you look to how other people have acted in a similar situation. Social proof is more effective with people who are more similar to you.

If brokers can show that other people think this apartment is desirable in addition to them telling us it’s a good deal, it works. We have no idea what the others really think of the apartment but we know that they’re seeing it so they have some type of interest.

The Antidote

Are you in an unfamiliar situation? Be particularly alert that you may be looking for social proof for help on how to act. Are you sure of the decision that you’re making? Or are you just following the crowd?