Social proof is often used by marketers as a method of persuasion to convince prospects that their products are legit and should be trusted. Brands have used famous spokespersons that had perceived expertise and knowledge to pitch their products; think Bob Villa. This is a form of social proof that has been used for years, and is still used today.

Over the past decade or so, though, social proof has manifested itself all over the Internet into what I like to call the “As Seen On” phenomenon.

What is the “As Seen On” phenomenon?

As-Seen-In-LogoThere are a plethora of websites that claim that the experts involved or the products being sold have been seen on a particular TV channel or program, on a popular website, or in a nationally recognized newspaper or magazine. You probably know what I’m talking about. There are images on the homepage, much like those shown to the right, to lend credibility to whatever it is being sold.

What they don’t tell you is that they appeared on TV, or in the newspaper, or on an industry website because they paid for sponsored placement, a commercial or an infomercial. And they don’t tell you that the only way they were mentioned was through a feed that syndicated their press release.

In many cases, these reputable outlets have not endorsed, referenced or even reviewed these experts, products or services, yet the intent is to have you believe that to be true.

How can you pick out the frauds?

Don’t get me wrong. I do not have a problem with using social proof to sell your product or service. I take issue, however, with the way many Internet marketers have used the “As Seen On” phenomenon in an unethical way to mislead the public and sell sub-par products and services.

Want to know if a product or service is part of the “As Seen On” phenomenon or if they really have received publicity or recognition? Check to see if those logos on the homepage are linked to an article or other substantiation that proves credibility. Or maybe there is an “In the News” page on the site that has links you can use to verify that the product, service or expert was actually featured in the media outlet.

In my opinion, if you are making the bold claim that you’ve appeared on TV or in a newspaper, you better be able to back it up with some real proof. No link or substantiation? Then I am willing to be that your claims are full of fluff.

See what I mean?

Here’s an example. We could put “As Seen On MSNBC” on our homepage to show that a reputable small business program quoted Alyssa in a segment of their show. Go ahead, click the logo below to see for yourself.

Now, what if we just stuck the logo on our homepage, without the link? We could imply that we were featured as the most super-fantastic startup of 2011, the only small business social network in the whole wide world worth joining, or the number one site for small business owners, as seen on MSNBC. See what I mean?

Social proof without the actual PROOF is misleading and unethical. Don’t be one of the herd who sees the logo of a well-known brand on a website of some obscure product or service and automatically accepts its credibility. Look for a link; verify the claims made; make these marketers prove it and earn your respect.

Image credit (fraud): alexskopje
All logos, copyright of the company’s represented.