In our hotel experiment, we considered the finding that the majority of hotel guests who encounter the towel reuse signs do actually recycle their towels at least some time during their stay. What if we simply informed guests of this fact? Would it have any influence on their participation in the conservation program relative to the participation rates that a basic environmental appeal yields? With the cooperation of a hotel manager, two of us and another colleague created two signs and placed them in hotel rooms. One was designed to reflect the type of basic environmental-protection message adopted throughout much of the hotel industry. It asked the guests to help save the environment and to show their respect for nature by participating in the program. A second sign used the social proof information by informing guests that the majority of guests at the hotel recycled their towels at least once during the course of their stay. These signs were randomly assigned to the rooms in the hotel.
Social proof is very important, as this particular experiment shows. The bottom line at that link? "That’s a 26 percent increase in participation relative to the industry standard, which we achieved simply by changing a few words on the sign to convey what others were doing. Not a bad improvement for a factor that people say has no influence on them at all."
I got a link to that study, and to some great video, from http://mormonmd.wordpress.com/2008/09/22/points-of-interest-31-2/ -- I'd have left a comment there if the blog allowed it, just to say thanks.
Social Proof is very important and so often overlooked as a persuasive tool, a verifier and a validation.
Never forget that lesson when considering what you are doing, why you are doing it or what you want others to do.