To understand how social influence works, you need to look at how people are influenced in the real world, face to face. Social influence isn’t something new. That’s how human beings function; we’re influenced and motivated by each other to do things. We’re social beings, and sharing information on our experiences is all a part of social interaction. Is influence bad? Of course not.
More often than not, people seek that influence. People ask each other for advice; they share decision-making processes with friends and colleagues; they discuss their own experiences. How much a person is influenced depends on multiple factors. The product itself is the most important one. When buying low-consideration purchases (those with a small amount of risk), people rarely seek influence, nor are they easily influenced by others.
Buying toothpaste, for example, is a low-consideration purchase because each product may not be that different from the next one, and they’re all fairly inexpensive — so you won’t lose much money if you choose one that doesn’t fit your needs. On the other hand, buying a new car is typically a high-consideration purchase (a purchase that includes a large risk). The price of the car, the maintenance costs, and its reputation for its safety all contribute to making it a high-consideration purchase. Social influence plays a much bigger role in car purchases than in toothpaste decisions.
Social influence matters with every purchase, but it matters more with high-consideration purchases than low-consideration ones. Most consumers realize that when they’re making high-consideration purchases, they can make better and more confident purchasing decisions when they take into account the advice and experience of others who have made those decisions before them. That’s how influence works