Social Doubt

Imagine this…

You’re visiting a city you’ve never been to before.

To start your day of sightseeing, you want to have a memorable breakfast. You tell the friend you’re traveling with, “I’ve got breakfast handled.”

Thanks to Google, you find an eclectic restaurant within walking distance of your hotel. You’re feeling confident about your decision.

As you walk to the restaurant, you playfully tease how delicious breakfast will be to your friend.

When you arrive, you open the door and greet the host. They tell you it’ll be a short 5-minute wait while they clean off your table.

While you wait, you notice a number of awards displayed on the wall. Apparently, this restaurant was voted the “Best Brunch Spot” annually from 2013 to 2019.

Your mind wanders to all the possibilities of what could have happened between 2019 and 2022 that made them not receive that award again.

Have you lost the excitement about your restaurant decision?

In today’s edition of Why We Buy, we’re exploring the Social Doubt – what repels people from buying into your brand.

Let’s get into it…

“Top Marketing Newsletters You Need to Subscribe To”

The Psychology of Social Doubt 🧠

You’re familiar with social proof: how seeing other people rave about products makes us feel more confident buying them.

Social doubt is the opposite of social proof.

Instead of making people feel assured about their purchase, like social proof, social doubt (or negative social proof as it’s sometimes called) makes them question it.

Think back to an Instagram ad that was so good—it made you click on the brand’s profile.

But when you saw they only had 59 followers, you decided against trusting them with your purchase.

The same psychological event happens when you see a restaurant win an award in 2019—but not get the same recognition in 2022.

Your buyers are on the lookout for social doubt just as much (or more…) as they’re looking for social proof.

Inside Your Buyer’s Mind 🧐

Buyers can quickly sniff out anything seems questionable about a brand or purchase.

Your buyers don’t want to get dupped into buying the wrong thing and wasting money, so they’re often careful to evaluate purchases. This is Loss Aversion in action, which we covered in a former issue of Why We Buy.

76% of consumers purchased a product because of someone else’s recommendation.

New York Times Best Selling author Ramit Sethi consistently posts testimonials from his happy readers:

Embrace delegation

Buyers want to see testimonials from people using your products to solve the same problem they have. If they don’t see it—the social doubt creeps in.

Marketers also use social doubt to show buyers who their products *aren’t* designed for.

In a sneaky campaign, Gucci competitors gifted reality star Snooki with Gucci merchandise to taint the brand’s appeal.

Luxury buyers felt the social doubt that they weren’t aligned with that persona, so Gucci must not be the brand for them.

Social doubt has a lot of weight in the buying decision.

How To Apply This 🤑

Alright, so how can we apply this right now to sell more?

Choose influencer partners carefully

Audit influencers’ socials to ensure the way they communicate represents your brand well. Just one wrong brand experience can turn leads into uninterested buyers who no longer think your brand is in alignment with them.

Psst: if you’re looking for a partner for your brand, check the P.S. I may have something you’re interested in.

Incentivize early reviews/testimonials

A lack of reviews and testimonials creates social doubt. Unless they’re your friends and family, people rarely want to be the first to buy a product. Give free products or choose another incentive to get some early reviews. Tools like Vouch can make sourcing highly persuasive video testimonials easy.

G2 offered subscribers a $10 Starbucks gift card to leave reviews on their website, which was crucial to building out their review-based platform.


Don’t promote “dead” socials

It’s not worth linking to social media profiles that you’re not actively using. Linking to a Facebook page on your website that has 30 followers and hasn’t had a new post in 2 years doesn’t look good. Only link to the socials you’re actively publishing on.

The Short of It 💥

Your buyers are risk-averse. They’re looking for any sign that buying from you won’t be the experience promised.

Ease their fears by removing their social doubt. Replace it with the confidence that your products will deliver on your promises.

Until next time, happy selling. 



Wanna really get inside your buyer’s head?

There are a few ways I can help:

  1. Get explosive clarity about what works with buyers by learning how to conduct 1:1 Clarity Calls (2000+ happy students)
  2. *NEW* Learn how to mine online reviews from real buyers to generate ideas and copy that converts (250+ happy students)
  3. Book a 1:1 strategy call with Katelyn and get the answers you need to get unstuck and move forward with confidence

Thank you to our featured sponsor

Written By Katelyn

Katelyn Bourgoin is the CEO of Customer Camp, a 4X founder, and a cheese lover. She lives by a simple mantra: whoever gets closer to the customer wins.

Related Posts

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation Bias

Let’s explore Confirmation Bias – why we seek out information that confirms what we want to believe.

Growth Flywheels

Growth Flywheels

Let’s explore Growth Flywheels—why the most successful businesses in the world use them to grow smarter (instead of harder).

Empathy Gap

Empathy Gap

Let’s explore Empathy Gap—why we often underestimate how much a buyer’s emotional state can influence their behavior and decisions.

The Labor Illusion

The Labor Illusion

Let’s explore The Labor Illusion—why we may value something more when we think it requires a lot of effort.

Regret Aversion

Regret Aversion

Let’s explore Regret Aversion – why we make choices to avoid regret.

Pratfall Effect

Pratfall Effect

Let’s explore the Pratfall Effect—why imperfections can actually make people like you (or your brand) more.



Let’s explore Gong—the company that harnessed customer interactions to become the undisputed leader in revenue intelligence.

Generation Effect

Generation Effect

Let’s explore the Generation Effect—why we remember something more if we put effort into generating it.



Let’s explore Mascots—why we love and buy from brands that use mascots.

Nostalgia Effect

Nostalgia Effect

Let’s explore the Nostalgia Effect—why we spend more when we remember our past.





Wanna get inside your buyer’s head? Join our newsletter and get one customer psychology tip delivered straight to your inbox each week. It’s like a 2-min workout for your brain.

You're in. Giddy up! 🤠

Become the go-to customer EXPERT

If you can figure out what makes people tick, click and buy, you can make bank

We’re often asked if we offer a certification program teaching our in-depth research methods. The answer is… not yet. But we’re working on it.

Want first dibs when we launch our new certification program? Jump on the waitlist.

You're in. Giddy up 🤠


Wanna get inside your buyer’s head? Join our newsletter and get one buyer psychology tip delivered to your inbox each week. It’s like a 2-min workout for your brain.

You're in!


If you can figure out what makes people tick, click and buy, you can make big $$$. We're working on a new research certification program. Want first dibs when we launch it? Hop on the waitlist.

You're in!


Wanna get the buyer insights you need from key stakeholders (and look like a boss)? Our new Stakeholder Mining Kick-off Session training is coming soon. Join the waitlist to get first dibs.

You're on the waitlist! We'll reach out soon!


Wanna get the buyer insights you need from key stakeholders (and look like a boss)? Our new Stakeholder Mining Kick-off Session training is coming soon. Join the waitlist to get first dibs.

You're in!