You probably know that bartenders and musicians put a few of their own dollars into their tip jars when they begin work. It’s a simple trick for getting more and better tips. Sociologists call the concept “social proof”; little kids call it “monkey see, monkey do.” It’s the fact that our behavior is often based on watching the choices others make and following them. By putting a few dollars in the tip jar, bartenders and musicians create the social proof they need to produce more tips.

Uppsala University in Sweden found that audience members at a symphony are more or less apt to applaud depending on whether others are applauding. When 50 percent of an audience claps, individuals are ten times more likely to applaud than if only 5 percent of the audience is applauding. Often unconsciously, we make daily choices based on what we see others doing.

Social proof isn’t just about tips and applause. It can help you measure and improve the effectiveness of your social media marketing. Is 50 percent of your audience applauding, or only 5 percent? Avinash Kaushik, a digital marketing expert for Google and an instructor at the University of British Columbia, suggests that your “applause rate” can be measured quite easily.

On Twitter, for example, your applause rate equals the number of favorite clicks per post; on Facebook, your applause rate equals the number of likes per post; and on Google+, your applause rate equals the number of +1s per post. More applause actually generates even more applause and creates the viral impact that makes social media marketing so potent. Increased social media sharing leads to increased social media sharing. You get the drift.

Get the juggernaut rolling by creating exceptional content. Entertain, inspire, and inform. If you don’t feel confident as a writer or content creator, hire a freelancer or a social media marketing firm to create fabulous content for you. Then directly encourage your employees, partners, friends, best customers, and other contacts to share your content. It’s comforting to know that the content you’re about to post to Facebook will automatically have fifteen or fifty likes – the equivalent of a few dollars in the tip jar – by the end of the day. As you keep in mind the concept of social proof, you’ll find more opportunities to create it and to benefit from it.