BACKGROUND (feel free to skip):
Back in the beginning of the internet site counters were popular for administrators to provide an indication of the number of people that visit the website (there were no 'likes' or 'hearts' back then), and provided some social proof that the site was popular/useful/cool/etc. This was phased out due to the increased amount of traffic on websites these days, and the phenomenon of 'viral' content that can cause a surge in page views out of group behaviour (e.g. youtube video 'sensations').
Then it was the era of social media with facebook being the most influential in creating the 'like' action and sharing behaviour, to the extent that it has since become a de facto standard for the popular/useful/cool/etc. status of a website rather than simply page views because it requires the visitor to actively action or endorse their feelings about the website. However, this has also gradually lost its value as online marketers and social media managers can 'buy likes' (i.e. use various means to influence large groups of people to give endorsement - notoriously by buying and selling likes and using fictitious accounts to do so).
There is no question that in the age of our online and connected society, social proof is an important factor in shaping our preferences and perception of websites. However, given that the current forms of social proof is quickly losing its ability to provide genuine value about a website, can the new algorithms and increased use of analytics help provide a new type of social proof indicator? An example might be the differentiation between views and reads on publishing websites like Medium, which appears to be the amount of time a person spends on the page plus the scrolling patterns and interactions that would indicate a person actually reading the content. And what kind of form will it need to be in to overcome the issues of the current types of social proof?
I believe that the new form of social proof might take the form of a metric that tracks not the immediate action but the subsequent or follow up actions of the user. For example, if the article is about healthy eating, and the user clicks on one of the links to an organic food shop and makes a purchase then it would be counted as a social proof. So maybe an 'influence' or 'action' that is generated passively as a result of subsequent user action is what I might call it.
QUESTION: does this type of social proof already exists or is being researched/developed at the moment?
Also, are there any thoughts on how it address the shortfalls of current social proofs? I think with more intelligent bots and conversational interfaces becoming more popular it will be an interesting test to the value of this type of social proof.