Humans are social beings. In order to have the best chances for survival and feel secure, we've evolved to live in groups and belong to a community where we can work together and take care of each other. Consequently, we've evolved to seek social acceptance and have succumbed to the influence of the other members of the group as well as the masses.
This psychological phenomenon is known as social proof, so let’s see what it means, why it's important in marketing, what different types of social proof exist, and how you can use it for your digital marketing strategy.
What is Social Proof?
When it comes to decision making, consciously or unconsciously most of our decisions are influenced by others. Social proof in marketing refers to consumers following the actions of other consumers, the idea being that if a group of people acts in a certain way it must be the right thing to do. This means that consumers are more likely to buy a product if they see other people buying and enjoying it.
Therefore, social proof in this marketing context would be the evidence provided by users, customers, and other sources that influence our purchase decisions. Since most people buy those products which are vastly enjoyed by others, social proof is used as a tool in marketing for increasing conversions and boosting sales.
Why Social Proof is Important for Digital Marketing
Shopping online doesn’t give consumers the chance to see the product with their own eyes before making the purchase. They can’t compare it to another product, they can’t touch the material, try it out, or see its quality. This is why many online shoppers need to witness the experience other people had with the product or service in order to make their final decision about whether or not to buy it.
Just think about it. When you’re looking for a product online, after reading the description what’s your next step? Reading the reviews, of course. You want to know what those who bought and tired the product think about it, since they can give you their first-hand opinion about whether or not the product is worth buying and tell you about their experience with it. So, if you see that a large percentage of those who bought it are satisfied with their purchase and had a positive experience with it, it’s only logical to feel more confident about buying it yourself. This is the great power of social proof.
Studies also show that up to 88% of consumers trust social proof in the form of reviews, testimonials, ratings, endorsements, and so on, and make their purchase decisions based on what others have to say about the product or service in question. Social proof simply adds credibility to your brand and what you sell, strengthens the relationship between you and your customers, and of course, influences them to buy your product or use your service.
Different Types of Social Proof
Before the internet era, people were making their purchase decisions based on either the connection they established with the salespeople in the store, or based on what the people around them were saying about the product or service in question. Nowadays, with the existence of social proof, this is an entirely different game. Before giving you advice on how to implement this phenomenon in your marketing strategy, let’s see what types of social proof are out there.
· Expert Social Proof - when an expert in your industry endorses your product or service.
· Celebrity Social Proof - when a celebrity or a popular influencer endorses your product or service.
· User Social Proof – when your users or customers recommend your product or service.
· Social Proof from the Crowd – when a big group of people recommends your brand.
· Social Proof from Friends – when friends of potential customers recommend your brand.
Social Proof Strategies for Your Marketing Strategy
Let’s go over some social proof examples and see how you can use these strategies to improve your digital marketing strategy.
Testimonials are a great way to show your clients that you have a great product or service. This is a similar social proof strategy to the user reviews that most online businesses have on their product pages. Testimonials have a positive impact on those clients who hesitate to buy the product or subscribe to the service you offer.
If you don’t have any testimonials but you already have positive reviews on your site, you can choose the ones you think will have the most impact on those who hesitate and use them as testimonials. If your selected testimonials include a photo of the user, his/her name, and/or website, then they’ll be perceived as more authentic and personal which will only have a favorable effect, so keep this in mind.
Ratings and Reviews
If you sell any kind of products online and have a medium or large number of users, implementing ratings and reviews should be a must. When people look for a product to buy online, they rely on the ratings and reviews that the given product has. Even before watching a movie many people first read the reviews or see the rating it has on popular movie websites like IMDb. If a potential customer is making a decision to buy a product online, the more expensive that product is, the more valuable the user reviews will be. Even if they’re thinking to subscribe to a paid service, they would still want to see what the current users think of it. That’s why many (if not all) popular websites like Amazon, eBay, Etsy and others that sell products have the rating and review option for every single product.
Influencer endorsements are a powerful way to give your clients an assurance of the quality and usefulness of your product or service. For an even bigger impact, the endorsement should be from a well-known influencer who is relevant to the service or product you offer.
Just imagine how many times you have seen an endorsement or a testimonial from a famous influencer on the front or back of a book. I know of at least a few times when that was the deciding factor for making my purchase. You can be sure that endorsements and testimonials sell, because otherwise they wouldn’t be included in almost every popular book.
Other ways to increase your credibility and get an even higher trust from your new clients is to include badges (or certifications) on your website. There are many different badges you can include or create for yourself. Some examples for certifications or trust badges are Alexa website rating, McAfee SECURE (or any other software for security that you pass), rating from some popular review website, app store rating (if you have a mobile app), and so on. Those certifications can increase the trust of your potential clients and many of the badges or certifications can be included on your website for free.
If some of your products, your services, or your website have been mentioned, reviewed, or covered on some media outlets, then you have the opportunity to use that in order to build even greater social proof. The media outlets I’m talking about can be news media channels, online media, a newspaper, a magazine, or even a radio station. When your users see the “as seen in” section that includes the media logos you’ve been mentioned in, then their trust immediately increases and there are higher chances for that person to become a customer. This is a simple but powerful method which is why some businesses even pay to be reviewed or mentioned on some media outlets.
The subscriber count, if used cleverly, can be a compelling and convincing way for your users to do some action. People want to be a part of a crowd. When they know that they're not the only ones but a part of a larger group instead, it’s more likely that they’ll accept or be a part of the given action. This social proof strategy is mostly used when you want the users to join or accept something. It can be subscribing to a mailing list that is free, giving their mail to get a free e-book, getting special offers, etc. When you know that already 100.000 people accepted the offer you're presented with you won’t hesitate as much as if you hadn’t known that, right?
Similarly to the subscribers' count, this strategy for social proof can be a great way to show your popularity and sometimes can be the deciding factor when potential customers are joining your community. Just look at it from your own experience.
For example, when I’m reading or watching something that I like to see more regularly, the more people who follow that business or person, the bigger the chances for me to be a part of the community. Somehow, from the number of followers, we know that persons’ or company’s posts and goods are of a good quality since they’re approved by the followers that business has. We simply feel surer in making the decision to join or follow a page that has many followers. Therefore, showing your social connections like Facebook likes or Twitter or Instagram followers would surely be a positive thing for your business. So, if you have a larger number of followers, make sure to make use of it.
If your business offers services and already has some clients, you can make use of that as an additional social proof for you next potential clients. Showing your visitors the logos and names of your current clients would surely increase their interest in your services, since they’ll know that at least a couple of clients are using some of the services you offer. This not only builds trust, but it’s persuasive for your potential clients as well.
The Other Side of Social Proof- Negative Feedback
Up until this point, when talking about social proof we were thinking of, of course, the positive feedback from your customers, experts, influencers, groups, and so on. However, social proof doesn’t end here. It can be your best friend that has the potential to help your business soar, but it can also be your worst enemy and drive your customers away. There is a “dark side” to social proof that you wouldn’t want to have on your website or social media pages, and yes, we’re talking about negative feedback.
If you’re selling something, whether goods or services, you’d want your products or services to be seen as the best and your customers and potential customers to trust that you’re selling them goods of highest quality. So, if they come across negative feedback they won’t trust your business as before and can get discouraged from trying out your goods or services. This can damage your business and cripple your conversion rates, but why is negative feedback so damaging?
The reason is simple. Firstly, people have short attention spans, especially in the internet era that we live in today. Secondly, people judge too quickly. And lastly, when looking to buy something online, people do trust the reviews and the feedback from others. That’s why positive social proof can help your business tremendously, while any negativity can have the opposite effect.
That being said, negative feedback is not the only type of negative social proof. If you have very few reviews or testimonials on your site, it can be perceived as poor support for what your business offers. Also, badly written social proof can have damaging effects as well as reviews that take ages to be read. In order to prevent this from happening, make sure that the reviews, testimonials, endorsements, and so on, are short and on point with an impactful message. Your potential customers need to see value in them, and above all, to trust them.
Social proof is extremely valuable in marketing. As you can see, it comes in various shapes and sizes, so make it work for you by trying out some of the above-mentioned strategies and start increasing your conversions rate today.