Have you ever watched a movie or listened to a specific artist because a friend of yours suggested that you should? Have you ever bought one product over another because of online reviews that you read? If so, you’ve experienced social proof.
Social proof is all around us, whether we realize it or not. It’s why we make many of the decisions that we do. In this article, we’ll explore social proof in marketing — what it is, why it’s important, and how to use it. Ready?
What’s Social Proof?
The term “social proof” was first coined by Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book, Influence. Throughout the best-seller, Cialdini explores the psychological phenomenon where people willingly model the actions of others in order to reflect appropriate behavior.
For example, let’s pretend that you’re visiting a new town for the first time. It’s lunchtime and you’re hungry. As you walk down the street you see two different restaurants, one is full of people, the other is completely empty. Which restaurant would you rather eat at?
If you’re like most people, you would choose the first restaurant — the one that’s full of people. Why? Doesn’t it stand to reason that if you eat at the empty establishment, you would be able to get your food quicker and eat it in peace? After all, the chef isn’t currently cooking for anyone else and there aren’t a bunch of other diners talking and making noise.
But according to Cialdini, most people don’t think that way. He says, “we view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.” Meaning, most of us would choose to eat at the first restaurant because we assume that if everybody else is eating there, it must be for a reason. The food must be better.
Why Does It Matter?
You can probably already tell why social proof in marketing is so powerful. When used correctly, it can make your sales skyrocket! This is especially true for companies that operate, in large part, online.
In a brick and mortar setting, customers have the opportunity to directly compare and assess different products. They can see them in person, hold them in their hands, even try them on our test them out in many cases.
Online shoppers don’t have this luxury. Thus, they rely much more heavily on the experiences of others to inform their buying decisions. In a nutshell, they use social proof to choose between products.
How to Use Social Proof in Marketing
Now that we know what social proof is and why it’s so important, we’ll outline five main ways you can leverage this principle to boost your business.
1. Display Positive Reviews
The most common way to use social proof in marketing is to display positive reviews in front of customers. Buyers are more likely to buy products or purchase experiences if there are a lot of positive reviews endorsing the products or experiences in question.
In fact, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations according to BrightLocal. But it’s important to note that today’s buyers don’t trust reviews in isolation. Most folks check two or three review sites before purchasing.
So do what you can to “spread the love” and get reviews on multiple sites, including your own. For local businesses, Yelp, Google, Foursquare and Facebook are good bets. Software companies should focus on sites like Capterra and G2 Crowd.
2. Interview Happy Customers
Interviewing happy customers is another great way to leverage the social proof phenomenon. These interviews can then be turned into case studies or short testimonial pieces and displayed on your company’s website.
Why does this content strategy work so well? Because it gives the reader context. Take a fitness company for example. If a prospect reads a testimonial about how a particular workout routine helped a customer finally lose weight, they may think, “hey, I’ve struggled to lose weight too. If this product worked for them, why can’t it also work for me?”
If you know that you have happy customers, reach out to a few of them and ask if they’d be willing to be interviewed or give you a quick testimonial. You can even sweeten the pot and offer to reward them in some way (discount coupon, perhaps?) for participating. The increased social proof your company will gain will far outweigh any expenses you incur.
3. Secure Meaningful Endorsements
Why do companies like Nike pay millions of dollars for star athletes to wear or use their products? Because it’s another form of social proof and the increased sales these brands secure are worth the expenses paid. The same is true for movie stars who promote perfume lines, cars, and other items.
When the general public sees that an athlete or celebrity is associated with a specific product, they automatically trust the product and the company that makes it more. They think, “if so and so public figure’s name is associated with this product, it must be good.”
Notice how this tip says “meaningful endorsements,” though, not “celebrity endorsements.” That’s because you don’t need a million dollar budget to take advantage of this strategy. Influencer marketing has exploded in the last few years with the rise of social media. Now, you can pay folks with strong social followings a small sum of money to endorse your company and enjoy the benefits.
The trick with any kind of endorsement, be it from a celebrity or a social media influencer, is finding the right partners. Not every person with 50,000 Instagram followers is right for your business. You need to understand your audience and offer endorsements to folks your target market respects and follows.
For example, if you sell African safari excursions, a well-known businessman might not be a great partner. His following is looking for business advice, not travel tips. On the other hand, an Instagram travel influencer might be perfect.
4. Grow Your Social Following
Speaking of social media, the size and engagedness of your company’s following on different platforms can be another social proof factor. Businesses that have thousands of fans on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter look more legitimate than ones that only have a few hundred. Therefore, new potential customers tend to trust businesses with impressive social stats.
That definitely doesn’t mean you should measure your success by the number of followers your organization has. But if it does happen to have a large following, use it in your social proof marketing efforts.
5. Showcase Your Achievements
Finally, showcase your company’s achievements to boost social proof. This could mean announcing awards your business has one, impressive user numbers, publications your organization has been featured in, and more. This is just another way for your brand to show that it can be trusted.
Think about it, if a restaurant were to win a prestigious award, wouldn’t you be more inclined to eat there? When you learn that a software you’ve been eyeing already has 100,000 customers, aren’t you more likely to use it too? And when you read information on the internet, don’t you feel more comfortable if the advice comes from someone who’s been featured in major publications?
This is social proof in action. If you find a way to showcase your brand’s achievements without coming across as arrogant, you’ll see more success.
Social Proof Your Way to Business Success
Social proof in marketing is powerful! If you can learn to leverage this phenomenon in your company’s favor, you’ll see sales, revenue, and brand recognition explode.
The five tips mentioned in this blog post will help you. Just remember to display positive reviews, interview happy customers, secure meaningful endorsements, grow your social following, and showcase your achievements. Good luck!