With the rise of inbound marketing, social media advertising and so many other techniques, powerful forms of marketing continue to emerge. But there's a fundamental concept that is often forgotten or underutilized: social proof.
Social proof originated from normative social influence, a theory that states people will take certain actions to be accepted or liked. Social proof occurs when people adapt their behavior to match what others are doing. It helps to build trust and turns prospects into paying customers by accomplishing these two things:
1. Providing evidence to prospects and leads that confirms they are making a good decision
2. Demonstrating that others have made the same decision with beneficial outcomes
The reason this works so well is that you’re creating either an emotional or logical appeal backed by some form of evidence—statistics, reviews, case studies or other pieces of social proof.An emotional appeal associates feelings with your product or service—often by using fear, humor, empathy or sensuality—to convert leads into customers.
A logical appeal, on the other hand, leverages your leads’ rationale by discussing the quality of your product or service and demonstrating its usefulness.
People like to examine the actions of others to determine what their own actions should be. That’s why sitcoms use pre-recorded laugh tracks to influence the audience at home to join in the laughter and perceive humor in the moment. Can you imagine watching Seinfeld or Cheers without laughter in the background? It would be a completely different experience.
Word-of-mouth is another example of social proof marketing and is one of the most effective tactics for converting leads into customers. It ranks right up there with solid SEO practices, engaging calls to action and a high-quality user experience.
Bottom line: social proof plays a vital role in marketing because it demonstrates trust, a driving factor behind purchase decisions.
The goal of social proof is to drive a conversion. The best way to do that is to gain your audience’s trust and establish your brand’s credibility.
The trust factor is a critical aspect of believable social proof. Prospects and leads can usually tell when things are and aren’t authentic. Never create—or pay for—fake reviews and client testimonials, and don’t fluff up your case studies. Let your products and services speak for themselves and allow real customers to sing your praises.
We’re all familiar with commonly used social proof elements like reviews, testimonials, case studies and endorsements. But knowing how to acquire them is a bit more tricky.
Ninety percent of people say online reviews influence their purchase decisions, and 88 percent of people trust online reviews from complete strangers as much as personal recommendations. BrightLocal even discovered that going from a lower rating to a 5-star rating on Google increased search click-through rates by 25 percent or more.
Use these four simple tactics to start collecting your own reviews and testimonials:
1. Ask questions. Social media, blog posts and emails are all great mediums for asking questions. All you need is one good reply that you can start using as social proof. Outside of social media, it’s important to ask permission before using customer reviews and testimonials, especially if they’re on a third-party website, like Amazon. If you can’t acquire permission to use customer feedback, link to the original review or testimonial. When you create surveys, make sure to add a disclaimer that allows you to legally use feedback from customers.
2. Maintain a strong social presence. Comments, engagements and Facebook reviews are all forms of social proof. If you have a healthy social media presence, you can share your results as social proof on your website, through email and on other social channels.
3. Send surveys. Surveying your customers is an easy way to collect social proof. SurveyMonkey, SurveyGizmo, Getfeedback and even HubSpot all offer ways to send surveys. If you don’t have an email list or database of customers to choose from, place a survey on your website.
4. Share unique data. Provide value to customers with exclusive industry reports, quarterly statistics, and custom graphs or charts in exchange for reviews and testimonials. This has the added benefit of positioning your brand as an industry leader, which enhances the credibility factor.
The ROI of customer surveys is especially exciting. For example, a study in Boston showed that a 1 percent increase in customer satisfaction led to a 10 percent increase in customer loyalty. Even better was that their study proved a 5 percent customer retention rate resulted in profit increases of 25 percent to 125 percent.
Case studies are one of the best ways to showcase the ROI of your product or service to potential customers. The question is how do you get clients to participate in a case study? Many clients don’t want to make public the advantages they’ve experienced thanks to your solutions. However, there are a few ways you can get clients to participate in case studies, even if they’re hesitant at first:
Keep the client anonymous. While it’s ideal to name the client—especially if they’re a recognizable brand—it’s better to have a case study with an anonymous client than no case study at all.
Share the case study restrictively. Contractually agree to only share the case study in one-on-one sales interactions, and never publish it on your website. This often alleviates clients’ anxiety over not wanting to reveal competitive advantages.
We all know the power of reviews and engagements on social media, but there are other social proof tactics that can be just as effective.
Approximately 79 percent of the U.S. population uses Facebook and 29 percent use LinkedIn. Creating a group on either platform is a great way to document audience engagement, showcase your brand’s happy clients, and deliver a steady stream of social proof. It also allows you to control the flow of online conversations relating to your brand. Keep in mind that Facebook groups are ideal for B2C brands, and LinkedIn groups are ideal for B2B brands—although Facebook is still the No. 1 advertising platform for both types of brands.
Partnering with social influencers can provide serious social proof clout. It not only increases brand awareness exponentially, it can also provide a sales boost because 49 percent of people rely on recommendations from influencers to make purchases.
There are three different levels of social influencers:
Find influencers who share a common audience and communicate your interest in working with them while offering a benefit. This could be a free membership or trial, a gift of branded products or a percentage of sales from a specific campaign.
To run a successful long-term influencer campaign you should focus on creating a stable influencer network. Align with respected social influencers in your industry to improve brand perception and produce social proof.
There are three types of brand affiliations that can be especially effective on social media:
Affiliating with respected brands increases your own brand recognition, provides competitive advantages and boosts your credibility—all of which can produce social proof.
Check out these successful brands that are using the power of social proof to boost conversions and drive online sales.
Tom’s of Maine
When you’re selling natural, healthy products, it’s essential to use social proof to demonstrate the success of your claims. Few brands do it better than Tom’s of Maine. Check out the product page below where the focus is clearly on their 4.5-star review average and 89 percent recommendation stat.
In addition to reviews and recommendations, Tom’s of Maine also shares customer success stories and testimonials—like the one below—to demonstrate how the average person can achieve exceptional results.
They even carry their social proof strategy through to endorsements on social media. In the Instagram post below Pretty Little Liars star, Ian Harding, endorses the brand’s popular toothpaste.
The premise of Artifact Uprising’s brand is centered on sharing, preserving and celebrating their customers’ memories and stories. It makes sense, then, that they showcase the joy their customers experience when receiving their products, just like in the YouTube video below.
Similar to Tom’s of Maine, Artifact Uprising also uses social media to demonstrate social proof. In fact, they’ve got an entire archived version of stories on their Instagram account dedicated to customer reviews:
Reelika Shulte shows women how to create coaching packages and takes a slightly different approach to social proof. Instead of showing reviews, testimonials or ratings, they show their customers’ social activity in real-time on their landing pages. Using integrated social proof featured from Proof Technologies, the brand was able to achieve an incredible conversion rate of 75 percent:
Learning that social proof builds trust is all well and good, but if it’s not turning prospects into leads that are converting into paying customers, you’re missing the other half of the equation.
Here are three ways you can use social proof to support revenue generation:
You can’t just tell people your product or service will solve a problem. You have to prove it. Or—more accurately—let satisfied customers prove it for you. A video testimonial or 5-star review from a customer that raves about the value your product or service added to their company is priceless.
Seeing is still believing. Prospects and leads rely heavily on visual proof to influence their decisions. Case studies and testimonials that emphasize the benefits your customers have experienced can turn disinterested leads into paying customers.
People trust numbers. Tell them how many customers have purchased, how many people are viewing the product page, what the sales numbers are, or the number of 5-star reviews. It can mean the difference between a purchase and an abandoned cart.
It’s good for more than just sales, too. JetBlue employs Net Promoter Scores to attract new talent and retain current employees by demonstrating their high satisfaction rates.
It’s important that you maintain a mindset of longevity when using social proof to boost conversions. Every lead that turns into a customer can either become a one-time purchaser or a lifelong brand advocate. Aim for brand advocates every time.
Brand advocates are five times more valuable than regular customers.
That’s because you can’t ask for more effective social proof than word of mouth. Brand advocates don’t just become return customers; they actively spend time promoting your brand.
One of the biggest benefits social proof offers is that it helps leads validate the decisions they make on your website. For example, you can overcome the purchase hesitations of a lead using a customer testimonial video or a solid case study proving the efficacy of your product or service.
Make it as easy as possible for leads to choose conversion as their preferred action by demonstrating at every turn the value your customers will experience.