Social proof isn’t a new concept. Dr Robert Cialdini coined the term in the 1980s to explain people’s susceptibility to follow the actions of the masses.

In fact, social proof is all around us. Just look at stores with celebrity faces plastered on their windows to persuade customers that their products are the best, or restaurants that have waiting lists to appear more exclusive.

Social media has taken it to a new level. The number of likes, views, comments, or followers positively affects how others perceive a person or a brand. For instance, a Twitter user with two million followers is automatically seen as more reputable than a user with two thousand followers. It’s like a snowball. The more you have the more you attract, generating even more followers, better engagement, and more trust.

Social Proof in Marketing

People are more likely to show interest in your business if they see others have already engaged with your brand. Studies have shown that 50% of consumers use their phones while shopping in stores to research products and review customer testimonials before making a purchase.

Social proof becomes even more important when making decisions online. In a physical store, you can check the quality, compare products, and sometimes try a product to see if it suits your needs. Since this isn’t possible when shopping from e-commerce sites, you depend on other people’s opinions. The same is true when dealing with a service provider. When you meet in person you can get a sense of who they are, what their attitudes may be and how genuine they are. These qualities can be easily faked online; however, third-party social proof shows authenticity and builds trust.

In 2012 Econsultancy published that 61% of consumers are more likely to buy from a website that has product reviews. Studies in 2015 have shown that about 70% of online consumers in America look at product reviews before making a purchase. This trend is increasing and is consistent in the Australian marketplace. We believe these statistics will continue to grow as we continue to become more connected online. The trend is also true when purchasing services. We look for social proof first, to validate a buying decision particularly on high-ticket items.

Types of Social Proof

There are five different types of social proof:

  • Experts – approval from reputable experts or leaders in the industry.
  • Customers – recommendations from real-life users or customers, such as case studies, testimonials, and reviews.
  • Friends – social proof from people who are friends of your users. Recommendations from family and friends remain the most credible form of advertising.
  • Crowds – social proof provided by a large number of people or users.
  • Celebrities & influencers – social proof from celebrities or influencers who have used your products or services and promote them on social media.

Here’s how social proof can help you increase conversions.

1. Product Reviews

Reviews are the type of social proof we’re all familiar with and have a great influence on our decisions. The Local Consumer Review Survey by Bright Local found that 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. In addition, more than 70% of consumers stated that positive reviews make them trust a brand more.

Here is an example you know is true – If you’re checking out restaurants on Yelp, will you choose one that has five-star reviews or a venue with poor reviews? The same is true for phone apps. App stores use consumer ratings to determine the order of listing. If you’re looking for a ‘kids’ educational app’, the first one that appears on the list is the app that is most popular. If everyone is downloading this app, it must be the best right? The crowd couldn’t possibly be wrong… or could they? Are you going to download it yourself? Most of us probably will!

Consumers don’t just read the first review either. On average, they read several randomly chosen reviews or even go to a couple of different review sites before making the final decision. That’s why it’s important to get great reviews on all websites relevant for your industry. For real estate agency, this might mean taking a look at ratemyagent.com.au; if you’re a local fast food restaurant, aim for good feedback on Zomato or Trip Advisor.

Including positive reviews on your site’s homepage or to individual product pages is a great way to boost conversion rates. Be careful though, reviews can be your best friend or worst enemy. Having negative reviews can harm your business. As long as the positive reviews far outweigh the negative, you should be fine. The above-mentioned study by Bright Local concluded that most consumers consider using a brand only if it has at least a 3-star rating.

2. Social Media

If you’ve read our previous blog posts you’ve probably picked up the fact that we are concerned about social media and the impact it has on people. Still, we can’t deny it can have a powerful impact when it comes to marketing and social proof.

Your connections and the engagement you create can be a great form of social proof. By using the Facebook Page plugin you can display the number of likes your business has and showcase mutual friends that already like your page. Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter may also be useful depending on your target market.

Social media has its challenges, it can and is a massive waste of time for many businesses that don’t have a strategy in place. Your goal should be to minimise your time investment and maximise your connections and engagement. Some try to cheat the system and reap the benefits of having a large follower base without earning the connections. Forget buying fake followers. It’s better to invest a little time into building an organic following of genuinely engaged users.

When it comes to social media, it’s far more important what others are saying about you than what you say about yourself. This can be enhanced by adding social media sharing buttons on your blog to help people follow you or share your content with their friends. The more options you can provide, the better.

3. Testimonials

Testimonials can be a powerful for your brand. A testimonial from someone who has had a great experience with your business is an effective way to persuade people to give you a try themselves.

The weight loss industry has been using testimonials as social proof for decades in the form of ‘before and after’ images. While some claims lack credibility, people want to believe the lies, so they do.

Great testimonials don’t just state the features of your product or service, they engage emotionally with how it made them feel. They highlight the problem you solved for them and how they benefited from the purchase.

Here are two ways you can easily get more testimonials and reviews:

  • Make it part of your normal business process. If you send out invoices via email, prompt a review or testimonial in your template email message.
  • Ask an influential blogger in a suitable niche to review your product or service in exchange for a free sample. Better yet, they may blog about your business and send traffic to your website.

Ask your reviewers to use their full names and, depending on the industry, their job title (this is especially important in B2B). It will be even better if you can also include reviewers’ photos (with their permission of course).

Finally, consider adding video testimonials whenever possible. People want video! Research has shown that using the word “video” as an email subject increases click-through rates by 65%!

Once you have your stellar testimonials, here is how you can use them:

  • Create a webpage dedicated to testimonials
  • Highlight them on your blog
  • Use them in emails
  • Use them in print-based marketing material
  • Share testimonials alongside your regular content on social media
  • Turn them into case studies

4. Influencer Endorsements

Influencer marketing has been on the rise since 2016 and will continue to do so. It makes perfect sense. If people trust third-party endorsements far more than you beating your own drum, why not engage influencers to endorse your business? Authenticity and transparency are the biggest reasons you should be cautious when playing in this space. Yes, Donald Trump, it’s ‘fake news’.

For those whose moral compass allows it, influencer marketing is very profitable. On average, for every dollar spent on influencer marketing, businesses are earning $6.50. It comes as no surprise that almost 60% of marketers stated they were planning to increase their influencer marketing budgets in the next 12 months. Do we at Uplift 360 like it? Not really, but it’s something we all need to be aware of.

A survey conducted by Collective Bias revealed that blogs are the most effective channel for influencer marketing, followed by Facebook, with 19% of consumers basing purchasing decisions on Facebook posts. At Uplift 360, we believe in building your own authoritative blog and social media following and by doing so, you’ll engage with other influencers in an organic, natural way.

The Collective Bias survey concluded that 30% of shoppers are more likely to purchase a product recommended by a non-celebrity influencer. They find non-celebrity influencers more relatable and trust their opinions more than those of celebrities. The wool is certainly being pulled over the consumer’s eyes – they don’t realize they are being marketed too. We expect consumer awareness to increase in the years ahead but for now, those who wish to, make hay while the sun shines.

Influencer marketing isn’t difficult. The first step is to find yourself an influencer – an industry expert, a celebrity, or simply someone with a huge social media follower base. Make sure you know exactly who your target market is. The person you choose must have influence over your ideal target market.

Social proof is more effective when it comes from somebody your audience knows, likes and trusts. Once you find the perfect match, you can ask the influencer to write a review of your products or services on their blog, mention you in an Instagram post, etc. Again, use this strategy for good, not evil – be ethical!

5. Media Mentions

Has your brand been mentioned in publications, magazines, podcasts, reviews, or TV? Take an excerpt from each media mention and show it off on your site to establish authority.

You could also integrate the logos of the media outlets that featured your brand on your website. For example, “As seen on…”. Media mentions can be extremely powerful content on social media, especially if your brand is lucky enough to be featured in highly-popular publications like Forbes, or websites like Buzzfeed.

If you like to be proactive and outreach to media outlets including blogs, get your pitch right and prepare to do the heavy lifting for the recipient. If you can give the media a great story on a silver platter, they’ll take it if it’s a good fit for them.

If you’d rather earn media mentions organically, be realistic. You can’t expect to be featured in Forbes immediately, but blog mentions are easier to obtain and definitely worthwhile. Search Engines also love brand mentions in quality blogs because it’s a clue to them to suggest you run a great business.

In Conclusion

The above social proof tactics are just a few you can use to boost your online presence and in turn, your conversion rates. There are many more tricks you can try, such as real-time stats, displaying awards and recognition, case studies, displaying statistics, etc.

Like anything in business, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with all the possibilities and in the end, become paralysed and do nothing. It’s far better to get started and try something new. You’ll start to build momentum and discover what’s most beneficial for your business. If you’re unsure which social proof techniques are the best for your brand, experiment and see what gives you the best result.