What is “Social Proof” and Why Should You Care?

social-proofSocial Proof is important to your business but many aren’t familiar with the term. It is also known as Social Influence and basically, it boils down to people looking for cues on what to do based on what others are doing. Although we pride ourselves on individuality, we are find comfort in numbers and groups and often look to what others are doing for assurance that we are on the track.

So how does this impact your business? If someone is uncertain if they should make a purchase, they will look to others who have made the purchase for guidance. The more people they can see have purchased and the more people that were happy with the purchase, the more likely they are to buy themselves.

Social proof comes in many different formats, with the most common being:

  • Storytelling – you use a story to share the experiences of the people that have already used your product or service.
  • Video or written testimonials
  • Reviews
  • Case Studies
  • Comments on posts that indicate people are interested in what you have to say and offer
  • Social engagement numbers including your subscribers, followers, fans, tweets, likes, and other social shares
  • Statistics (while stats can be and often are manipulated, there is still trust built by sharing data – especially if it can be validated by a third party)
  • Imagery (of people using a product or services)

Did You Know:

Over 70% of Americans say they look at product reviews before making a purchase

Nearly 63% of consumers indicate they are more likely to purchase from a site if it has product ratings and reviews.

Pretty powerful stuff, eh? Makes you want to work on building up your reviews and other forms of social proof, doesn’t it?

Some tips for implementing “Social Proof” into your marketing.

  • Images make testimonials, comments and stories more believable which makes them more beneficial to you.
  • Most people subconsciously like things that “resemble” themselves. When reading reviews, our brains place more weight on those people we deem to be the most like us. In testimonials and case studies, avoid generic “Great service!” quotes. Outline your buyer personas and capture a moment where they described a specific pain that they solved with your product/service. Try to find a customer that represents your ideal customer. If your other customers can relate to them, the testimonial will benefit you more.
  • Use storytelling.

What would persuade you more, a 5-star review or a detailed story of how a certain product/services was able to solve someone’s problem? Both are great forms of social proof, but one is far more powerful than the other.

Stories are persuasive and more trustworthy than stats because individual examples remain in our minds, but statistics don’t.

Stories work because our brains are primed to heed their advice.

Stories are persuasive because they are able to transport us to the tale being told. (Researchers say we tend to imagine ourselves in other people’s shoes during a story.)

  • Use Influencers to achieve the “Halo Effect”:

Since an “influencer” has already established a reputation, anything they involve themselves with is seen in a better light by association. Connecting yourself to people or brands with credibility, transfer some of that credibility and trust to you by association.

  • Less is not more:

People look at the social proof you make available to them and determine if it’s “enough” to be compelling. If you don’t have enough, you are better to go with none until you can bulk it up. With none people have nothing to judge, but with “a little” they start to wonder why there isn’t more.

  • Use Social Widgets:

Display your social networks and engagement numbers with widgets on your site or Blog.

  • Use Case Studies:

Case studies show what other people who were just like you are now experiencing as a result of making a decision to buy something that you have the option to buy too. If you see enough of these sorts of case studies you start to see the outcome as a forgone conclusion. Make this purchase and the result is yours, because it has happened to so many other people after buying.

  • Use Blogs and Social Media:

One of the simplest forms of social proof you will find on Blogs are comments. Comments are indicators that enough people are paying attention to what you are writing to reply. The same applies to the facebook “like” and twitter “tweet” buttons and before them, the Digg and Stumble buttons, and more recently Pinterest “Pin” button.

  • Gather your social proof:

Chances are you already have built up social proof. You may have received positive feedback emails from customers who have benefited from what you sold them – can they be your next case study? Do you have a lot of comments on a particular Blog post, or can you add a comment function to something to start building a social proof resource? Facebook comments? Pinterest followers? Etc etc.

If this isn’t something you have focused on, it’s time to start! You can almost instantly increase conversions when you effectively implement Social Proof.

By the way, you can use Social Proof on your site, landing pages, Blog posts, ad campaigns, social media marketing and more.

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