Have you ever wondered why customers choose certain companies or products over others that are similar? The number one reason for this occurrence is social proof. Social proof plays a leading role in purchase decisions. People will often follow the cues of others. They will often select restaurants based on how many people are in the establishment when they walk by. Because so much of a person’s purchase decisions rely on social proof, it is important to understand how social proof works and how to incorporate it into each of your marketing campaigns.
What Is Social Proof Marketing and Who Should Use It?
Social proof is the technological equivalent of word of mouth but on a much larger scale. It follows the idea that customers will choose a product or business based on the reviews and opinions of other people. Any business owner, advertiser or agency should incorporate social proof marketing into their campaigns. Here are a few examples of social proof marketing at work:
One form of social proof marketing is to display the number of customer reviews on the main product listing.
This is a great example of incorporating actual customer reviews with before and after images to back up your claims.
This gives a general number of subscribers to a blog newsletter.
This type of social proof shows potential customers how many people have already purchased or downloaded a product.
All of these marketing tactics help companies establish trust with potential new customers by showcasing the number of existing customers that are already enjoying the product or service.
The Science behind Social Proof Marketing
Since the beginning of the human race, people have been pack animals. We desire acceptance and tend to be influenced by the actions, opinions and choices of others. Because of this pack mentality, people rarely want to stand out or go against the norm. How does this benefit your business? By using social proof in your marketing campaigns, you will be speaking directly to the pack mentality of people. By showing them the number of people who have purchased your product or used your service as well as their opinion of the item or service, you are grabbing the attention of potential customers.
How to Turn Social Proof in to Sales
Now that we have discussed what social proof is and why it works, let’s look at how to use this marketing method to convert website traffic in to sales. It is important to use a variety of social proof types in your marketing campaigns. Star ratings, number of items sold/customers helped, and customer reviews all play a large role in gaining new customers; however, there is one other method that some online retailers choose to use.
This method is the countdown. It is the same countdown that has been used in infomercials for years. “Call in the next thirty minutes to get this great deal” or “only ten remaining at this special price”. Both of these statements are designed to overcome customer hesitation before making a purchase. If they believe that there are only a few items left or the sale ends soon, they are less likely to put off the purchase for later.
It is important to use an aspect of social proof at every single customer touch point. These include emails sent, company landing pages, and order pages. By doing this, you will be adding a layer of social proof at each step.
How to Fake Social Proof and Build Credibility
Chances are, your business is on a much smaller scale than that of Starbucks or Target. So, how are you supposed to use social proof if you don’t have many existing customers? Fake it. There are four ways to easily fake social proof to grow your brand and gain attention.
1. Get Certified
If your business has to do with technology, getting certified can build credibility for your potential customers. There are a number of websites that offer free certification courses for those in marketing or technological fields. Once you have received a certification, place it on your website to show potential clients that you know a thing or two about what you do.
2. Become a Partner Company
As a small business just getting started, becoming a partner company can bring huge benefits. Many large companies offer partner programs in the areas of marketing and information technology. By partnering with a large company, you will gain customer referrals while you work to develop more social proof. Many partner programs have a tier system so don’t expect to start out at the top. Be prepared to work your way up. Once there, you will enjoy numerous benefits from the partnership.
3. Write Within Your Niche
When you are first starting out, avoid talking only about yourself and your business. Go out and find the important people in your niche. Interview them and publish the interview information on your blog. In addition to interviews, write about why your service or product is important in your niche. You will want to learn or hire a reputable company, familiar with search engine optimization for blogs. SEO will help you to gain more traffic to your website by pushing it higher in search engine results.
4. Show the Numbers
Share your company stats with potential customers. This can be done in a number of ways. You can create a counter that shows number of customers, number of downloads, or number of visitors. By showing how much web traffic, followers, and users, you are proving that you are a reputable company with customers and followers. This will push potential customers to try your product or service for themselves. Remember, pack animals.
How to Gain Social Proof by Asking for It
One of the easiest ways to gain social proof is to ask your existing customers to give it to you. There are a few ways to ask customers to help you gain social proof.
The first is to ask customers to leave a review of your product or service. To do this, you should have a customer review form on your website. This will allow them to provide feedback easily on your site. But what if they forget to leave a review? Send a follow up email with a request that they leave a review and a link to take them directly to the review page.
Another great way to gain social proof from existing customers is to offer specials to those who forward your email or refer a friend to your product or service. This will encourage them to share your business with those around them. This goes back to the pack mentality of people.
Sharing Social Proof on Social Media
Social media has a large reach when it comes to potential customers, but only if you do it correctly. There are two ways to capture the attention of potential customers using social proof on social media.
The first thing to remember is that numbers speak volumes. In this method, you will use the number of satisfied customers, volume of products purchased, or number of current clients you have. You want to keep these posts short and sweet such as:
The second way to use your social proof is to post excerpts from customer testimonials. Remember when you sent out those emails requesting feedback? Look through the comments you received and choose a few to use in social media posts. This will help you to reach people that may not otherwise view your company website. A great example of this is:
Other Types of Social Proof
As your business gains new customers and begins to grow, you can begin to use a wider variety of social proof in your marketing campaigns. These types of social proof are designed for larger scale marketing campaigns and have proven to be highly successful.
Expert Social Proof
Expert social proof involves hiring celebrities or professionals that your target audience tends to relate to. This person will endorse your product in your ad campaigns. You may choose to use testimonials from influential people within your industry or, if your budget allows, a celebrity who will help to get your product out to their followers. Many celebrities will advertise for select companies on their own social media feeds, if the deal is right.
Celebrity endorsements can however cost thousands of dollars, so you should determine if the outcome will be worth the cost. Some celebrities can charge anywhere from $150,000-$500,000 for one social media post featuring your product.
The best way to use celebrities to endorse your products is to have them use the products themselves. You should also use celebrities with a connection to your niche market. This will make them a more reliable source of social proof for potential customers.
User Social Proof
User social proof refers to the reviews and testimonials from existing customers. Studies consistently show that people tend to research the opinions of others when they have already researched a product and need to justify a purchase. These reviews are often trusted just as much as personal recommendations.
You should also include testimonials from existing customers. Testimonials give insight into how your product or service has changed the lives of those who have used them. You may include a section dedicated to these testimonials on your website. This will allow potential customers to review a variety of testimonials while making their final decisions.
While testimonials give potential customers a snapshot into an existing customer’s experience, a case study will allow you to provide a deeper look into the customer story. These show the initial problem the customers were having and why they were searching for a solution and how your product or service helped them solve their problem.
These types of social proof do not always have to be in written text. Try using video or audio testimonials to further draw potential customers into the story.
Wisdom of Crowds
Remember that herd mentality we discussed in the beginning? Well, it comes into play with the wisdom of crowds. This theory uses the crowd mentality by showing potential customers how many people have bought a particular item as well as cumulative ratings from those customers. When potential customers see that hundreds of a particular item have been sold, and the overall rating is good, they are more likely to purchase that item.
Wisdom of Friends
The wisdom of friends relies on a version of word of mouth. When a customer purchases an item, have a prompt to share the purchase with their friends on their social media feeds. You should provide links to each social media platform to make it simple for customers to share their purchasing experience on each platform. To further drive customers to share their experience, you can offer special deals to customers who share their experience and tag your company in the post. You can also offer special deals to customers who forward your promotion emails to their friends.
Now that we have discussed the types of social proof and how to implement them into your marketing campaigns, it is time for you to put these ideas into action. You should begin by experimenting with social proof placement in ads, on social media, and on your website. The more you can remind a customer of how many satisfied customers you have, the better off you will be.