I was doing a little online shopping the other day for my dogs. Nothing expensive, just some toys and treats that each ran under $10. But instead of just hitting buy on such affordable items, I did something interesting instead.
I looked at reviews and read what people had to say about each toy. This one falls apart easily. Skip. This one is great for large dogs with high energy. In the cart. This one squeaks incessantly and kept me up all night. Double skip.
It seems odd that I felt the need to read what strangers had to say about such a small decision. Yet, I trusted their opinions. And I’m not alone in that. Research shows that 91% of consumers read customer reviews either regularly or occasionally and 84% trust those reviews just as much as they would a good friend.
Why on earth do we care what strangers think about the products we buy? Well, it all comes down to social proof, and reading customer reviews is just the tip of the iceberg.
What is social proof?
Social proof is a psychological concept that basically boils down to we care what other people are doing and we will reflect their actions.
For example, let’s say you’re on a date and you decided to be spontaneous and pick a restaurant as you walk along the street. You see two similar restaurants ahead. Same cuisine, similar prices, except one is completely empty and the other is bustling with people. Which do you choose?
Most of us will assume the busy one is better, without knowing anything about the food quality. And that’s because of social proof.
The 5 Different Types Of Social Proof
Social proof comes in many different shapes, sizes and forms. Here are the five overarching types of social proof out there and how you can apply them to your business.
1. User social proof
The example I used at the beginning, reading reviews, falls under this category. User social proof comes from your current or past users, and we’re likely to believe them because your users have no stake in your success (unless they’re an affiliate, but that’s another story entirely).
Testimonials: Testimonials are a form of user social proof, and they can be placed right there on your website (in fact, I recommend sprinkling them in as often as you can). For greater credibility, try to include a photo and the full name of whoever is giving the testimonial.
User Reviews: It’s clear by now that potential customers will most likely read your reviews. So go ahead and ask customers to leave you a review on your Facebook Page or online shop if they were satisfied with your product. And tell them if not, to contact you directly and you’ll work out a solution. Excellent customer support can turn a bad situation around and result in an even more glowing review than if they had never had a problem at all.
Case Studies: By far the most time-intensive of the three, case studies are a powerful form of user social proof because they tell an in-depth story. Reach out to a customer that has previously left you a glowing review and ask to interview them for a case study on your blog or website. For example, if you run an acne medication business, tell the story of a young woman who struggled with acne and tried every product on the market to no avail…until she found your product which FINALLY cleared up her acne and gave her the confidence to try out for the school play (Note: this has to be a true story). Make sure to get some juicy quotes in there from your user.
2. Expert social proof
My favorite artist once posted about an off-brand paint he swears by. I then spent hours looking for this Mexican brand that couldn’t be shipped to the US and tried to figure out loopholes. Why did I do this? Because someone who I viewed as an expert in his field recommended it.
Expert social proof is when someone who we view as a pro in a niche reps a product, ideally not as a paid ad.
Influencer Posts: The most common form of expert social proof comes from our modern-day influencers. It can be a tweet, an Instagram mention or a full-blown blog post. But it will boost your sales. And sure, you can find influencers to pay to promote your products (people do it all the time). However, genuine endorsements will do better and are likely to be perceived as more credible. Reach out to non-competing experts that have an audience similar to your niche, and offer them a free sample of your product. For example, if you sell organic artisan ingredients, send some to your favorite food bloggers. Or if you sell a developmental psychology book for parents-to-be, ship one off to your favorite mommy blogger to check out. Depending on how well-known the influencer or expert is, display their quote on your website as well.
Media Logos: Has a media-source such as Wired, The New York Times, or The Wall Street Journal mention your brand? Add their logos to your website under an “as seen in” section. These reputable sources will instantly add credibility to your brand, even without reading the story.
3. Celebrity social proof
Celebrity social proof can be a tricky one to come by unless you have a lot of extra cash lying around or friends in high places. However, it sure is effective (both in good and bad ways). Just look at Kylie Jenner. The CEO of clothing brand Fashion Nova said each branded Instagram post by the celebrity generates around $50,000 in sales. When she tweeted that she’s over Snapchat, Snap, Inc. saw a $1 billion-plus drop in market value.
Celebrity Posts And Ads: This one will cost you. If you have the money to afford a celebrity endorsement, whether in your own ad or on their social pages, go ahead and reach out to their team. Just make sure their following fits your target demographic (Lebron James won’t do you nearly as good selling food processors to chefs as he will selling Nikes).
Celebrity Sightings: Unlike the former, there’s not much you can do to ensure this one happens, other than pray that the stars align in your favor. If a famous person decides to use your product, say a book on investing stocks, and is spotted reading it around town, you might see a boost to your bottom line.
4. Wisdom of the crowd
Have you ever done some online shopping and sorted your options by “most popular?” Well my friend, you have just listened to the wisdom of the crowd. This form of social proof is endorsed by thousands or millions of people. And many brands use it…even the infamous golden arches. On many of their signs around the country, it says “over xx billion served,” proving that many like McDonald’s.
Include It In Your Copy: Encourage your potential buyers to join the crowd by mentioning your large user-base in your Call-To-Action or copy. For example, if you have a copywriting membership site, maybe you have a pop-up on your page that says “Join Over 22,000 Members Who Get The Most Up-To-Date Copy Knowledge On The Market.”
Add Most Popular Categories: If you have a lot of products or content, give your visitors a way to sift through everything by using wisdom of the crowd. For example, if you run a blog, allow users to see your most popular blogs on the sidebar. For a less-advanced website, you can always create a best-sellers page.
5. Wisdom of friends
In the past few months have you asked a friend for restaurant recommendations or for a good movie to watch? Well, you have partaken in wisdom of friends social proof. And while wisdom of friends is often organic, in today’s digital world, there are many ways to show people that their friends like you.
Social Shares: As of 2017, 81% of the US population had a social media presence, making social likes and sharing incredibly powerful. Encourage people to “like” your brand on all your channels and to share your content. Enable share icons, or even create “share to unlock” content. Another way to get your content to show up on your followers’ friend’s feeds is to ask them to comment. Facebook’s algorithm suggests pages and articles based on how your friends interact with it, so the more friends that like, share and comment on an article, the further it reaches.
Create Referral Links: Offer incentives to share your product with friends. Give both the user who shared your content and the friend who received it a percentage off when the friend makes their first purchase. For example, the brand Scentbird offers a “give one, get one referral.” This motivates their current customers to share their product with friends, and encourages new users to try it because they get something free and it comes from someone they trust.
As you can see from the list above, there are many different ways that you can and should go about adding social proof to your brand, but here are a few easy ones to get you started right away.
- If you have any good reviews on your product, list them as testimonials on your website. Kartra has many testimonial templates for you to choose from, so all you have to do is drag, drop and copy and paste.
- If you’ve gotten any media mentions in well-known publications (doesn’t matter how small), list the logos on your website.
- In your emails and website CTAs emphasize your large customer base or following.
- Add an automated email to your post-purchase sequence asking new customers to leave you a review.
Social proof is an incredibly impactful way to influence your customers and reach new ones. This is especially true when there’s any uncertainty present. Having social proof on your website, marketing materials and social channels will help uncertain consumers become certain much quicker.
Which type of social proof has worked best for you? Share it with us in the comments below!