Let’s start with a good definition: Social proof is the influence that the actions and attitudes of the people around us, either in real life or online, have on our own behavior. The "proof" element is the idea that if other people are doing it or saying it, it must be valuable or worthwhile and I should jump in too. Let’s face it, if you walk into a room and everyone is looking up at the ceiling, chances are pretty good that you’re going to look up too.
The reason social proof is such a powerful influence in the decision-making process, is that it allows a third party to tell potential clients how reputable your law firm and lawyers are. In other words, we’re trusting the experiences of others to guide our own decision making. Social proof helps potential clients verify your knowledge and expertise and confirm that your law firm will be able to satisfy their needs and help them solve a problem or accomplish a goal. A great story told in a credible way, with supporting evidence, influences decisions and turns prospective clients into new firm business. If presented in a way that is engaging and informative, social proof can be one of your firm’s most powerful sales and marketing tools.
Types of social proof
The power of the crowd: Big numbers impress. When clients begin to endorse your firm, it has a powerful influence on the decision-making process of prospective clients. Firms with hundreds of reviews or thousands of followers, likes, retweets, endorsements, and shares on social networks gives your law firm credibility and instills trust even before an initial phone call is made.
User proof: The immediate credibility you earn when someone who has engaged your services and had a positive and successful experience is willing to talk about it, write a testimonial, or review an attorney or law firm on social sites like Yelp and Google.
Expert proof: One of the fasted ways to establish credibility and authority is when others in the field of law, other attorneys, mediators, retired judges, paralegals… refer clients to you or rate and review you on social and industry websites, like Google, Avvo, or Findlaw.
Certifications and accreditations: This includes board certifications, advanced degrees and other forms of continuing education, as well as industry badges that establish you as an expert in your legal field.
How can social proof improve your law firm’s digital marketing strategy?
Building social proof is now an essential part of any digital marketing effort. Think about what you do when you meet someone new at a networking event. You take a business card and then check them out online. You intuitively want to know who they are, what they do, and most importantly, how they are regarded by others. And, that’s where social proof comes in. Let’s look at four areas with big impact:
Testimonials: There’s nothing like letting someone else toot your horn. Testimonials build trust and credibility by letting your existing clients speak for you. Nothing equals the power and legitimacy of satisfied clients providing a first-person account of what it is like to work with your firm. Testimonials are a strong way to build confidence in your law firm and attorneys… confidence that translates into new business. Actively seek and add testimonials to not only your website, but email signature block, social posts, landing pages, videos, and presentations.
Case Studies: This is an ideal opportunity to introduce your law firm and attorneys to your target audience. In the simplest terms, it is a narrative that details a success story… how a real client solved their problem or challenge by using your law firm. And just like all good stories, it needs to have a beginning, middle, and end, a main character (your client), and a superhero (your law firm). Your goal is to have your prospective client step into the story, see themselves as the protagonist, and have that “aha” moment.
Really great case studies are always totally focused on the client’s journey and backed up by data. They should make potential clients think:
- This problem is like my problem.
- That law firm was able to successfully solve the problem.
- This will work for me too!
Online Reviews: It often comes as a shock to some attorneys and law firms that what is said about them on review sites like Yelp, Avvo, or Google can determine whether a client hires them in the competitive legal marketplace. Reviews often form the first, and sometimes only impression potential clients have about an attorney or law firm and they carry weight. Reviews are more objective than testimonials, and more influential. Potential clients realize good or great reviews are earned. They’re doing their research. They're looking for stars and validation from current clients. The more you know about your online reputation, the more you can do proactively to get in front of potential clients.
Icons and Media: Recognition is power. Badges, logos, awards, seals, certifications all add to establishing credibility and reassuring potential clients that your law firm and attorneys are knowledgeable, experienced and trustworthy... that they have the expertise a potential client is look for. In addition to industry badges, include mentions about your firm, attorneys, and cases from the news media, video interviews, published articles, and mentions in legal and other publications.
Savvy consumers want information, especially from third parties to help validate their decisions. When researching your firm, they expect to see an active blog, relevant social media posts, a well-designed and engaging website and social proof from past clients about the work you’ve done for them. The idea that no one is saying anything bad about your firm also implicitly says that no one is saying anything good about you either. That sends a strong message to potential clients too. No news isn’t necessarily good news. Your reputation doesn’t live in a bubble.
Last but not least, if there’s one piece of advice I have for you about social proof… Type your name into a search engine. If you don’t like what you see, do something about it. Remember, whatever you’re seeing, your clients and potential clients are seeing that too.
Located in McLean, Virginia, just minutes from Washington, DC, Bethesda, MD, and all of Northern Virginia (NoVA) we have been helping businesses locally, and across the U.S., leverage digital marketing since 2003. Our mission is to help our clients grow their revenue and brand awareness with strategies that integrate outstanding websites, valuable content, a strong social media presence, and state of the art advertising and promotion.
With industry veterans possessing over 30 years of experience in translating technology into business tools, we have the background to guide you through the process of building traffic, sites and sales through all your web properties.