Let’s start with a good definition: Social proof is the psychological phenomenon where people conform to the actions of others under the assumption that those actions are reflective of the correct behavior. In other words… 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 pointing and looking up at the ceiling, chances are pretty strong 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 business, products, and services are. Consumers want proof from peers and unbiased third parties. They’re trusting the experiences of others to guide their own decision making. Social proof helps potential customers and clients verify your knowledge and expertise and confirm that your business will be able to satisfy their needs, 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 customers into new business. If presented in a way that is engaging and informative, social proof can be one of your business’s most powerful sales and marketing tools.
Types of social proof
The power of the crowd: Big numbers impress. When customers begin to endorse your business, it has a powerful influence on the decision-making process of your target audience. Companies with hundreds of reviews or thousands of followers, likes, retweets, endorsements, and shares on social networks gives your business credibility and instills trust even before an initial phone call is made, a form is submitted, or a visit to your place of business is made.
User proof: The immediate credibility you earn when someone who has engaged your services or bought your products and had a positive and successful experience is willing to talk about it, write a testimonial, or review your business on social sites like Yelp and Google.
Expert proof: One of the fasted ways to establish credibility and authority is when others in your industry refer clients to you or rate and review you on social and industry websites.
Certifications: Credible 3rd parties which certifies that your business, products, and services are high-quality and trustworthy. This includes awards, accreditations, and certifications, as well as industry badges, trust seals, logos, and icons that establish your company as top-notch in your field.
How can social proof improve your company’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 and their company are regarded by others. And, that’s where social proof comes in. Let’s look at five areas with big impact:
Testimonials: There’s nothing more powerful than 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 customers providing a first-person account of what it is like to work with your business, or use your products and services. Testimonials are a strong way to build confidence in your company and build confidence that translates into new business. Actively seek and add testimonials to not only your website, but your email signature block, social posts, landing pages, videos, and presentations.
Case Studies: This is an ideal opportunity to introduce your business 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 products or services. And just like all good stories, it needs to have a beginning, middle, and end, a main character (your customer), and a superhero (your business). Your goal is to have your prospective customers and clients step into the story, see themselves as the protagonist, and have that “aha” moment.
Really great case studies are always totally focused on the customer’s journey and backed up by data. They should make potential clients think:
- This problem is like my problem
- That customer is just like me.
- That company’s product or service was able to successfully solve the problem.
- This will work for me too!
Online Reviews: It often comes as a shock to some businesses that what is said about them on review sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, or Google can determine whether a client hires them in the competitive marketplace. Reviews often form the first, and sometimes only impression potential customers have about a product, service, or business 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 customers. The more you know about your online reputation, the more you can do proactively to get in front of potential customers and clients.
Trust Seals and Media: Recognition is power. Badges, logos, awards, seals, and certifications all add to establishing credibility and reassuring potential clients that your business is trustworthy. In addition to industry badges, include mentions about your company, products, and services from the news media, video interviews, published articles, and mentions in publications.
Your Customer Base: A very pervasive and effective social proof strategy is the use of customer logos on your website. By showing potential clients your existing customer base, you’re essentially telling them that your product or service is good enough for successful companies to use… so it must be good enough for them to use too.
Savvy consumers want information, especially from third parties to help ease their minds and validate their decisions. When researching your company, they expect to see an active blog, relevant social media posts, a well-designed and engaging website and social proof from past customers and clients about the work you’ve done for them. The idea that no one is saying anything bad about your business also implicitly says that no one is saying anything good about you either. That sends a strong message to potential customers too. No news isn’t necessarily good news. Your reputation doesn’t live in a bubble.
Last but not least, there’s one piece of advice I have for you about the power of social proof… Type your company name or product into a search engine. If you don’t like what you see, do something about it. Remember, whatever you’re seeing, your customers 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.