Every day, we make decisions. Where to get lunch, what kind of car to buy, what book to read—these choices are not made solely on a take-out menu, dealership commercial, or the New York Times Bestseller List. In the digital age, people rely less on brand messages, and more on social proof—making them more likely to check Yelp, CarMax and GoodReads, before making a purchasing decision.
What is Social Proof?
Social proof, a term coined by psychologist and author Robert Cialdini, is the name for a phenomenon whereby people make decisions based on what they perceive to be the “correct” behavior for a given situation. As people increasingly share their experiences with products and services online, others make decisions based on those experiences. Thus, the word of other consumers is starting to carry more weight than that of brands.
Why Social Proof is Important
Social Proof is extremely important to the success of a brand. Buffer cited that 70% of consumers say they look at product reviews before making a purchase. Additionally, your potential customers trust product reviews 12 times more than your company’s product description. And according to Google, there’s an average of nearly 30,000 monthly searches for reviews.
Let’s look at the automobile industry as an example. When buying a car, consumers are getting 45% of their information from online reviews and comparisons, and just 10% from the brand owners and operators. Based on these facts, it’s important to consider a positive review a qualified lead for selling your product.
Harnessing the Power of Social Proof
Social proof can happen anywhere online, but when it comes to your business, you have a lot of control over how people interact with your website and social channels. Here are five ways marketers can leverage social proof:
1. Customer Reviews and Ratings
Feedback about your product or brand is one of the biggest ways potential customers will judge you. In fact, 88% of consumers look at reviews to determine the quality of small and local businesses.
Encourage your website visitors to leave reviews. This can be as simple as using the AddThis Overlay Tool to solicit feedback through a lightbox on your website, or as resource-intensive as building out an entire review and rating system. An even simpler solution is to enroll your business in Google Local so that customers can leave reviews.
You can also create review content, if it makes sense for your brand. If there are complementary products or industries that align with what you’re offering, you can create content that will position you as an authority. Not only will people come to your website for your product, but they’ll also come to see what you’re saying about other products. For example, bicycle enthusiast web site Bike Radar offers product reviews as part of their content mix.
2. Social Likes and Shares
When people like or share your content or products on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, they become an ambassador for your brand. Their social media posts become a kind of social proof. Their friends and followers will look more favorably on your brand and become more likely to engage with you online.
Encourage social sharing on your site. With AddThis Share Tools, you can customize which social networks are featured, where the buttons are placed, and even integrate them seamlessly into your website design with color and shape options.
3. Credibility Symbols, Press, and Testimonials
Credibility symbols are like seals of approval. They give users a reason to trust your company—especially if they’re first-time visitors. Some examples include:
- Better Business Bureau logo
- Security verification logos, like those from MacAfee and Verisign
- Professional organization memberships
You can also create an “as seen on” graphic to show visitors where you’ve guest blogged or to brag about any media coverage you’ve received. A section of your web site that showcases press mentions is an instant credibility booster for your brand.
When customers give you positive feedback, use it! Pull quotes from online reviews and social media postings, or solicit testimonials through a form or comments on your website. Or, run a contest soliciting video testimonials that you can use on your website after the contest has ended.
Companies pay big bucks for social proof in the form of celebrity endorsements, but if you get lucky and learn about someone famous talking about your product, use it in your marketing efforts. If luck isn’t on your side in terms of a celebrity using your product, then don’t discount a co-marketing strategy with smaller-but-respected blogs. A mention is a mention; even when coming from a “normal” person, it offers validation.
Also, target influencers within your industry—people who may be more accessible but still well-known among your target audience—and get your product into their hands. And don’t forget about social media celebrities—those with a large following who might not be specifically in your industry, but might be likely to use your product. Engage with them on social media—one retweet could mean 1000s of visitors to your website.
5. Use your social proof.
Use your product feedback to sell your brand. If someone on Twitter is raving about your newest product offering, quote them in the email you send out announcing the launch, or include it in the blog post you write about it. Social proof should be a constantly-evolving part of your marketing strategy. The more customers you get, the more social proof you have to work with.
Word-of-mouth has always been one of the most effective ways to grow a business, and social proof takes that concept a step further. The internet gives companies a unique opportunity to measure brand awareness and perception, and turn those findings into a powerful marketing tool that gets people to your website and ultimately, your product.