Social proof is precisely what it sounds like – proof that other people have vetted a certain product or service and found it met their expectations. We’re social creatures, and as such, we still rely on the opinions and behavior patterns of the crowd to an extent. When in doubt, we tend to look to the group for approval and guidance, and in the case of products and services, our faith in the experience of others is well-placed.
The first things that come to mind when discussing social proof are online reviews and testimonials. They are most people’s go-to when looking into new products or services, as they paint a (more or less) realistic picture of their advantages and disadvantages.
You’re probably asking yourself some questions at this point. What different types of social proof are there? Why is social proof crucial? And, maybe most importantly, how can I utilize social proof to boost my business?
We’ll go over all of these with you and show you some examples of effective social proof representation.
Let’s take the most basic form of social proof as an example: word-of-mouth recommendations. They happen to comprise the decision-making process of the majority of consumers aged 18-34, as 92% of them rely on their parents or friends when making buying decisions.
That’s how important social proof is for people who make up a large portion of all consumers. It’s crucial to point out that family members and friends constitute reliable advice-givers and help us gain trust in a brand.
Now consider online users. If you take word-of-mouth out of the equation, they’ll need more social proof to reach a decision. 91% of online shoppers rely on reviews, while the overwhelming majority of them are frequent social media users who are likely to use social networks as an additional channel to discover more about a brand.
The statistics don’t lie—almost every potential customer out there will be on the lookout for reviews, testimonials, social media posts, or a combination of these types of social proof before reaching a buying decision.
That should be incentive enough to get out there and build your brand’s visibility and reputation instead of lurking in the shadows without a significant online presence.
However, social proof extends beyond reviews and testimonials, despite these being the most common types of proof of customer satisfaction.
The following items all qualify as social proof. There can be more, but we’ve rounded up these most common ones, which we believe will be helpful to your business.
Whether you’re looking for a new restaurant in town or a new mattress to buy, you can turn to reviews from past users to help you find the ideal service or product.
Similar to reviews, testimonials also represent users’ feedback regarding an interaction with a certain brand. While reviews generally appear on social media or review websites, testimonials are usually proudly displayed on the company website.
Case studies are more result and data-oriented social proof than reviews and testimonials. Usually, a brand reaches out to one of its most satisfied customers to collaborate on a written piece that breaks down how the brand helped them achieve some specific (and often remarkable) results.
This is one of the best marketing strategies and certainly the oldest. Most of the time, prospective customers hear about an interesting product or spectacular service from a friend or family member who highly recommends it.
A large portion of any influencer’s following are people who are very much interested in every aspect of the influencer’s life, including the products that the influencer advertises or uses personally. A product appearing on one of their photos is all the social proof some people need.
After all, that’s why they’re called influencers—simply by advocating for certain brands or showing some products as part of their lifestyle, they’re able to influence trends and consumer behavior.
Different kinds of awards, certifications, and accolades all contribute to the trust between a brand and its potential customer. They come from reputable third-party sources which verify that yours is a trusted brand and that they have invested resources into making sure the quality of your products or services is top-notch.
On social media, news spreads like wildfire, and people talking about products or services is bound to catch the eye of new customers. Hashtags make news travel even faster, so it’s quite easy to learn more about the experience people had with a given product.
Users, i.e., satisfied customers, can take it upon themselves to create content featuring products or popular services. Memes, gifs, videos, and forums are treasure troves of social proof.
All of the above have a shared goal—to showcase other people’s experience with the brand you’re interested in and help you make a decision for yourself.
But we can’t overlook the topics of negative reviews. When there aren’t too many of them, negative reviews are fine and even a good marketing opportunity. A few less-than-perfect comments demonstrate that the product is being used by real people and that their experiences will inevitably differ. A few unfavorable reviews here and there can be considered positive social proof.
Obviously, a high percentage of negative reviews could suggest a problem with the product or service. It’s a sure sign that something is wrong and that the company needs to investigate.
On to the more practical matters. What can you do to extend the visibility of your brand and show that you’re a dedicated company with your customers’ interests in mind?
Just like social proof builds trust and confidence, so do examples of companies that have already done it right. We’ll provide you with a couple of businesses that you can learn from and take away important lessons about using social proof to advance your marketing strategy.
Take Somnifix, for example. They won’t make you work hard to find proof of trust, as they feature user reviews right there on their homepage, and they feature an entire page on their site just for reviews. Make it convenient for people to find the social proof they need instead of relying on review-only websites.
On the other hand, Bay Alarm Medical takes a more modern and interactive approach to social proof by using video. Their videos show satisfied customers discussing the quality of service the company provided them and serve as excellent social proof that people can rely on.
Impossible takes an approach that’s different altogether, maximizing the power of user-generated content. They post images of customers using their products who have tagged them on Instagram. They not only publish their posts but also express gratitude for the customer.
Orizaba Original, like Impossible, displays images that their clients send them on Facebook. What’s more interesting is that when they posted one customer photo wearing a hoodie, another customer reacted with a picture of themselves wearing a similar hoodie in the comment section.
Mannequin Mall decided to demonstrate their social proof by highlighting major brands with which they collaborate. With this, they provide social proof through a trustworthy third-party—if major brands like Louis Vuitton and Nike have put their trust in Mannequin Mall, they’re obviously top-notch.
Codeacademy features interesting success stories of their former students who went on to do great things after taking a course in coding. This form of testimonials is fantastic social proof, as it serves not only to showcase professionalism but also to inspire future users.
Sprout Social devotes a whole page to their social proof. They’ve got reviews, testimonials, huge companies, satisfied consumers’ tweets, and so on. But it is their case studies that we will emphasize. They include some tweets and video testimonies in addition to the statistics and analytics. If you’re thinking about creating a case study, have a look at theirs for inspiration. It’s entertaining, as it’s presented through storytelling. Readers are drawn into a tale about the company’s success rather than being bored with numbers.
When choosing influencers, though, be careful. Examine whether they share your company’s values. Allow them to be themselves while representing you, but make sure they do it in a way that is appropriate for your brand. And don’t forget that it doesn’t have to be a well-known influencer: all they need is a strong fan base.
Every marketing strategy you come up with down the line should include a plan on how to best tackle social proof. Whether you decide to reach out to satisfied business partners for a case study or build a decent collection of testimonials on your website, just make sure that potential customers have enough reason to see you as a brand with a successful and provable track record. That way, they’ll be more eager to put their trust in your services—and you’ll get potentially lifelong customers.