What is Social Proof and How Can it Benefit My Company?

Jordan

Validation through social proof positively influences potential buyers — but how does it start?

Picture this, you're walking down the street, and you're trying to find a new restaurant to eat at for dinner. There are two restaurants right next to each other — one is full of smiling people enjoying a meal, and the other is empty except for a few bored waiters. Which restaurant are you more likely to choose? Of course, you would walk into the one filled with people who appear to be enjoying their meal! That is just one example of social proof.

Social proof in marketing is utilizing others' influence to vouch for your brand or company. This method has been around since the beginning of purchasing, but the term was officially coined in 1984. In a nutshell, social proof is when companies capitalize on the behavior of others to prove or validate their service or product to other potential buyers. This social validation often positively influences potential purchases.

The Psychology Behind Social Proof

In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini states, “We view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it." This means that in situations where we are uncertain about what to do, we assume that the people around us know something that we don't. So, we look to them for cues or affirmation. 

Robert Cialdini about the Psychology of Social Proof

It makes sense, then, that we as a society lean into social proof. Social proof helps us to make decisions because it’s information from people who seem to know more than we do, even if it's merely anecdotal.

Even more, when we see social proof from people who are similar to us, it even more profoundly impacts our decision. In fact, when an audience was shown that people like them were interested in a particular product, 37% more viewers looked into that product with no prior interest.

Naturally, humans copy the actions of others. So, as marketers, it's critical that we embrace social proof. It benefits us to enable and encourage our customers to provide social proof to their friends and the people they touch through their social channels. 

How Can This Idea Help Marketers

Really, social proof is a gift for marketers. If you are good at what you do and can capitalize on your existing customers, you can utilize social proof. Used both online and offline, this technique can boost your overall reach and more strongly influence your target audience's decision-making.

Social proof in marketing boils down to easing the minds of customers before they make a commitment or purchase. Studies show that 92% of online customers look at online reviews before making a purchase, and of those viewers, the majority stated that the number of reviews was more important than the reviews themselves. 

92% of online customers look at online reviews before purchasing

This all sounds great. Right? But where do you start? With so many ways to implement social proof in your marketing strategy, how do you determine what's best for your company? Think baby steps. Choose just one method to focus on first. From there you can choose more if you wish. The best part is that you don't have to stick with one method — you can try many to see which works best for you and your customer base.

Here Are 3 Great Techniques to Get You Started

User-generated Content

Utilizing your loyal audience to generate user-guided content shows that you have a customer base that will give you their stamp of approval. There are many different ways to get user-generated content, including contests, referral offers, and showcasing products in use. By offering to feature your audience’s content on your page, you are encouraging them to promote your product.

A considerable benefit to user-generated is that it helps a brand feel human. It creates that personal connection that consumers crave when making a big decision.

A simple start to start is to ask customers for reviews. Reviews are a simple method of proving your company’s credibility, and it can be one of the most influential factors for a potential customer. Studies show that 88% of consumers trust user reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Social Media Influence

Social media is a game-changer when it comes to creating social proof. Utilizing the connectivity and influence of social media can help showcase real users who love your product. You can get viewers to share or promote your brand easily. Simply offering your followers a way to reach their community will encourage them to support your brand.

There are a lot of effortless ways to get your customers to interact with your business on social media. These include everything from hosting contests on your page to asking for reviews and offering a reward. This strategy is effective because not only are you gaining the customer’s engagement, but you are also expanding your reach to their audience. 

In fact, in 2019, 60% of customers who purchased a brand, found out about them through social media. Expanding your social media reach can make a huge difference.

60% of customers who purchased from a brand found out about them through social media.

Showcase Your Business Credentials

Has your company earned any awards or certifications that would be meaningful to your community? People want to feel justified in their decisions, and providing the proof that your company is credible and trustworthy will help them feel even comfortable buying from you. 

Promoting accomplishments your company has achieved also allows customers to celebrate with you. This also works to build the human connection your customers are craving.

Utilize Social Proof in Your Marketing Strategy

While social proof may sound like an extremely broad concept, many small steps can get you started. You can find many more examples of successful uses of social proof in this article from HubSpot. 

Just remember: adding social proof strategies to your marketing plan can benefit your brand significantly. 

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Originally published January 28, 2020 at 9:37 AM

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