What Is Social Proof?
When many of us think about adding social proof to our online marketing campaigns, our minds tend to immediately jump to the obvious – improving testimonials and reviews. Though customer opinion is a vital element of social proof, it is by no means the only way that small online businesses can use it to their advantage. The whole concept of social proof goes much deeper than just online reviews – it’s rooted deeply within the human psyche.
So if you’re actually up for a bit of psychology, let’s take an in-depth look at the concept of social proof and how small businesses can harness its power.
What Is Social Proofing?
Imagine you’re in a new city or country and on holiday – and you’re looking for somewhere to have something to eat, drink or shop. Chances are you’ll gravitate towards bustling, full places. They have so many customers and they look like they are enjoying, they must be good, right? By the same token, we also tend to avoid places that are empty when all around them are full. We see so many other people effectively endorsing one course of action over another, we immediately conclude that this must be the most advisable thing to do. Agree?
This is social proof in physical action. When we are uncertain about something, we tend to subconsciously seek guidance from others on how to act, therefore imitating the actions of others to reflect a “correct” way of behaving. It’s associated with normative social influence – or as it’s more commonly known in our digital age – “herd mentality”.
How To Use Social Proofing In Online Marketing
Marketers have long known about the herd-thinking aspects of digital advertising. But in our modern and connected world, this type of influence is now a lot more important than ever. Celebrity endorsements and influencer marketing work because they hijack our trust, respect and esteem for the person giving their stamp of approval, even though we they were getting paid handsomely!
For example, people trust the experienced beautician YouTube user who tells us that their amazing brand eyeshadow gives all-day lasting coverage because they’re the expert and you should use. Their followers are therefore more inclined to give that brand a try. We trust the well-liked, household name comic celebrity endorsing the sliced bread brand because their opinion comes with a certain credence; they’re an established figure who many people believe has good taste.
Men who follow football and also like to look after their skin may be more inclined to choose Nivea for Men because of their recent endorsement by Liverpool Football Club – or perhaps less inclined, depending on where their support lies!
How Small Online Businesses Can Use Social Proofing
This may all be well and good for the big brands like Nivea and Pepsi, but there are actually a number of ways that the smaller online businesses can harness the power of social proof in their digital marketing too.
Online Reviews – People are always looking for the guidance of others when they use trusted review sites like Facebook and TripAdvisor. Maximise the exposure of reviews by sharing them on the social media platforms and in your promotional content. If you’re a B2B website, you might also want to show off your most high-profile clients by displaying their logos or brands on your website.
If your product or service is very visual, you can encourage your happy customers to share pictures of your products or services on social media. Ask people to use a hashtag exclusive to your brand when they share so their pics can easily be found. Show gratitude and celebrate those who post nice pictures and positive comments about your brand.
If your website has a blog, use a plugin like AddThis to include social share buttons, allowing people to share your content easily on the social media platforms. To give this a social proof twist – many social buttons like these allow you to display the number of times each post has been shared on social media.
When you’re persuading people to do something, mention how many people have already done it; using content like “Why no join over 2,000 happy subscribers today” for example.
Online retailers may benefit from using real-time statistics on product pages, for example, “A user just added this item to their cart!” or “2 have booked in the last day!”
Share news of award wins, nominations, achievements and places in finals or shortlists. This proves you’re an established company who are well liked and respected by your peers.
Have you ever been mentioned (positively) in a large media publication like a national newspaper or trade magazine? Shout about it! Don’t be afraid to occasionally refer to yourself as the “XYZ as mentioned in (Name of Publication)” at strategic places within your digital content.
If you supply boutique or beauty products, you may want to look into working with appropriate brand ambassadors or micro-influencers.
Or if you have a large enough engaged following on a particular social media platform, consider applying for a verified account – usually indicated by a blue tick badge next to your account name. It shows that the social platform has verified your organisation’s identity and sees you as authentic.
Take public pride in social achievements like the number of 5-star reviews you have, your number of email subscribers or of social followers on a given platform. For example, “We’ve just hit 2,000 followers on Twitter! A huge thank you to all of our followers!”.
And finally, the best possible social proof and don’t forget – word of mouth! Referrals from within your own network can be incredibly powerful – especially if you haven’t had to ask for them!