Just for a short time, put yourself in a consumer’s shoes. Imagine you are walking around the city trying to find a place to have dinner at. Then you get to a street where there are five restaurants next to each other. Three of these restaurants are jam-packed with people eating inside while the other two are completely empty. Would you eat in one of the filled restaurants or the ones that are empty?
We are very sure that you’ll go inside those that have people inside even without giving it another thought. And, it has nothing to do with coincidence. It’s a natural human reaction because of a psychological occurrence called “social proof”
What is Social Proof?
Social proof simply means the natural decision of someone to follow whatever everyone else is doing, wearing, eating, buying, or patronizing. The psychology behind this is that because people are going for it, then it must be the right thing to do.
Let’s circle back on the example we have above. The reason why you instinctively want to go to the restaurants with more people is that you assume that since there are people in it, their food must be good. Similarly, you will think that the restaurants that are empty must have bad food because no one eats in them. This is essentially what social proof is. Even if the empty restaurants actually have better food, you are bound to choose the one with more people because your mind tells you that it is more trustworthy.
The concept of social proof isn’t entirely new. People have made decisions based on how the majority of the group behaves even from the start of time. It was just recently that this term was coined.
There was a popular experiment conducted to show the exact concept of social proof. It was called the Solomon Asch conformity test that was conducted in 1951.
It was headed by a psychologist named Solomon Asch who wanted to prove that people are more likely to go with the decision of the majority even if it was the wrong choice. After the experiment, Asch concluded the following:
- People make choices because they want to fit in a particular group
- People follow the group because they think that the group, collectively, is more informed than them
Digesting everything so far, you can also conclude that social proof can be used as a powerful weapon for marketers. You can use the popularity of what you offer and convince people that you are the best (and correct) choice among your competition.
The Importance of Social Proof in Digital Marketing
With the example about your dinner restaurant above, you saw how important social proof is in the physical setting where you see a group right before your eyes. So, you can just imagine how more critical it is in the digital setting. Let’s start by looking into some statistics.
- 91.9% of SMB owners said that the reputation of their company is 25% of the value of the entire business.
- 83% of customers believe ratings and reviews more than the ads they see.
- Only 53% of buyers consider trusting a business or a product that has less than a 4-star rating.
- 95% of buyers say they read the reviews of a product or a service first before they move forward with the purchase.
- 72% of buyers will only make a purchase after they have read at least one review.
- A product with more than 5 reviews will have a 270% chance of being purchased than another with no reviews.
- 82% of potential buyers hunt for negative reviews to ensure the legitimacy of a product.
- On average, it takes 10 reviews before a consumer puts trust in a product.
When you buy online, things are a little more complicated. You don’t get to try the product first-hand. You don’t even see it in the flesh. You can only rely on photos and what other buyers have to say about it.
Before checking out that statement shirt, you go into the reviews section and see what other buyers have to say about the quality and the fit of the shirt. Even if you were initially captured by the product, your decision can be easily swayed by the opinions of others because they have more knowledge of the product than you do.
There’s even a little bit of a hybrid here. People actually start looking at reviews of a product when they enter a store physically. How? They use their smartphones to research about the product in front of them before buying them.
Examples of Social Proof
Where can you see social proof in marketing? Honestly, it is right before your eyes. Here are a few examples of social proof in action.
Star ratings let consumers see what people think about the product at a glance. Sometimes, they don’t read the entire review and just judge a product based on how many stars they see on a product page.
Social proof is sometimes used in headlines to make the article more interesting. It also contributes to the authority of the ads. For example, in the tagline “We can do it!”, we see the word “we” and that creates a picture in your head that you have others with you who are making the right decision.
Highlighting a Product’s Popularity
We automatically think that the products with the most sales are the ones that we should be having. Brands use this way of thinking to present their products in the market. They put the popularity at the forefront of the marketing strategy because they know that consumers are very susceptible to being convinced that popularity equals quality.
This is the most popular social proof example in the digital world. Consumers trust the community more than advertisements. If they find a few people saying something good about a product, then they would definitely buy it. This is why many businesses feature reviews from their past customers. Some even go to greater lengths by featuring video reviews because seeing the product in action and being used by someone feels more authentic.
Ways to Use Social Proof in Your Marketing
Now that you already have the right knowledge of what social proof is, let’s dive into how you can apply it to your business and your marketing. Here are a few simple ways you can use this simple but powerful tool to bring success to your business.
Highlight Customer Testimonials and Reviews
Getting approval from those that bought your products before through ratings, testimonials, and reviews is the biggest way to convince new customers about your brand. It is even more compelling if the testimonial or the review came from someone they personally know. If they have a friend who told them about your product, they will most likely buy it too.
If you display how many people have already experienced all the good things that your product has to offer will create the “FOMO” emotion in your potential buyers’ mind. FOMO means “Fear of missing out” and it is just that. It is the fear of missing out on what everyone is raving about.
You can highlight your past customers’ reviews in many ways. One, you can ask them to use a branded hashtag when they create a review. Or, you can find their reviews and share them on your social media channels or even your website.
Many businesses are afraid to display customer reviews because they might include negative ones. But, remember that something with only good points can be viewed as “too good to be true” by others. You would want a few criticisms about the product to have that balance and authenticity.
Customer reviews normally are effective in industries that are very saturated and competitive. You can increase your product reviews through a lot of ways including:
- Manually asking customers for a review
- Reaching out to repeat customers
- Do surveys
- Offer incentives in exchange for reviews
Your customers will leave a review even if you don’t ask for it. So, it is important to regularly check on review sites and do social listening to get fresh reviews and add them to your website.
Testimonials might be very old-fashioned but they still hold the same power until now.
Get Approval From Authority
Another way to utilize social proof to gain more customers is by getting recognition from authoritative entities.
If you’ve noticed on Instagram and Twitter, there are accounts that have a blue checkmark beside their name. This means that they are verified and recognized by these huge platforms as legitimate entities.
Similarly, you can also do this by tying yourself to trusted authorities that are more recognizable and popular. This guarantees a boost in your brand’s credibility.
If you have prominent clients or you’ve collaborated with popular names in the industry, don’t be afraid to take advantage of it! Show them as proofs in your social media accounts or website. Whenever you can, also include appropriate images to further showcase the connection.
Mentions from the press and the media is another great way to kick your credibility up another level. Reach out to popular publishers, news sites, or media partners and ask them to mention your business and feature you. If your business has been featured by a popular publication, show it!
This does not only make your audience trust you but it’s also a green light to search engines that your website is legitimate, increasing your chances of ranking higher in the SERPs.
Work With Influencers and Brand Ambassadors
If you have a little more budget on hand, invest in working with an influencer. Finding an influencer that can help you nowadays is easier. Before, your endorsers have to be industry experts in order to get a certain level of trust from your followers.
Today, anyone who has a huge following online is a candidate to be your brand ambassador. But, this does not mean you get the influencer with the biggest number of followers on board. You also have to make sure that they fit your brand and they can actually help your company as much as your company can help them.
Of course, it is a very good added bonus if your product is being endorsed by someone who is an expert in your industry. But, if you find an influencer who fits your brand (Tip: find an influencer that fits your target audience persona so they are relatable), you’ll surely have your credibility shot up.
If you have upcoming special events or promotional seasons, consider featuring an easily recognizable influencer to dominate your brand. Having a good working relationship with an influencer is a win-win situation for both parties. You get to reach out to their audience while they can get their name recognized by your customers.
Apart from the ones we have suggested above, here are additional ways that can help in further increasing your social proof.
We have slightly mentioned this above. If you are active in social media, you want your accounts to be verified (getting the blue checkmark) by Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. When your followers or anyone who comes across your account see the badge, they would automatically think that your brand is not only popular but also legitimate.
This is also a major factor that search engines look at when ranking you higher in their results page.
Celebrate Audience Milestones
Another way of using social proof to convince your potential customers is by celebrating audience milestones. What does this mean? It’s really simple. It’s just a statistic but it can have a very big effect on your credibility. When you reach a certain number of followers or likes, then don’t forget to highlight it.
Displaying your actual number of followers on your social media posts or websites will help your audience decide whether to trust you or not. We go back to our original concept. The more people know about a brand, the more correct it is.
Utilizing social proof is not a cheat. You are simply taking advantage of and highlighting your brand’s popularity in order to attract more customers. You don’t have to be afraid of anything just as long as you deliver what you promise.
So, make sure your reviews and testimonials are fresh, start reaching out to influencers and work with them, and don’t forget to celebrate audience-related milestones!