Social proofing, we’ve all been influenced by it. First day on holiday in an unfamiliar part of the world, you feel the rumblings of hunger in your belly and head into town to get dinner in one of the many restaurants lined up along the seafront. They all look the same, the menus are as identical as the shouty hosts trying to convince you that their restaurant is “the best”. So how do you make a choice?
Most people start by immediately discounting the ones that have no customers. Far too risky, there could be very legitimate reasons no one else wants to eat there. And so the options are quickly narrowed down to the busier places – their customers must know something I don’t.
And that is how social proofing works. It’s a kind of mix of FOMO, risk aversion, and human nature’s need to conform. Using social proofing for your business is the digital equivalent of making your current customers visible to your potential customers. Just selling the products they need and shouting at them to buy from you doesn’t work, your marketing strategy needs to include “earned media”, reassuring content from an independent, unpaid source.
How to social proof your business
There are a whole host of things you can do to incorporate social proofing into your business. From enabling reviews to working with influencers, you really are spoiled for choice. However, it’s important to remember that just using everything available will make you look a bit insane. Also, not all social proofing methods are appropriate for every business, so make sure that you only adopt the ones that compliment your brand and business function.
Let’s take a look at some of the options:
Reviews – Product reviews are so powerful that a customer will willingly spend more on an item that has a better review than a cheaper option. As a general rule, these opinions come from people who have not been incentivised, and so have no to reason to manipulate the truth in order to convince you to buy. Reviews are trustworthy and often numerous, so if they’re predominantly positive, chances are the product is decent. Interestingly, according to Trustpulse.com, the likelihood of purchase “peaks at a star rating of 4.0 – 4.7, then decreases as the rating gets closer to 5.0”, demonstrating that too much review perfection can make people suspicious.
Statistics – Another way to demonstrate your customers’ satisfaction is to display your business stats. So, for example, if 10,000 people have bought one of your products, make that visible on site and in your communications. If you have 50,000 subscribers, tell people. 50,000 people can’t be wrong, right? Longevity is also attractive to buyers, the longer you’ve been around, the higher the chance you know what you’re doing. If you’re an established business, consider including the date your company began trading in your stats display.
Tickers – Tickers are a rolling live feed somewhere on your site that tells people what your customers are up to in real time. Those shorts you are indecisive about? Steve82 from London just bought a pair. Well, if Steve is happy to buy them, then I guess it won’t hurt to splash out. Tickers are also great for competitive or prize-based businesses. A lottery company, for example, would benefit from displaying real-time wins to help reassure players that their site is legitimate and prizes are actually being won.
Case Studies – This is for all the B2Bs out there. Often when a company requires a service, they will spend a lot of time trying to figure out if it’s really worth the money or if they could do it themselves. Save them the time and effort by adding a historical ‘Case Studies’ section to your site. Here they can visualise exactly what you can do for them, how it will look, and the benefits your service will bring them. It’s also a subtle way to show potential customers that you have had customers in the past who thought your service was worth using.
Testimonials – Testimonials are great, but also very easy to do wrong. Often testimonials are written by the company themselves and then just approved by the customer. If all your testimonials are done this way, the repetitive tone will make it seem contrived. Try to get authentic, original information from your customers. If your branding allows, get something funny, anecdotal, casual, so that it feels real. For more serious, professional vocations, make sure you include language that is specific to your industry and not just bleh words like “Great service, will use again.” Testimonials that include the company logo or photograph of the reviewer tend to do better, so play around with composition to see what works for your business tone.
Social Media – We’re all aware of the power of social media, but when it comes to business, we still tend to use it as a one-way street, attempting to channel customers from our Facebook page to our site with clever posts. This is absolutely great, and it works, however using social media in the other direction is also a good way to promote social proofing. Depending on your product or service, it can be beneficial to display your social media numbers on your site or in your communications. If a company has 100,000 followers and 25 of them are people you know, then these guys must have their shit together. Be careful with this though, if you’re a law firm or in the medical sector, for example, attempting to capitalise on your social media popularity can make your motives questionable and looks unprofessional.
Trust Widgets – A trust widget is the display of a score or accreditation that you have been given by a trusted external source. Trustpilot and Trip Adviser have branded star widgets that you can include in your content, for example. This shows potential customers that you are a legitimate business with a history of safe service and happy customers. In the UK it’s common to find the ATOL logo on travel websites, this authority gives financial protection to people who have bought from a member company, so offers great peace of mind. Same goes for chartered businesses displaying their memberships, these little touches all add to the social proofing picture that your customer is trying to build before deciding whether to buy from you.
Influencers – Combining the power of celebrity influencers and consumer influencers is another channel through which you can build trust with your customers. Although celebrity influencers are incentivised to promote a product, they will still add a bit of star-power to your brand. There is a general feeling that they will only endorse products that meet their standards and make them look good, so there is still an element of quality communicated through their ads. Consumer influencers, on the other hand, are normal customers with a modest following who can be found on large review platforms. Some of these trusted influencers get millions of hits on their reviews, so it can be worth making them aware of your product to access their audience.
Social Proofing in Numbers
Although the benefits of social proofing by now may seem obvious, it’s the data that really makes you appreciate its importance. Here are some of those numbers for your eyeballs:
- 92% of consumers trust non-paid recommendations over any other type of advertising.
- One good review can increase conversions by 10%.
- Customers will spend 31% more on a brand that has positive reviews.
- 70% of people will trust a recommendation from someone they don’t even know.
- Customers acquired from referrals have a 37% higher retention rate.
- Testimonials can increase conversion rates by 34%.
- Facebook influences more than 50% of purchasing decisions.
- Influencer content gets 8 times more engagement than content shared directly from brands.
- 40% of people have purchased a product online after seeing it used by an influencer.
- Businesses are averaging €6 for every €1 spent on influencer marketing.
The beauty of social proofing is that there are no deceptive tricks, it’s not a clever way to convince customers to buy from you, there’s no “Use this colour because it evokes happiness” or “Use this word because it makes people feel comfortable”. If your product is good enough, people will talk about it, simple as that. Social proofing is a way for you as a business to make sure that you’re not the empty seafront restaurant. That when your current customers talk about you, your potential customers can hear them.