Social proof: What it is and why you should be doing it
When you’re on the hunt for a new skincare product and a friend recommends a $10 facial serum that none other than Kim Kardashian also swears by, you’re probably going to be tempted to investigate.
I mean, if Kim uses it, it MUST be good—right?
Then you look up the company on Instagram and see that the company has 1.2 million followers, hundreds of posts, and literally thousands of five-star reviews.
You haven’t even visited their site and you’ve already got goodwill for the brand. What is this magic marketing sauce that made you want this particular spendy serum?
It’s called social proof.
What is social proof?
Social proof is a term coined by Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book, Influence.
It sums up the way that humans are more likely to trust and value something when we witness others doing it.
Why is there a long line outside the local bakery? If all of those people are queueing up, it has to be for a good reason, right?
Social proof is basically the big sister of FOMO (fear of missing out) and can make or break a store’s online success.
eCommerce stores today can leverage social proof more than ever to prove value, enhance their online reputation, and drive sales.
So, what are the main types of social proof and how can they be used to build your customer base and grow online?
Types of social proof
There isn’t just one way to show your potential customers that people like and trust you. Social proof comes in many forms and they can (and should) be used concurrently to make your customers starry-eyed.
Here are some of the most common types of social proof you can start utilizing today.
Reviews and testimonials
Unsurprisingly, almost 70% of users look at online reviews before making a purchase.
Allowing customers to leave reviews and add star ratings on your online store shows that you have enough confidence in your product to hear feedback.
Use positive reviews to your advantage and display them on your website or share them to your social media account.
Displaying reviews on your website from third-party platforms like Trustpilot hold particular weight as customers know that the review hasn’t been edited by the retailer.
Wondering how to ask for testimonials from customers?
After making an online sale, send out a friendly follow-up email asking for feedback to get the ball rolling.
This example from Hello Blooms is the perfect illustration of a simple, no-pressure email encouraging customers to disclose what they got right (or wrong).
Image: Hello Blooms
The importance of social proof is never more apparent than on social media.
Creating meaningful online experiences for audiences that are both engaging and worth sharing will start a conversation within your community and help to grow your following.
Sharing customer reviews on your social media accounts can earn positive attention and could be the tipping point that convinces a customer to buy your product.
Once people see that others love what you do, they’ll be so much more likely to trust your brand. Responding to your customers’ reviews, mentions, and shoutouts will encourage and maintain the conversation and show that you appreciate them reaching out.
User-generated content (UGC) on social media is growing in popularity.
UGC is content created by users organically and shared online. A good way to encourage UGC is to ask users to share images of themselves using a hashtag specific to your brand.
Word of mouth
For businesses that are just starting out, it’s hard to get all the social proof you need to get the ball rolling.
That’s where referrals come in super handy.
A friend’s stamp of approval can go a long way to convincing someone to buy. They trust their friend and, by extension, they start to trust the business being recommended (your business).
Incentivize referrals with a special deal if their friend buys. For instance, Girlfriend Collective gives your friend $10 off their first purchase and you get a free pair of leggings.
Image: Girlfriend Collective
In other instances, the referrer earns points (a la an affiliate program) for each new customer they bring.
At its most basic, you are asking your awesome customers to bring their friends to the party.
Experts and influencers
When an influencer or micro-influencer shares the love for your brand, your social proof can go through the roof.
The main thing to note here is that often customers are aware that collaborations are paid, so it’s a fine line between a genuine endorsement and something that comes off as just another sales pitch.
Image: Usain Bolt
Inviting experts as a guest on your social media story or Facebook Live video discussions allow you to use their positive influence and offer something of value to your following.
Having an expert write a guest blog on your website is another great stamp of approval.
Trust seals and certification
Adding trust badges to your checkout page can significantly boost your social proof and increase conversions.
Trust badges are seals of approval from places like Norton, PayPal, and McAfee to reassure customers that their private information is in safe hands.
According to research by Trustpilot, customers are 77% more likely to purchase when they see a safe checkout or authorized seller badge on an eCommerce site.
Displaying certification badges shows customers that you are part of something bigger and allows you to piggyback on the social proof of other, more well-known organizations.
If your company has won an award or achieved a certification, displaying it on your site can build credibility and increase customer trust.
In the same way, the famous blue tick on Twitter and Instagram shows that you’re approved by the platform as an authoritative, trusted, and popular user that is both credible and genuine.
It’s all about building trust and goodwill
Social proof is all about building trust with your customers by creating value through credible products and amazing service.
It’s not about tricking customers into thinking you’re trustworthy—it’s just proving that you are.