Guest post by Chris Tweten.
Social proof is a powerful tool for marketers who know how to use it effectively. In a nutshell, it’s word-of-mouth, magnified exponentially by the Internet. This psychological phenomenon has further expanded thanks to the growth of social media.
People praising a product or brand through ratings and reviews increases its credibility and authority. Consumer comments have (often far) more weight than paid ads. With social proof, prospective customers get an in-depth look at a product or service without wading through direct marketing or sales-focused copy.
Social proof offers several benefits for both small to midsized businesses (SMBs) and large enterprises. But before diving into the advantages it has for marketers who embrace social proof best practices, here’s a closer look at exactly what social proof is and how it works.
What Is Social Proof In Marketing?
Think of social proof as a self-sustaining psychological feedback loop. When an unknown variable is introduced, people are likely to take action depending on the sentiments of the majority.
In marketing, the primary types of social proof are:
- Product Reviews: Reviews are the lifeblood of social proof. When researching a product, customers are likely to purchase one that has positive reviews posted across the Internet.
- Case Studies: These are the B2B equivalent of product reviews. Through produced by companies, case studies are built on verifiable customer experiences and direct quotes from business buyers.
- Testimonials: People who bought a product or service provide short, quotable statements reflecting their positive brand experiences. This type of social proof can emphasize how a product or service provided a solution to a common problem.
- User Generated Content: UGC is one of the most sustainable and cost-effective ways to market products. You can utilize photos and videos your customers share on social media and post them on your accounts. There may be cases where a customer’s content is great but the image quality is not. When this happens, you can use free image upscaler tools available online.
- Influencer Marketing: Influencers can be thought of as celebrities within specific niches or industries. They often have a highly engaged fan base. Marketers can sponsor influencers or have them review a product and share their honest opinion of it. Business to consumer (B2C) and B2B influencer marketing can both be effective, but work differently.
- Expert Endorsement: Industry experts are authoritative sources of social proof. Having an expert talk positively about your product can improve trust and enhance brand credibility.
There are countless examples of social proof online. But at its core, social proof follows these simple psychological principles:
Psychological Principles of Social Proof
The effectiveness of social proof is based on several psychological factors. For example, bias: we presume that a friend or even an online stranger will provide us with a more unbiased evaluation of a product or service than a salesperson employed by the vendor would. Here are four other key psychological principles of social proof.
Fear and uncertainty power the social proof systems. A person who lacks confidence in their own decisions, or simply acknowledges their lack of expertise in a certain category, may seek the advice of others when making an unfamiliar purchasing choice.
Similarity stimulates and boosts social proof. People generally trust the opinions of others they perceive to be like them, those they view as highly relatable. Our peers’ choices impact our decisions and actions, according to social proof research.
Social proof is more persuasive when reviewers or influencers are viewed as competent or more acquainted with the industry or product category than the observer. Product research can take a long time. But with the help of an expert, consumers are assured they can trust the quality a brand provides.
Social evidence relies on the conduct and activities of many individuals. The more individuals who agree with a notion, the more valid it looks to the observer. For example, buyers may choose a product with a 4.7 rating based on thousands of reviews over one rated 4.9 with only a handful.
Nine Benefits of Social Proof in Marketing
Brands integrating social proof into their marketing campaigns boost legitimacy and authenticity in their products and services. This can make online shoppers more comfortable about purchasing products for the first time, or business buyers about scheduling a demo.
With that in mind, here are nine advantages social proof can provide for marketers. Social proof:
Your website, social media, and emails may not convert as effectively without social proof. ComScore’s case study shows how social proof affects conversions using their landing pages. Social proof is a key component of conversion rate optimization (CRO).
On one page, Comscore added both their client logos and testimonials; the other showed only the logos. The results were an outstanding victory for the first landing page with an 84% increase in conversion rates.
Reassures Prospects with Testimonials
82% of your prospects seek recommendations from their friends and families before buying. They also seek reviews of your offerings and company from impartial sources.
Most consumers trust Internet reviews essentially as much as personal recommendations. 54% will visit a website after reading favorable reviews.
Builds Trust with Your Audience
When someone else’s experience with something we’re contemplating was favorable, it decreases ambivalence and gives our brains a shortcut to assessing if the decision is a good choice.
Social proof elements such as reviews, testimonials, and expert approval are effective at building trust and enhancing brand credibility.
Increases Purchase Probability Rates
63% of shoppers say they are more inclined to make a purchase on a site that displays star ratings and customer reviews of available items. Over 95% of consumers say they frequently or always check reviews before making a purchase (Spiegel, 2019).
In addition, 72% of consumers report they won’t buy anything until they’ve checked out its reviews (Testimonial Engine, 2019).
Grows Your Brand’s Social Media Following
Small local businesses should enable Facebook ratings and reviews immediately. According to “The numbers,” 80% of individuals are more likely to buy if they see positive Facebook reviews.
What’s more, 41% of consumers engage with local business Facebook pages based on customer evaluations or ratings. You can also browse local companies with the top reviews on Facebook. Better Facebook Page ratings boost search rankings.
Beats Traditional Advertising
As consumers’ faith in traditional forms of advertising wanes, social proof may help businesses regain the confidence of prospective customers, win over new ones, and increase revenue.
Social evidence such as customer reviews, star ratings, and testimonials from satisfied customers have become an integral component of the modern online purchasing experience.
Leverages Quality Content
Integrating social proof into your content allows you to convert more prospects through an in-depth look at what your product or business is all about. Producing and promoting high-quality content encourages social sharing by your brand advocates, further enhancing trust in your brand.
Reduces Marketing Costs
You can’t buy great customer reviews (at least not legally or ethically). But you can earn them by optimizing the customer experience.
Social proof reduces both the need to advertise and sales effort, and increases conversion rates. It’s highly effective marketing produced with very little direct cost.
Differentiates Your Offering
Earning a large number of positive customer reviews makes your brand stand out. It powerfully enhances your other points of differentiation, such as high product quality and exceptional customer service.
On the other hand, competing against a company that has built up a lot of social proof is challenging. It requires greater efforts and expenditures on tactics such as adding unique features, “white glove” service, advertising, sales outreach, and discounting.
Social proof should be an integral part of overall marketing strategy, as it promotes trust, authenticity, and authority for any brand.
Here’s a quick summary of what social proof can do:
- Boost conversions through trust signals for your audience.
- Build long-term relationships with customers through user-generated content.
- Promote a positive brand image in social media platforms.
- Focus on organic reviews from customers.
- Provide cost-effective and sustainable marketing support.
Chris Tweten is the CMO at Spacebar Collective, a white hat SEO and content production agency based in Vancouver, Canada.