What Is Social Proof?
Humans have a natural tendency to want to conform in order to fit in. This has been demonstrated time and time again from crazy fads such as the “duck face” pose of 2014, to the timeless peer pressure of feeling like you have to behave a certain way because everyone else is doing it. Social proof in marketing refers to using third party influence in order to appeal to your customer’s natural tendency to want to fit in.
Social proof is a way of demonstrating that others have made a choice (e.g. to use your product or service) in order to encourage potential customers to behave in a certain way (i.e. buy the product or service).
There are many different types of social proof including:
One of the most used types of social proof in marketing is customer or influencer testimonials. The idea that other people have used and benefited from your product or services, encourages potential customers to follow suit. This is particularly effective when using testimonials from well known companies or respected industry influencers.
For example, if you are marketing a mobile phone app, a raving review from the CEO of Samsung would likely have a greater impact on potential customers than one from “John Smith from Adelaide”. However, the type of testimonial that will work best is entirely dependant on your target audience.
The slight difference between reviews and testimonials is that testimonials are solicited feedback. This means that reviews are written by customers who have taken it upon themselves to advise others of their experience with a brand. This lends reviews slightly more authenticity than testimonials as businesses would obviously ask satisfied customers for a testimonial, whereas both satisfied and unsatisfied customers can leave reviews.
However, if your business is lacking reviews, instead of asking for a testimonial from your satisfied customers you could instead ask for a 5 star Google review as this will appear more genuine to sceptical customers.
Pro Tip: When asking customers for a review in person, it is best to offer to show them how to leave a review on the spot. This way they will be more likely to leave you a great review as you are standing right in front of them. Additionally, this guarantees the review as, if you leave them to complete it in their own time, even the most satisfied of customers is likely to forget as soon as they leave your store.
High Profile Customer Logos
Another form of social proof is displaying high profile customer logos. Going back to our natural instinct to fit in and follow the crowd, if users can see that well known brands that they trust have used and benefited from your services they will be much more likely to follow suit.
Industry Partner Logos
Displaying industry partner logos works in exactly the same way as high profile customer logos. Showing that known brands trust your business builds trust for your brand by association. This is particularly useful for newer businesses that have not had any high profile customers yet as you can still display the logos of your suppliers.
Google & Facebook Star Ratings
Displaying positive Google and Facebook star ratings (for example, a banner that says 4.9 stars from 100 reviews) shows that the majority of people who have used and reviewed your services have had a positive experience. This builds trust for your brand.
Additionally, combining Google and Facebook reviews into a single star rating allows you to display a high star rating from a larger number of reviews while retaining the credibility of a Google review (users are much more likely to respond positively to Google reviews over Facebook reviews).
Another way to use social proof to get potential customers over the line is to display supporting figures, for example, “we’ve helped over 10,000 customers in your area”. Showing that so many other people have used your service (particularly if they are similar to the customer in some way – e.g. “in your area”) encourages new potential customers to act in the same way.
There are many other types of supporting data that can be used to encourage users to complete the call to action including the age of the business (for well established businesses) and the combined total of industry experience (e.g. “combined 75 years of manufacturing experience”). Each of these supporting figures have been proven to increase website conversion rates as they lend authority and authenticity to the business.
Before & After Photos
This type of social proof is particularly useful in the service industry, especially when used in supplement to a customer testimonial or review. This is because anyone can write about how great their product or service is, however, displaying pictures of how your product has benefited real people comes across as more genuine, as it is much harder to fake photos than reviews. (For example, an image of a car before and after a detailing service).
What Are The Benefits of Using Social Proof?
Social proof can be used to increase conversion rates and boost sales as it gives potential customers a third party, impartial opinion. A raving review or testimonial from a well known company will convert much better than a great product description, simply because people trust other people more than they trust a marketer that is trying to sell them something.
When used correctly, social proof can boost the credibility of your brand, counter popular objections to your product or service, provide a believable answer to frequently asked questions and convince potential customers that they need your services.
In fact, if uncertainty or trust is a main obstacle for potential customers, correctly using social proof will have a huge impact on your bottom line. This is because when people are unsure, they will look to others for guidance. If you’re providing impartial guidance in the form of influencer testimonials and customer product reviews, you will be able to convert customers that otherwise would have left your site to think about the purchase, only to promptly forget about your product.
What Type Of Social Proof Works Best?
There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to deciding which type of social proof is the best. In fact, a customer testimonial that doubles conversions on one website could have no effect on another.
The type of social proof that you decide to use should be based on your target demographic and the product that you are selling. For example, case studies and data driven analyses tend to work best for business to business (B2B) sales. Whereas, positive social media mentions are generally more effective for business to customer (B2C) sales. However, you may still find that your customers respond better to social mentions than case studies for your specific B2B product.
The number one way to ensure that you are getting the best return on investment from your social proof is to conduct testing in order to gauge what your audience responds to. A/B testing should be an ongoing tactic for any marketing campaign, changing the size, placement and content of your social proof in order to find what your customers respond to.
How To Use Social Proof To Boost Conversions
There are many different ways to use social proof to guide your customers to convert, the success of which will be highly dependant on your audience and product. However, here are some universally useful techniques to increase conversion rate with social proof to consider including in your A/B testing.
Position In Areas Of Friction
One strategy that has proved to be successful is positioning quality social proof in an area of friction. For example, near the pricing of your product, which can often put off potential customers, you could add a review describing how your product has benefited a previous customer (even better if the reader can relate to the reviewer e.g. same age/job/location). This allows potential customers to visualise how your product can improve their life too.
Another possible area of friction would be claims that may seem too good to be true at first glance. However, adding a testimonial describing how the bold claim was realised for a past customer lends legitimacy to the claim.
Legitimise Testimonials & Reviews
Another way that has been proven to boost the performance of social proof is by legitimising testimonials and reviews with photos, full names, company names, and position within the company. This is because users are much more likely to believe a review written by “Aaron Hughes – Harvey Norman Warehouse Manager” with an accompanying photo, than one from “Jane – Age 36”.
Regularly Update Testimonials
When displaying customer reviews and testimonials on your website it is important to keep them up to date. After all, if you are on a website with reviews from 10 years ago, the next thought is that there hasn’t been another satisfied customer in the past decade.
In fact, you should constantly be scouring the internet for new mentions of your brand and reviews on popular sites such as Yelp or True Local. This will allow you to regularly refresh your reviews as well as test which reviews your customers respond best to.
Counter Common Objections
Quality social proof can also be used to counter common objections in a believable way. For example, if you find that your potential customers are worried about the quality of your product, simply stating that the product is “quality-made” will do little to ease their concerns. Alternatively, a customer review that specifically addresses and counters this concern (e.g. “I was worried that the product would be low quality because it’s so cheap, but I was actually amazed at the quality”) is much more likely to persuade hesitant customers.
Social proof is a great way to appeal to our innate desire to fit in in order to persuade customers that they need your product or service. There are many different types of social proof and different ways that they can be used in order to get the most out of your marketing campaign.
However, there are no hard and fast rules for using social proof. You may find that tactics that have worked for many other businesses, may not perform well on your website.
For best results, the type of social proof you choose to use and the way that it is displayed should be based on your products, customers, and A/B testing, rather than what may work for someone else.