Social Proof: Why It Matters and How To Get It

Human psychology is highly geared towards sociability and we have always been guided by what their peers were doing. It's the meeting of this instinct and technology that has given us the rise of social media which, in many ways, has been one of the defining features of the 21st century so far. 

It’s also the reason social proof works wonders in marketing and should be part of the marketing mix for any ecommerce business. When people see other people lining up to buy your products, or , they’ll want it as well. 

What Is Social Proof?

In marketing, social proof is the evidence a company can provide that their products or services are valuable to other people. In general, this will include:

  • Reviews
  • Testimonials
  • Screenshots of customer opinions
  • Surveys and reports of a product’s efficiency

These assets trigger a psychological phenomenon in which people copy other people’s behaviour or choices. The term “social proof” was coined in 1984 by Robert Cialdini in his book “Influence” and it’s been used in various fields ever since.

But there’s no need for specialty literature or studies to see the value of social proof. People use social proof for a lot of decisions. What hotel or restaurant to pick, whether or not to trust an online course, and what gym they decide to go to.

Social proof is everywhere, and it’s an important aspect to buyers’ decisions. 

Social Proof In Numbers

The modern buyer can’t be swayed with just a flashy ad. In fact, 87% of consumers do thorough research before a purchase. A lot of that research goes into checking what other people have said about a product. The average consumer reads 10 reviews before committing to a purchase.

So peer opinions are valuable. But do people only care about what their close ones think about products? While it’s true that 90% of people are more likely to buy something if it’s recommended by a friend, the same study shows that 72% will trust a stranger’s opinion as well.

This is accentuated by the younger population. 18 to 24 year olds are more likely to trust a company if their product page has an average of 203 reviews

But freshness is important as well. More than 8 out of 10 buyers don’t consider a review older than three months to be relevant.

So the numbers are pretty clear - people care about social proof, and it’s a requirement for good conversions, especially in the B2C sector.

The Benefits Of Social Proof

The easiest benefit to see in social proof is mathematical: better social proof will usually result in more conversions. Especially if it’s placed in the right places. But there’s more to social proof than an instant improvement in numbers.

The reason people tend to buy more when seeing social proof is because it simplifies their decision. When someone ends up on a landing page, they’ll usually come up with objections like “what if I can’t trust this person?” or “what if this doesn’t really help me?”. Social proof stops these objections in their tracks. Social proof also helps build trust within a target audience. Even if someone doesn’t buy instantly, seeing a testimonial or a review from a trustworthy source makes them more likely to purchase in the future.

Not to mention, social proof gives a company credibility. This is especially important for high-ticket products. The average buyer won’t be willing to part ways with a lot of money if they don’t know anything about a company beforehand.

Sourcing Social Proof

For companies that want to leverage social proof in their marketing efforts, the first step is sourcing content to use as social proof. For that, marketers should analyze existing customer feedback. Any online reviews, messages from previous customers, or existing survey results are a good start. All of this information needs to be centralized and accounted for. 

A classification of these assets wouldn’t hurt either. It makes it easy to add social proof whenever any marketing asset is created, like a landing page, marketing communications, or a sales page.

If this initial baseline of social proof doesn’t cut it, businesses can generate some. This can be accomplished with a few tactics:

  • Asking customers for reviews. It’s a good practice to nudge each new customer towards a review. A follow-up email a few days after the purchase works great with this. As long as the product has been delivered already.
  • Sending out a survey. A customer survey is great to gather social proof, but it provides even more benefits. With the right questions asked, customer surveys can also serve in decision-making.
  • Contacting influencers. Getting a recommendation from big names in a niche can be much more valuable for any business rather than a simple review.

That last point is extremely important. Social proof is more valuable when the recommendation comes from a position of authority. So businesses that want to leverage social proof in their marketing efforts should focus on identifying authority platforms in their niche, and setting up a collaboration model to get their input.

Using Social Proof The Right Way

For businesses that already have social proof to highlight, it’s important to use it strategically. If the placement of social proof is haphazard, or if it’s too cluttered, it won’t be a valuable asset in any marketing campaign.

So here are some good rules of thumb for how to use social proof:

  • Mix it with other conversion-focused elements, like benefits list, product images, or offer boxes.
  • Add it to the checkout page/area. Social proof helps mitigate a lot of the objections that arise at that stage of a funnel.
  • Give them the company’s flair. Social proof doesn’t have to be raw screenshots to be authentic. Branding helps a ton when fitting social proof in other promotional materials.

In Conclusion

Social proof is one of the best tools to leverage a product’s strong points. It relies on scientifically proven psychological mechanisms to convert more, and it can guarantee credibility for a brand.

As long as businesses source it effectively, and display with with intent, social proof is an avenue for growth.

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