The power of social proof has long been understood and commodified. The best advertising strategy a business can follow is encouraging customers to speak about the company, its products, their experience with the business and why they would use them again.
Testimonials provide businesses with the social proof they need to secure customer loyalty. However, publishing social proof is a way to generate new high-quality leads and close sales. This publication of reviews on your social media, website and other digital mediums can motivate shoppers to decide on your product or service and brand.
So what are the six main types of digital social proof and how do you secure these conversations for your brand?
What Is Social Proof?
Social proof is a psychological phenomenon that makes people act like their peers. We all seek community approval, it is how we fit in and get along with others in a copasetic environment.
This adjustment of our behaviour or following the advice of our peers is evident in all we do. The way we dress, the manners or social niceties we use, and how we present ourselves all follow from social cues that help us identify with our community and generate a feeling of acceptance in that community.
Celebrity culture and influencer followings are an example of how social proof compels audiences to find their identity and make choices that show their connection to that person. If a celebrity is popular because of a celebrated film role, but they then do or say something publicly that is not culturally acceptable, the tide can quickly turn and that person is discarded, or in some cases, ‘cancelled’.
Social Proof and Consumer Behaviour
Social proof affects consumer behaviour, too. If a business or product has a bad reputation consumers tend to avoid that business. A bad review can taint even a good experience for some customers.
However, a recommendation can compel a shopper to close a sale. When shopping online, a store with a 5-star review makes customers more likely to trust that business and make a purchase.
Social proof is a quantifiable phenomenon:
- About 70% of customers read online reviews before making a purchasing decision
- 40% of consumers rely on recommendations from friends and family when researching new brands
- Over 92% of B2B buyers are more likely to purchase after reading a trusted review
6 Different Types of Social Proof
There are six types of social proof that can be used by brands to connect with audiences.
- Family and friends
- Expert social proof
- Celebrity social proof
- Previous customers and users
- Wisdom of the crowd
Publishing social proof on your landing page, social media or other communication channels has been proven to drive sales.
While motivations for B2B and B2C purchasing decisions differ, social proof is relevant to both. Modifying how that social proof is used in the different marketing styles for B2B and B2C is simply a matter of tone. Experts, professionals and those with social clout should be used for B2B social proof, and B2C can rely more on a relaxed narrative style with proof provided by friends and family.
Social Proof on Your Website
There are many ways to include social proof on your website, and there are different types of social proof that can be used to connect with audiences.
Social proof can be as simple as comments or the collation of data into usable facts that can bolster the validity of the brand.
- “Trusted by B2Bs worldwide”
- “Proven traffic increases in just 1 week”
- “10 years as a leading SaaS”
Using words like ‘trust’ and ‘proven’ need to be legitimised. You should have the data to back these types of claims if you make them.
Another way to connect is to use the logos of trusted partners on your website. Many companies are happy to agree to have their logo displayed on your website, as long as you are a reputable partner.
For brands that have recently launched, finding social proof is harder. In this case, it is necessary to consider other types of social proof that could connect with your traffic.
Businesses want to find fast information about your brand. Social media is a starting point for research, and your use of the channels to share vital brand statistics can motivate shoppers to examine your brand further.
- “We have helped 500 customers in 10 countries improve sales by 60%.”
- “80% of our customers have secured new clients using our service.”
Blasting stats on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social channels can get the attention of people who are researching your brand. These snippets remain in mind longer than information, working similarly to a soundbite.
Awards and Badges
Certification is valuable social proof. Showing badges, awards or other recognition on your website or landing page inspires a deeper sense of trust. This is especially valuable for B2Bs as industry insiders can appreciate the difficulty in gaining professional recognition.
Endorsements, or using influencers, is an increasingly valuable form of social proof. The UN has many ambassadors who are celebrities because they know that these people bring public attention to the organisation. It works for any popular person with a following. The person brings their audience with them across social channels to view your brand.
An endorsement goes further than just using your product or service in a short clip, it requires a commitment to your brand and is sometimes a paid role. Your brand can request that the ambassador or influencer use specific language to describe your brand experience and show your product or service in a favourable light if it is a paid endorsement.
However, influencers are not obliged to use, talk about or otherwise promote your brand even if you gift them a sample of your product or service. It is important that your marketing team consider the value of social proof and whether making a payment for a notable person to promote your brand is more or less valuable than gambling on an endorsement based on experience.
Arguably the most valuable endorsements are positive social media posts made voluntarily by people who have used your product or service.
Customers who provide social proof through user-generated content (UGC) can be featured on many or all of your platforms in various ways, such as customer quotes, images and comments.
Some examples of UGC social proof include:
- Customer reviews
- Case studies
- Social media posts
While reviews and social media posts might be more unpredictable in terms of their content, testimonials and case studies are a great and more controlled way to collaborate with satisfied customers and showcase social proof to new potential customers.
Customer reviews are a great way to leverage your following. Reviews can boost your appearance in search engines, as well as help to inform people about people’s impressions of your brand.
Designated review sections in Google, TripAdvisor, Yelp and Trustpilot are powerful tools for your brand. They can be star ratings or even a short commentary. Reviews are most effective when you include more than a few. People will assess the value of the reviews based on how many are positive.
- 49% of customers consider the number of reviews an important factor
- Consumers read about 10 reviews before deciding on the brand
- Having as few as five product reviews can increase conversion rates by 270%
- 94% of consumers have decided to not purchase because of negative online reviews
Reviews have a big impact on customer decisions to finalise a purchase, especially negative reviews that can quickly turn potential customers away.
A negative review need not be an issue for your brand. A response to a negative review that addresses the concerns of the customer shows that your brand is willing to listen and respond. It is also important that your business does not censor reviews. Transparency is an important aspect of trust building, and showing your brand with an honest face helps potential customers make a more informed decision based on what is important to them. A brand with only positive reviews appears fake and curated and does not generate trust.
Reviewtrackers’ 2022 report shows that industry leaders have a higher response rate and shorter response time to reviews, both positive and negative. The most successful brands answer faster than their industry average.
Testimonials are impactful social proof for your traffic. Testimonials are positive by nature and are usually written from an expert viewpoint. A testimonial is a longer text that specifies the positives of your product or brand in view of your online traffic.
A testimonial can be written or a video and the person provides their name, job title and workplace, removing any anonymity. This makes testimonials one of the stronger forms of social proof, especially if an industry leader is endorsing your brand.
Asking customers to post about their experiences with your brand on their own social media accounts is common practice, especially for Instagram and Facebook users.
When customers tag your brand in their posts or a specific hashtag related to your brand, they share this with their circle of friends and family within a trusted network.
This can generate good conversations, promote your brand or a particular product and help you reach an audience you were otherwise unable to connect with.
Having customers ‘like’ and ‘share’ your brand materials, reviews and testimonials isn’t as easy as creating a good hashtag. You need to encourage people to want to post about your brand by incentivising customers with rewards, such as prestigious placement on your Instagram feed, or discounts for loyal buyers.
Case studies are essential to B2B marketing. Delivered as a paper, video or combination of media, case studies are a review of how your solution has transformed a company. For example, if your business supplies a difficult-to-source product in a high-demand industry, a customer might be impressed with your logistics and want to praise your company for its acumen. This goes deeper for the company delivering the case study which would examine how your company’s fast response and delivery times have helped them improve output and bolstered their sales.
Such case studies help to promote your business and its solutions tangibly, with data and facts to underpin the discussion. These case studies can help secure long-term contracts in B2B, and drive traffic to your website. They improve your SEO and overall, secure greater social trust.
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