What Is Social Proof and How Do You Get It?

 “If your friend jumped off a bridge, would you?”
 
This was a question most everyone has heard from their parents growing up. It was their rhetorical way of telling us to make our own decisions, rather than blindly following someone else’s.
 
In marketing, we have a term for “jumping off the bridge,” though the act is not nearly as risky. It’s called social proof, and it happens a lot more than you might think.
 
First, let’s talk about what social proof is, and then show how you can get it.

What is Social Proof?

Social proof is evidence your business or brand is trustworthy, demonstrated by feedback from customers and influencers, engagement from followers, and affiliation with credible and highly recognized third parties. When your business has positive social proof, potential customers feel good about associating with you and are more likely to follow along because they see others doing it.

Businesses generally display social proof on their websites, many times on landing pages (but not always).

Here’s a great example of social proof from buffer’s home page:

Buffer is using its huge customer base as social proof. Potential customers see lots of other people/businesses joining an organization or signing up for a service, so they’re more inclined to do the same. You feel comfortable because others have gone before you and have good things to say about their experiences.

Businesses need social proof because it addresses people’s uncertainties or objections by:

  • Increasing confidence in the website or company
  • Easing the minds of worried customers
  • Boosting credibility of the company
  • Helping people make a decision
  • Making them feel like a part of something bigger

But businesses can’t create the social proof on their own; they need third-party influence to sway potential customers. Here’s how to get it.

How to Get Social Proof for Your Business

Unless you are a brand-new business with a product or service no one has ever used before, you likely already have some social proof you can use. If you have positive feedback from a customer, you have social proof. If you have a review on social media, you have social proof. If you have a high-profile client, you have social proof. There are a variety of different ways to get social proof; you just have to know where to find it and how to use it to your advantage.

Reviews and Ratings

One of the first indications of a reliable business is positive reviews or ratings by customers. Two-thirds of U.S. internet users reference product reviews before making a purchase. According to Think with Google, people are also looking to video reviews as a part of their decision-making process. Rather than simply reading the rating or review, consumers want to explore others’ experiences first by watching what they did.

Testimonials

When potential customers see positive feedback from your customers—especially ones who are like them—it becomes easier to trust your business. Testimonials are one of the best ways to use social proof, because it goes beyond ratings to show how your company solved a specific problem. If you use a testimonial as social proof on your website, be sure to include the customer’s full name, profession, company, and photo (in a study, photos were found to increase trust among all participants).

Keep in mind, you aren’t limited to text; you can also use video testimonials. Whichever format you decide, be sure to align your testimonials with your buyer personas and choose the customer testimonials that match your ideal customer.

Influencer Recommendations

When your customers recognize the person endorsing your product or service, it goes a long way in building confidence in your business. It doesn’t have to be a celebrity; it can be someone who is prominent in your industry (sometimes, this is even more effective than celebrities).

Even so, the “rich and famous” still work pretty well. Like this tweet from John Mayer on the Calm website.

Media/Client Logos

Name dropping may not be kosher among social circles, but it has every right to be part of your website. If your business has been featured in well-known publications or on popular broadcasts, or if you have some clients who are heavy hitters, then be sure to get those logos on your site. It goes a long way in establishing familiarity and confidence among website visitors.

Casper does a beautiful job with this on their home page:

Social Connections and Social Shares

When you see that a social media page has thousands (or millions) of followers, you probably think they’re legit—and very popular, too. Same thing happens when you read a blog and see it’s been tweeted many, many times. These are known as social connections and social shares, and they’re very effective forms of social proof.

Part of what makes social proof so effective (when using numbers) is people have a tendency to see an action as more appropriate when others are doing it. If potential customers see that many people are following you and sharing your content, they are more likely to join the crowd.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind

Social proof is not a one-size-fits-all application. What works best for one business may not work as well for another business. The best way to find what resonates with your customers is to test—test different placements of testimonials on various pages, a test written reviews versus video reviews, or try out numbers to see if it has an impact (like the buffer home page).

With so much competition online these days, businesses need social proof to build trust and confidence in their potential buyers. It’s not a time to be modest; it’s a time to put it all on the table.

About the Author

Rob SandersRob Sanders

Rob Sanders is a digital marketing veteran with over 20 years of experience. During that time, Rob has helped a wide range of companies utilize new and emerging technologies to increase sales and profitability. As founder of RSO Consulting, Rob helps clients maximize their digital marketing efforts via SEO, SEM, SMO, and Web Analytics. He is responsible for many facets of the web analytics value chain, from identifying business goals and objectives to developing strategies and translating those into Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Rob also teaches digital marketing and analytics classes throughout the U.S. and abroad. As a contributor for Simplilearn, Rob creates expert thought leadership content on a variety of digital marketing and analytics topics.

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