Social Proof and How It Can Help Your Business
Social proof if you think about it, Marketing simply involves taking advantage of human behavior. What that means is that you have to dabble a bit
with human psychology, if you want your business
to establish a foothold in your market.
Perhaps one of the best practices in this aspect is social proof. But before you go about using social proof to boost your business, it would be a good idea
to learn all about it and how you could implement it for your brand.
What Is Social Proof?
Social proof can get tricky trying to define it, but what you should know about it is that it is a social phenomenon dependent on the notion of normative social influence. That definition is still too wordy and complicated so let us simplify it with a scenario.
Let us say that you are visiting a country. The barrage of new sights and sounds might overwhelm you that you might get disoriented the moment you step foot in that new place.
So, how are you going to fit in? At this point, your brain will look for people to emulate behavior from. By observing how people behave in that situation, your brain can formulate decisions on how best to approach new surroundings and ideas.
In essence, normative social influence is about surviving by doing what everybody else is doing. Social proof in marketing works similarly.
If a person is making a decision whether or not to purchase something, they always look for references. What do others recommend? Is the person recommending that product credible? Can you see them using the product and is it effective? How a person answers these questions is but a simple manifestation of social proof.
Why Is Social Proof Important?
So why should you bother using social proof to boost your business? Again, this goes back to human behavior which is observable and measurable.
For starters, 40% of consumers today decide on which new brand to follow, based on the recommendations from those that are close to them. If someone from their circle of friends and family were to tell them to try something, they would take that into consideration when making their next purchasing decision.
Another reason is that approximately 91% of online shoppers make their decisions on what to purchase based on the reviews made by other people who bought the same product or transacted with the same seller. This is why a lot of brands online ask their users to rate and review them as their feedback could be used to entice others.
These figures show that using social proof to boost your business is just as effective as conventional marketing strategies. Think of it this way: a consumer is more likely to believe what others are saying about your brand than any promotion that you could think of. And that recommendation is even more compelling if the person comes from a place of authority or has tried the products themselves.
To put it in other words social proof, if taken advantage of properly, can help generate a lot of sales for any business.
What Does Social Proof Look Like?
Before you start using social proof to boost your business, it would be a good idea to know what forms they take. After all, you are using somebody else’s clout and influence to help your brand so knowing what is compelling for the average consumer is necessary at this point.
The content you will exploit will depend greatly on your strategy of choice. However, social proof always exists under six forms.
They are as follows:
- The Expert
Much of the social proof here comes from the fact that the person is in a place of authority. For instance, a car mechanic might recommend certain vehicle models based on how easy they are to drive and maintain. You are bound to believe whatever this guy is saying since he makes a living fixing cars.
2. The Celebrity
This social proof might not come from a place of authority but it can emanate from the fact that the person making the statement is likable and popular enough. For instance, an influencer might recommend a certain product to their fans. The fans, in turn, will consume the product because the person they idolize is using it and is telling them to use it.
3. The User/Consumer
There is a certain degree of relatability in this social proof. In essence, it can be compelling since the person giving the statement is just like every other average guy out there. What makes them different, however, is that they have first-hand experience with the brand.
This is why customer reviews are kind of potent when you are using social proof to boost your business. The only challenge here is to make sure that the reviews are authentic and made by actual customers.
4. The Crowd
This is perhaps the purest form of social proof as it depends on sheer social influence. In essence, a person is going to trust a brand for the simple reason that people are trusting it as well.
Performance metrics like user engagement, the number of likes and shares, as well as the number of social media follows will come into play here. It also helps that this form is self-sustaining. The more people there are that comprise your loyal fan base, the more people your brand is going to attract.
5. The Friend
This is like the social proof of the crowd but has a more intimate effect on the consumer. In some cases, a person will make their purchasing decision based on what their friends will recommend to them.
It does not have to be a direct recommendation for the social proof to be effective. A person only has to look at what their friends are following on social media or consume regularly to make their decision.
6. The Certificate
Like the expert, this social proof comes from a place of authority. However, this form is credible because somebody else certified them to be credible. One of the most common forms of this type of social proof is getting verified on platforms like Twitter. If a person with that blue checkmark tells their audience to do something, their statements come with an extra degree of credibility.
When using social proof to boost your business, is it necessary to refer to all the 6 types above? The answer is no. You only have to find what works for your brand the best. That being said, it would be preferable if you use more than 1 form of social proof for any of your marketing campaigns.
Social Proof Strategies
Now that you know what forms social proof can take online, how can you go about it.
using social proof to boost your business?
Here are some of the strategies that you can use to take advantage of this phenomenon:
Invite some industry experts and collaborate with them for a special event. For example, you might host a webinar where you would invite an expert as a resource speaker to talk about a particular topic.
What makes this tactic effective is that the expert can bring in a lot of positive influence to your brand. Since they are a person of authority, your brand gives the impression that it can be trusted as it invests in connecting with experts.
In using this social proof, it would be a good idea to keep things conversational. Perhaps you can ask a series of questions to your invited speaker to start a discussion. Also, you can always take questions from the audience to drive up crowd engagement.
- Celebrate Every Milestone
Another great strategy for using social proof to boost your business is to celebrate with your followers every major milestone in your brand. For instance, your social media profile might have reached 100,000 subscribers or a post of yours reached 1 million likes and shares. Or perhaps an app of users was downloaded 1 million times or has reached 1 million users.
You can also highlight real-world milestones such as reaching the 10th anniversary, beating the monthly sales quota, or opening another branch someplace. These celebrations matter because they allow you to thank those that made the milestone possible, especially your customers and followers.
- Take Advantage of Mentions
The press can also be a form of social proof due to their large follower base. For instance, your brand might be mentioned in a positive light in the news. Perhaps it received a reward or it was featured extensively in a segment.
That mention is already a potent form of social proof for your brand. You can drive engagement further by thanking the agency/person covering your brand. Something as simple as “I am honored to be featured by your post” gives the impression that your brand cares about engaging with communities.
- Do Reviews Right
As was mentioned, online reviews are one of the most potent strategies in using social proof to boost your business. Approximately 91% of online users trust user-generated reviews. They even consider reviews to be more trustworthy than any other form of recommendation.
Of course, what you are looking for are positive reviews. How do you get them, then?
Here are a few tips:
- Ask – If possible, set up a prompt where every purchase or transaction made with your brand ends with an automatic request for a review. So as not to cost your customers more time than necessary, ask for a short review like a rating or short feedback of no more than 300 characters. This way, you can easily use the review for your promotions without cutting out a lot of it.
- Give an Incentive – Reward those who leave a review with something that they can use later on. Online shopping platforms give reviewers bits of in-site currency while some brands give discounts. This will not only encourage more people to give reviews but also future transactions.
- 3rd Party Sites – Suppose that you are part of an industry that has its own reviewing platform like Yelp and TripAdvisor. You can ask your customers to leave a review on those sites. The reviews there will be archived and accumulated, giving you a sizeable pool of positive reviews to use from. Of course, since they will be leaving reviews on a 3rd party site, you must give your customers an incentive to do what you want.
- Fix Issues – Should you ignore negative reviews when using social proof to boost your business? The answer is no. Take the time to read them and find out if the problem can be fixed on your part. The longer that such an issue remains unsolved, the more negative reviews you will receive.
Once you have enough reviews and ratings, all you have to do is pick the best ones and make them part of your promotional campaigns.
- Encourage User-Generated Content
Like reviews, user-generated content can be strong social proof as they show people actually using and enjoying whatever you have to offer. For example, a group of people dining in a restaurant might take a picture of their meal and post it on Instagram or Facebook. That can serve as free promotion on your part as their picture could be seen on the feed of everybody that they know on those sites.
So how can you encourage more people to generate content for you for free?
The answer lies in incentivizing the act.
Offer some inexpensive but still valuable rewards like a discount or a free add-on. For instance, the restaurant as mentioned above might offer a small plate of free dessert for everyone that posts a picture of their meal.
Also, you should include a branded hashtag and have it included in all the bios of your social media handles. When customers use this hashtag, their content can then be linked back to your brand.
The Right Influencer
Paying influencers to push your brand can be an effective strategy of using social proof to boost your business. These individuals carry enough clout that anything they say or do will trend on social media.
The trick, however, is to pick the right influencer for your brand. You can’t just randomly pick one as they may not be the best ambassador for your business. So, to get the right one, you have to look at some factors.
What Influencer to pick
- Audience – Does the influencer share the same audience demographics as your brand? Influencer platforms have demographic selection features to help you find an influencer of the right age, target location, and other qualities that you are looking for.
- Engagement Rate – Naturally, you can’t be an influencer if you don’t have a following. What you are looking for, however, is an influencer whose content gets a high rate of engagement each time. As a baseline, look for an influencer whose posts get likes or comments by the thousands at the very least.
- Authenticity – You might be hiring that influencer to push your brand but you want someone that sounds and acts “authentic” to their audience. Can you see a lot of the influencer’s personality with his posts? Do they feel natural or forced? Are they someone who would love the brand if they are just a mere consumer? How you answer these questions will tell if that influencer is right for your brand.
- Values – As the ambassador of your brand, whatever that influencer will say or do will help or hurt your business. As such, make sure that they share the same values as your brand. Take the time to look into their posts. Look for the issues that they are the most passionate about or what side they usually take on popular discussion topics.
- Content Quality – Aside from the influencers themselves, their content must have the quality that fits the image that you want to project. Look for an influencer that can get their point across quickly, has posts that are creative yet thought-provoking, and is optimized for online engagement.
- Audience Quality – This is perhaps the biggest consideration when using social proof to boost your business through influencers. For starters, their followers must be actual people. Some influencers do use bots to artificially boost their ratings. Next, make sure that their followers have a high potential to convert. What that simply means is that they actually pay for whatever brand or products the influencer is telling them to follow. After all, a strong following is not going to help you unless they translate to sales.
- Drive Engagement
A mistake often made in using social proof to boost your business is to leave your audience hanging. Simply put, you publish content without bothering to interact with the audience your posts have generated.
Whenever somebody leaves a comment on your social media posts, take the time to send a reply. You might thank them for the comment, answer a question they raised, or simply clarify the confusion that they have.
What this does is start a discussion with your audience, which further drives engagement for your posts. And aside from engagement, being a prompt responder to comments gives the impression to your audience that there is a person behind the brand who is willing to get in touch with potential followers.
Of course, not every comment has to be engaged within using social proof to boost your business. Some are just too aggressive or incendiary that nothing good will come out of that discussion no matter the level of engagement. Pick the ones that will put your brand in a good light while addressing issues behind the scenes.
- Start a Case Study
This strategy is similar to user-generated content and reviews but more detailed. Your goal here is not exactly using social proof to boost your business as far as sales are concerned. Instead, this strategy is best used to gauge the overall quality of the experience of your consumers or followers.
To do this, you have to identify which of your viewers or customers have multiple transactions with you. You can then ask them to fill up a form that will rate their overall satisfaction with your brand.
Alternatively, you can ask them to leave a testimonial of their experience with your brand. Not only will this help you identify what needs to be fixed, but their content can be used to further promote your brand.
- The Blue Checkmark
Verification is perhaps one of the best strategies in using social proof to boost your business. By getting the blue checkmark in sites like Facebook and Twitter, you are given a digital certification indicating that your brand is interesting and compelling enough for people to follow. What’s best with verification is that you are not telling your audience that you can be trusted but that the platform, a different entity, has deemed you as so.
There are quite a lot of perks from getting verified but the ones that concern your brand the most is the high rate of exposure and engagement for all your posts. What follows after is incoming site traffic with a sizeable potential for customer conversion.
The only problem with this strategy is that the verification process can be demanding. There are some internal guidelines that you have to follow to get verified. Also, you can easily lose that blue checkmark if you are not careful with your posts.
As the landscape of the Internet changes, so too will the forms of social proof. For this reason, you have to remember that you have to be as flexible as possible when using social proof to boost your business.
The good thing about social proof, aside from hiring influencers, is that they are relatively cost-effective for your business. You only have to harness whatever goodwill you have established with your current follower base and use the same to draw more people to your brand. If done right, you can have a sizeable pool of good reviews, user-generated content, and recommendations from industry professionals to boost your business’s credibility in the market.