Social proof is a greatly underutilised way to build relationships with consumers and to actually get more money on the table.

While 2019 has been the ‘year of influencer marketing’ (thanks to its ability to grow trust between brands and consumers), social proof is an effective method to do just that — sans influencers.

What is social proof?

Social proof is based on the idea of normative social proof;people liking the things that other people like. According to Science Direct, this is because people will conform in order to be liked or accepted by others.

In a business sense, when you’re looking at a brand’s website and you see a testimonial from an industry expert you respect, that’s social proof at work!

When you request a quote from a business and you see the logos of all their current clients pop up, that’s social proof!

When you sign up for a demo because you see the tool solved the problem you have for a similar company, that’s social proof!

Social proof works because people look to others for help when they are unsure of how to deal with a particular situation.

So, what exactly makes social proof so effective?

Well, according to an article for Psychology Notes HQ, there are four principles of social proof that affect the way people act.

They are:
  1. Uncertainty: When people are unsure of how to act in a particular situation, they refer to what others are doing to guide them.
  2. Similarity: When in a new situation with a large group of people, humans are more inclined to follow the reactions of those they consider to be similar to them.
  3. Expertise: People are more inclined to look to others with more expertise for advice and signals of how to react in uncertain situations.
  4. Number: Humans are social creatures, and when they experience an uncertain situation together, the actions of the majority are seen as correct and valid.

What types of social proof are there?

Articles from Content Sparks and HubSpot suggest that there are nine different types of social proof that exist.

These are:
  1. The wisdom of the crowds: This relies solely on the sheer power of numbers. This appeals to people’s fear of missing out — or, as it’s most commonly known, FOMO. When many people are using or buying  a certain product, others want to follow suit.
  2. People like you: Some social proof relies on the principle of similarity. If people with similar interests, businesses and problems are choosing a particular service provider, you’ll feel like you should too.
  3. Circle of friends: Recommendations from people that we know and trust carries more weight than an advertisement does. 
  4. User testimonials: The word of a former or current customer who has actually purchased and used the product or service is highly influential. Customer reviews and star-based ratings are the most commonly used types of user testimonial social proof.
  5. Expert’s stamp of approval: Although an expert isn’t someone that potential customers will actually know, if someone highly respected in the field trusts the brand, others are likely to do the same.
  6. Celebrity endorsement: This is when a well-known public figure uses a product or service and then promotes it either in public or online. It is especially meaningful when the endorsement is not paid for. 
  7. Business credentials: Just as user testimonials make people trust a product, business credentials can make people trust a brand. These credentials include things like the number of customers the brand has, which well-known businesses are their clients and any awards or certifications it has received.
  8. Earned media: Positive press coverage and reputable backlinks to your website is seen as proof that your business is worth paying attention to.
  9. Social media shares: While just about every business knows how important social media is as a source of web traffic, its value in terms of social proof and influence is often underestimated. Enough positive shares of your content on social media can often be all the proof someone needs to choose your brand’s products or services.

How can I use social proof for my business?

Evidently, social proof is a great way to encourage on-the-fence consumers to choose your brand.

But how can I use social proof to improve my business?

SIMPLE! Here’s how:

Be grateful for any mentions you get

If you’re lucky enough to receive a positive mention from the press, a big brand or an influencer in your industry, use it to your advantage. Try reposting the mention with an appreciative message like, ‘Grateful for the mention by’ or ‘Honoured to have been featured in’.

Not only will you be showing off a positive mention of your brand, but you’ll also be building a positive relationship with the person or brand that mentioned you (and who doesn’t want that?).

Share milestones with your followers

A simple way to use social proof is to be appreciative of user or follower milestones. Reaching milestones like ‘500 users’, ‘1 000 app downloads’ or ‘10 000 Twitter followers’ is a fun occasion to celebrate and a great time to thank the people who have helped you achieve it.

Utilise shout-outs in your content

Besides being appreciative for positive mentions of your brand, you can use those shout-outs in the content you create.

Sharing or retweeting positive mentions on social media — and tagging the original poster — allows you to create content with those mentions.

Another fun way to create mention-based content could be to create videos reading out positive mentions — a twist on Jimmy Kimmel’s Mean Tweets videos.

If you get enough positive mentions, you could also create a social media page dedicated to them, like SlackLove.

Get creative and always remember to thank the people who mention you.

Display testimonials on your website

Many businesses make use of testimonials as social proof — so why not join the party?

When people visit a website and see the testimonials from past or current clients, they are more likely to trust the business.

Show off your customers

If you have a large customer base, mentioning the size in your bio can act as ‘wisdom of the crowd’ social proof. When people see that many other people are using your brand, they have a good first impression.

Other than the size of your customer base, you can mention your geographical reach, number of products sold over a particular period or even the number of five-star reviews on a particular platform.

Is social proof backed by statistics?

Of course it is! So if you aren’t 100% convinced that social proof is the way to go, the (social) proof is in the pudding — and here it is:
What other ways can businesses utilise social proof to increase their sales and grow their customer base? Let us know in the comments section below.

That was exciting, wasn’t it? To get more insightful stories delivered straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter.

Social proof isn’t the only way to up your marketing game. Adidas has evolved their use of influencers to actually make sales. Find out how Influencer marketing becomes social selling
*Image courtesy of Vecteezy