What are the best ways to capitalize on social proof for my online business?

Like so many other confusing words in the marketing world “social proof” isn’t a hard concept but sometimes a vague one.

Wikipedia explains the term like this:

Social proof (also known as informational social influence) is a psychological and social phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior in a given situation.

Social proof is considered prominent in ambiguous social situations where people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior, and is driven by the assumption that the surrounding people possess more knowledge about the current situation.”

In marketing that translates to a way in which we can appeal to our customers. Simply stated, we all tend to trust what we see others doing in the world. When you drive by and see a long line outside a business you probably think to yourself “that place must be popular”. It’s instinctual, we all trust that business must be popular and our first reaction is probably not typically to say “look how inefficient that line must be”. In reality, I can tell you from my own first hand experience of working at a nightclub many years ago, that our door staff and our managers were always aware that a long line meant free advertising.

If someone else uses our products and talks about it to their peers, that is also a form of social proof that translates into a boost to our reputation that can translate to sales for any business. This kind of influence can spread organically, and can help you make a deeper and more beneficial impact on your audience. 

People have used various jargon to refer to the same process. You may have heard of “the bandwagon approach” before. This is essentially the same thing but we are using a more up to date description to accurately describe the phenomenon. In online marketing, efficient social networking and Facebook “Likes” can easily be linked to rises in things like visitors to your homepage or sales conversions but in a world where every business is trying to get ahead a few more foolish companies often use underhanded tactics to fake a lot of their social proof. This is a dangerous plan and can ultimately distance you from your real customers. Despite what you may have heard, it is still illegal in the US to do this. Despite the legal ramifications many companies still turn to using an army of Mechanical Turk employees to manufacture boosts to ratings or to post fake reviews of their services. Despite it violating their terms of service, this service can still often be used by companies for exactly this goal.

If you want to generate HONEST, results in this realm without stooping to fake clicks and dirty tricks you need to focus on 5 key outlets for positively impacting your audiences.

  • Testimonials

  • Endorsements

  • PR

  • Social Media

  • Customer Reviews

Testimonials can play a huge role in wowing customers and increasing interaction rates. Try placing a testimonials page somewhere into your web presence and you should start to see a noticeable difference pretty quickly. Conversions and time spent on your site will also likely increase.

Social media is of course a place where social proof can really push your brand forward. By using well designed ads on Facebook and other social media you can increase the amount of “Likes” and “Shares”. Once a sort of critical mass is realized you can assuredly see the impact this kind of strategy makes.

Incorporating trusted brands and examples of past clients is a great way to make an impact. It builds your brands legitimacy and really helps to illustrate your professional connection to other successful brands that your customers may already know or have a personal relationship with.

Find your brands story and tell it where people who care will listen to it. Clearly corroborate the story on your own site. Make it easy to find. If successful, you will get others to tell the story for you. This is the most literal kind of social proof. Through this type of campaigning an image of your brand can be formed… and better yet, it will spread organically.

Lastly, generating customer feedback is an endless resource and can be as easy as making it a part of the checkout process. Getting customers to open up about their experience is a great way to let your customers know that you care about their satisfaction. All while getting real info that you can use to show others how great you are!