By Brad Driscoll
When it comes to converting browsers into customers or visitors into followers, there are a lot of marketing tools at your disposal: content marketing, personal branding, website SEO, video marketing, email marketing, but of all the available tools, the psychology of social proof is a powerhouse that shouldn’t be left out.
What is social proof?
To put it simply, people follow and purchase from businesses they trust. Showing a visitor that their friends, family or acquaintances trust your business increases the odds of them trusting you as well.
Imagine you are sitting at home considering which restaurant to go to for dinner. Normally, you would hop on the internet, search popular restaurants in your area and choose the highest rated. You think back to earlier that week and remember a friend of yours recommended an excellent Italian restaurant and told you that the veal parmesan there was "to die for." You trust your friend, so you decide to go to the Italian restaurant and order the veal parmesan for yourself. Your friend's recommendation was social proof. Your friend's recommendation just brought that restaurant your business and even got you to order the same meal.
This same effect can take place each and every time a visitor browses your website or visits your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram page. If that visitor sees their friends follow your page or likes your photos, that social proof will affect their decision of whether to follow or purchase from you.
Psychologist Robert Cialdini, author of best-selling Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, says that social proof is one of the six pillars of persuasion. It is the need for people to refer to other people before making a decision. Social proof helps put purchase anxiety at ease. It's something many businesses are missing.
We've all been there: You’re about to make a big purchase on a website, you do your due diligence researching the features, options, pricing, logistics; everything you need to make your purchase decision. But before you click that “Buy Now” button, you start reading reviews of the product from other customers. Why? Because you want to know if it’s really the best choice. Before you lay down a chunk of your hard-earned money, you want to know that you’re making the right decision. That’s social proof, and it’s worth its weight in gold.
Imagine then, how much easier it would be for your customers to make that decision with your products or services if the social proof is in check and properly displayed on your website.
What kinds of social proof should be on your website?
While customer reviews and testimonials are the most prevalent, they aren’t the only viable forms of social proof. Consider the following:
- Influencer endorsements (or celebrity endorsements) are an excellent way to show your target market that your products/services are a worthwhile purchase. If you know any thought leaders in your industry or have connections to those who do, they might be willing to give your brand an endorsement in exchange for a free sampling of your product. Reach out to them! Many are open to this and are also looking for the extra exposure.
- Case studies are another great way to highlight your product or service success stories. Writing a case study is an inexpensive and effective way to tell a story of how your product has helped a customer (who can remain anonymous).
- Using your customer base is another simple way to show that others trust your company and are actively using, or have used your services. Placing company logos (if you’re a B2B provider) of your customer base on your website is a highly effective way to show potential buyers your social value.
- Social media proof is a great way to share what your customers are saying about your products on various social media channels.
- Embed order counts on your website. These are usually a plugin available on many WordPress sites or other web scripts. Order counts show a ticker that updates with every customer order and is visible to everyone on your selected site pages. You can also look add plugins that will alert live on your website each time a purchase is made, allowing your customers to see that your product is selling and reputable.
How do I gather social proof and implement it on my site?
Gathering social proof and implementing it on your site can be easier than you would think. It starts immediately after a sale in many cases. If you own an e-commerce site and have email automation set up to thank customers after a purchase, add a script into that email asking your customers to rate their experience.
You can also send out automated emails at scheduled intervals asking customers to review the product.
On social media, you can ask your followers to share your Facebook post or retweet your blog.
Social proof is one of the major components in building trust in your brand. Next time you are considering a purchase, or about to follow someone on social media, think about why and how you can build social proof into your own business and website.
Brad Driscoll is the co-founder of Think Big Marketing & social media expert helping businesses grow their brand and connect with customers.