Social proof: What is it? Why it's important, and how to use it!

In today's busy world as consumers we have so many options, in truth, we almost have too many options. It can feel overwhelming trying to make a purchasing decision. Reviews, existing customer recommendations, media coverage and social media popularity are all forms of social proof that can sway our likelihood to invest in an unfamiliar brand.

A sociological theory that outlines and predicts consumers buying behaviour based on people conforming to feel accepted, social proof predicts that people are more likely to emulate one another's behaviour in certain situations. In order to fit in and feel part of the majority, consumers are more likely to mimic the way others make purchasing decisions and interact with their commercial environment, to appear well versed in successful social behaviour. Statistically, the more positive reviews a product or service levels, the higher the purchase rate.

Like any marketing strategy, the execution of your approach with social proof must feel authentic and organic. Ensuring your consumers are more than satisfied with the quality and delivery of your product or service is essential for success.

These are the six types of social proof

Expert: This relates to investing in a person who is very knowledgeable about or skilful in a particular area to recommend your brand. The ultimate stamp of approval, endorsement by an expert in your industry, carries heavy selling power.

Celebrity: Celebrity social proof comes in two forms. Paid endorsements, either a celebrity explicitly endorses your product in exchange for a fee. This must be accompanied with #ad. Unpaid endorsements, a celebrity showcases your brand via social platforms or through product placement.

User: Real people recommend your brand to their audiences. Highly rated for authenticity and transparency.

Crowd: A large number of people endorse your brand collectively. There's power in numbers. This strategy carries significant leverage as a result.

Friends: This type of social proof relates to when people see their friends approve of your product, such as seeing friends use or promote your product or follow you on social media.

Certification: This type of social proof is when you are given a stamp of approval by an authoritative figure in your industry, this is ideal for professional services.

Social proof strategies for success

Case studies

Case studies are an ideal plan of action for offering an in-depth insight into how a satisfied customer navigated their way from first interest to purchasing and experiencing your product or service. Approach a loyal, long-standing customer who is happy to discuss their buying experience with your marketing team.

Explore everything from their pain points, your brand's USPs and your shared communication throughout the retail process. Try to channel strong, enthusiastic energy to ensure that the case study does not feel forced or co-operate. The flow should feel natural and personalised.

Offer up case studies on your website and via your socials.

Testimonials and reviews

The quintessential example of social media, testimonials and reviews have superb selling power. Offering phenomenological insight into the experience of a non paid advocate of your brand, streamlines engagement and grows online presence.

Make sure to always respond to reviews where possible to increase traction and validate consumers input. Consider integrations with Google My Business, Trip Advisor, Facebook and Glassdoor,

Collaborators

Collaborating with like-minded, innovative or larger scale brands help build a community, which can help your product and service increase its reach by proxy.

Clients who are fond of brands you work with might be tempted to explore your business when clicking through to your page via hyperlinks or, if these aren't available, by Googling your brand. Encourage your collaborators to add your logo to their website and ensure you do the same.

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Awards and accolades

Celebrate your own success and blow your own trumpet! TOOT TOOT. Sharing awards and formal recognition of your brand achieving prestigious ratings or shortlistings helps your business convey its own prestige organically. Let others outstanding experiences of your brand help influence the masses! If an award provided you with a certificate or watermark, include these assets on your landing page and feature them across your social feeds.

User-generated content (UGC)

By definition, user-generated content is any form of content such as text, posts, images, videos, reviews which have been conceptualised by personal accounts, not brands, and then distributed to an online following or network. As a result, UGC is perceived as a more authentic and honest marketing asset. Branded hashtags are a perfect example of this, where fans use a hashtag to show affinity to a product, service or trend. Although most effective on Instagram, this strategy is useful when explored on any social platform.

Influencer marketing

Helping to grow your following and bring high-quality traffic to your site influencer marketing is effective because it encapsulates every successful aspect of social proof, harnessing the power of authentic word-of-mouth marketing. Consumers implicitly rely on their peers, friends, and people they trust for genuine recommendations more than paid for advertisements. In addition, consumers enjoy influencer marketing because it allows them to buy into a specific type of lifestyle or aesthetic they aspire towards achieving. A great example of social proof, influencer marketing can expose your brand to an active, wider audience.

Customer support

Next time a customer sends you a gushing message, screenshot it and ask for permission to promote the praise via your social platforms. This effusive, spontaneous, organic communication from a client represents true to life, reliable feedback. Use social listening to follow the conversations happening online about your brand, and be sure to screenshot any other positive affirmations to re-distribute to your followers.

Customer base

If you have a large customer base, shamelessly plug the size of your audience in your profile bio. Just as social proof theory predicts, when people see that many others are using your product, they would likely have a positive first impression of your product.

Social proof invests in your audience and recognises their intelligence. As opposed to paying for pop-ups and banner ads, which do little other than display your logo to broader audiences, social proof integrates a product and service into peoples everyday lives. Allowing people to visualise how a brand might directly enhance their day to day, endorsed by a credible figure, either publicly or personally known, informational social influence follows the theory the greater the number of people who find any idea correct, the more the idea will be correct.

Integrate more social proof strategies into next years marketing plan and watch how abundantly your traction and sales grow.

Time to grow your business