It’s all in the numbers.
You’re trying to decide between a pair of shoes online. What’s one of the first places you look? The reviews. How many positive reviews did they get? How many negatives? How did other consumers rate this item? Perhaps you call a family member to help you decide, or you post your shoe dilemma on social media.
Oh, social media! The macrocosm of social proof—the powerful consumer force and tipping point on our decision scale. Social proof can be seen in the real world in thousands of situations throughout history, both for good and bad. To save you five hours from reading an exhaustive article on all things social proof, I’ll just stick to what I know best—the web. (However, if you’ve got the time and want to learn more, check out Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr. Robert Cialdini.)
What is Social Proof?
Social proof is defined as such: Third party endorsements that create the psychological phenomenon where people reason that the actions of others should determine their correct choice or behavior.
From a digital marketer’s perspective, social proof is the spoonful of sugar that eliminates consumer concerns and makes the product, regardless of price, more desirable.
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At one time or another, or sometimes multiple times a day, we all experience the sly persuasion of social proof.
We no longer trust our own choices. In a world as connected as ours, we don’t have to. The tiny numbers that are near just about everything on the web tell us what we need to know in most cases.
“5,000 people have signed up for this course. Don’t miss out!”
“This article got over a million shares, so it should be a reliable source to link to.”
“This Groupon has been purchased 200 times. It must be a really good deal, I should buy it too.”
It’s groupthink, it’s herd mentality, it’s the way our brains our rigged. We are social beings, after all.
So how can you incorporate this valuable key to a consumer’s purchasing decisions into your marketing? Here are four ideas.
1. If you’ve got it, flaunt it.
Whether it’s on articles, landing pages or products, if you have a good number of social shares then let it show! And if you don’t… we can help you with that. 🙂
According to Nielsen, 46 percent of customers around the world use social media to help make purchase decisions.
2. Show real people.
Only a few companies can afford hiring a celebrity for social proof, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get someone who’s popular with your target audience to endorse your products. Why not start with bloggers? Bloggers are everywhere, in every niche, nook and cranny of the web. Get a few relevant, enthusiastic bloggers or writers on board to be your brand ambassadors (aka social proof).
Don’t forget reviews and testimonials. If you have them on your site, ask for permission to put their picture up along with them.
On ecommerce sites, you can show a live feed of recent purchases. Try running a campaign like Sammy Dress’s picture scroll bar or Marshals’ #fabfound contest to encourage customers to take pictures of their new purchases.
3. Use trust symbols.
The Paypal symbol and a certification logo are just examples of website “trust symbols.” You can use one of these universally recognizable symbols, or find a symbol or logo that resonates with your target audience. For example, it could be a popular conference in your niche that you speak at every year.
When you display these symbols on your site, they act as social proof that you are reliable by association. Get creative, do some A/B testing, and see which one works best.
4. Include trigger words.
“Only 2 left!” It’s simple, but it works! There are dozens of these type of trigger words (I used two others in my introduction!) that resonate as informational social influence with consumers. Trigger words also help create a sense of urgency that they have to buy the product now.
When it comes to helping you boost sales and grow traffic, social proof is an easy and necessary first step. Take 10 minutes today to sit down and brainstorm a few new ways you can implement social proof on your site. If you have any additional suggestions for social proof on the web, feel free to add them in the comments!