Social Proof Explained

Imagine you’ve just arrived in a new city and you’re looking to go out to get dinner. Having never visited before, you’re unsure where to go. How do you choose? Perhaps you follow the advice of a restaurant critic and visit somewhere that they’ve reviewed well. Maybe your friend has been to the city before and recommended somewhere else.

Social Proof Explained

Alternatively, you could look online at sites like TripAdvisor and choose based on the ratings there. You might even just walk into the city and stop at the busiest place.

However you choose, it’s likely that you’re going to utilise social proof to decide. This same concept can help grow your brand and drive up your conversion rate.

What is social proof?

Social proof refers to the phenomenon where people adapt their behaviour according to what they see others doing. People tend to judge how correct an action is by the degree that they see other people performing it. In addition, we also make judgements about actions based on our overall impression of someone. The more uncertain we are, the more these phenomena have an effect.

There are six main types of social proof:

  1. Expert endorsement – Expert social proof is where a recognised industry expert approves of a product, either through them recommending it, reviewing it well, or simply using it themselves.
  2. Celebrity endorsement – Similarly, celebrity social proof is where a celebrity endorses a product by promoting or supporting it.
  3. User endorsement – User social proof is where current users recommend a product based on their experience with it.
  4. The wisdom of the crowd – This is where a large group of people are seen to be using the product or service.
  5. The wisdom of your friends – This type of social proof is where your friends either recommend a product, or implicitly approve it through using it.
  6. Credentials – This is the awards or certifications a business may have received that increase consumer trust in it.

How can social proof help you?

Take a look at these stats:

63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site that has user reviews than one that does not (source)

92% of customers read reviews before making a purchase (source)

88% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (source)

82% of customers seek recommendations when looking to make a purchase (source)

These figures show how important social proof is online. Buying anything on the internet has an inherent degree of uncertainty. Your customers can’t examine a product like they would in a brick-and-mortar store. They can’t physically compare between items either. Buying something online means choosing something they haven’t seen, then putting faith in the hope that it’s what they expect.

To make up for this uncertainty, customers rely on social proof. Recommendations and reviews serve two purposes: they help customers decide what to buy, and they increase trust in the business selling it. Maximising the social proof on your site can help drive these two factors up and increase your conversion rate.

How to use social proof

Using social proof to boost your site isn’t hard or expensive. While getting an influencer with several million social media followers to promote your product is great, there are other ways to generate social proof on a more limited marketing budget. By encouraging feedback and engaging with customers, you can easily boost your conversion rate. Here’s five simple strategies to do that.

Customer reviews

Written reviews are one of the most common forms of social proof. The stats shown earlier show why... When shopping online, customers use reviews as a guide to help them buy what they want. What’s more, almost every type of business can benefit from incorporating reviews, because they can be used in so many ways.

Onsite reviews are the reviews that are shown on your own website. Positive customer feedback and testimonials can be displayed on the homepage, adding credibility to your site and demonstrating the worth of your products or service. While showing data and statistics is important social proof, even better is displaying stories. Individual customer anecdotes about how products helped them have been shown to be more persuasive than averages and statistics, because customers can relate to them better. In addition, putting a face to the name by displaying a photo next to the review has been shown to increase customer trust in the testimonial.

Product pages can also carry reviews about the specific item. Regardless of sentiment, reviews will be helpful by giving customers an idea about quality of the item, shipping, and other important information. They can be particularly important to small stores by adding to their credibility. To start building these reviews, you can send emails to customers after they’ve received an order. You can incentivise these reviews by offering a discount on future purchases.

Offsite reviews are also important, especially if onsite reviews are less suitable to your business model. Offsite reviews are the reviews found on sites other than your own, like Trustpilot or Google customer reviews. These reviews can be seen as more impartial than those on your own site, so make the most of them by linking to them from your page.

User generated content

User generated content is content that contains products from a company but was not produced by them. Showing real people using and endorsing your products is an incredibly effective form of social proof that creates a community feel around the product, while giving potential customers more information.

One way to do this is to show photos of your products taken by customers on your site. This can be particularly effective for products where the design is important, like clothing. While not all customers will want to submit photos taken by themselves, it only takes a few to be effective.

You can also make the most of people mentioning your brand on social media. Curate your social media content by sharing positive customer posts and embed them into your homepage for further exposure. Creating hashtags for people to share their posts with can encourage this.

Display customer activity

Almost every e-commerce site has a section for their best-selling or most popular products. While being a useful category for visiting customers, it also serves as an important form of social proof for those products. By being ‘best-sellers’, or ‘trending’, the wisdom of the crowd is endorsing those products and increasing their conversion rate.

You can also display the number of other users looking at the particular item to create a sense of urgency along with the social proof – a potent combination for conversion. Be careful not to go overboard with this though. The goal is to create social proof and a sense of scarcity without being intrusive.

Airbnb is a good example of achieving this. Listings on the site often display the number of other users looking at the location for similar dates or advising customers that the place is often booked during the specified dates. Doing this generates social proof by implicitly endorsing the user’s choice of accommodation. It highlights its popularity while increasing the conversion rate by urging the customer to book it quickly.

Offer your expertise

When people are uncertain about a decision, they’re likely to defer to the opinion of someone they perceive to have greater knowledge on the subject than themselves. Getting the approval of an expert in the field is good, but positioning yourself as an expert is even better.

Offer your expertise to potential customers by inviting them to ask you any questions they may have on the subject, through a prominent call-to-action on the site. Reinforce your knowledge by inviting them to ‘ask an expert’.

Having a blog attached to your business can further emphasise this. We’ve talked before about the importance of content marketing to organically increase traffic, but a well written blog can also help your social proof by positioning your brand as a thought leader. Adding interactivity to your blog can boost this. Social share buttons and comment sections let your audience engage with your content while demonstrating the popularity of it.

Certifications and credentials

Getting the approval of an organisation that your audience recognises can be a major boost to your social proof. There are three major types of that you want to display.

Media coverage positions you as a market leader. Display the badges of publications that have covered you, whether they’re major national newspapers or independent blogs. If you’re still working on getting coverage, try reaching out to likely sources with samples of your products.

Awards are the second major thing that you want to display. They’ll help you stand out from your competitors and add credibility to your site. Be on the lookout for categories to apply for and display them prominently – even if the award isn’t directly related to your industry, it’ll still give you extra social proof.

Finally, display certifications where ever they’re relevant. They can reinforce the message of your brand, like Fair Trade and Cruelty Free certifications for ethical food and drink companies. In addition, badges displaying the security of your site can increase customer trust. Studies have shown that displaying trust badges noticeably increases conversion rate.

Start using social proof

Using the power of social proof to boost your conversion rate isn’t hard, but it is effective.

There are dozens of different ways to boost your social proof - these have been the major ones that you can easily incorporate into your site to give it a quick boost.

If you’ve got any questions about social proof, would like some advice on how to incorporate social proof into your own website, or anything else in digital marketing, then contact us and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you’ve got.

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Charlton House, 32 High Street
Cullompton, Devon,
EX15 1AE. UK
T: 01884 214111

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