Sometimes having a great website and promoting a product with a great unique selling proposition is not enough to make sales. You also need to social proof your site. Why? Because it’s in our human nature to follow the crowds. And thousands of marketers have been using it to make lots of money.
How many times have you stayed in a queue that’s longer just because the other is too short and that means it’s the wrong one? Have you ever chosen a restaurant just because there were more people sitting inside?
What’s the first thing you do when you don’t know how to use something, like a piece of cutlery, a machine at the gym, or an instrument you are not familiar with? You probably check what the others are doing before trying yourself.
According to a Mintel study on the lifestyles of Americans, 70% of consumers seek other’s opinions and reviews before buying, and this percentage increases to 82% in the case of millennials.
You are probably familiar with some of the most common social proof marketing techniques, such as social media shares. But to use social proof to its full potential it’s important to understand the psychology behind it.
The Psychology Behind Social Proof
Psychologists have studied the impact of social influence on people’s behaviour for many years. One of the most popular pieces of research on social influence is the Asch experiment. This experiment proves the principle of conformity – which is a type of social influence in which a person’s behaviour changes when exposed to a group’s pressure.
This agreement to behave as the group is a result of a desire to ‘belong’, be liked, be correct or conform to a social role.
Similar to the principle of conformity, social proof is when we decide what is correct based on what others think or do.
This video showing people facing the back of the elevator or starting a dance is another example that shows how someone’s behaviour is influenced by the majority of the group.
Marketers have been using Social Proof for Years
Marketers have used social proof techniques for a long time. In fact, some marketers have used social proof in a way we now would consider polemic.
Infomercial marketers probably make the best use of persuasion and psychology principles. The well-known infomercial writer Colleen Szot, used the principle of social proof and changed three words in a phrase that resulted in a massive increase in sales:
From “Operators are waiting, please call now”
To “If operators are busy, please call again”
This small change completely shifted the customer’s perception of the product’s popularity. They went from thinking that because nobody was calling to buy, it must be a bad product, to believing it must be a good product since lots of other people watching were calling to buy.
How to Create Content to Influence your Visitor’s Behaviour
As an internet marketer, you should create content that uses social proof to trigger people’s expected actions to turn them into buying customers.
The following are the 5 types of social proof you should take into consideration when creating content for your website.
- Expert: approval from expert or influencers on the niche
- Celebrity: approval of a well-known person
- User: approval from people relatable to the user
- Wisdom of the crowds: popularity amongst large number of people
- Friends: approval from people we trust
Expert Social Proof
An expert opinion is very important for consumers especially when looking for something they haven’t purchased before. If an expert in the field approves it, it must be good! That’s why many marketers use expert endorsements to influence their customers.
Some examples of expert social proof are:
- Good Housekeeping Institute – they have a logo which suggests a product has passed Consumer Quality Assessment tests carried out by the Good Housekeeping Institute.
- Affiliate World Conference – they use testimonials from industry experts to draw attention to their events.
So, if you are an expert on your blog’s category, prove it in your own website. Use your “about” page to mention your skills, knowledge and achievements.
Celebrity Social Proof
Companies have been using expensive celebrity endorsements for a long time because they know these have a great impact on brand exposure and sales.
- Nike and Michael Jordan – this is probably the most successful athlete endorsement campaign in history and 30 years after its launch, it continues to have impact.
- Bauer Nutrition – this supplement company partnered with actress Mischa Barton in a successful campaign to generate consumer interest in Proactol XS. Mischa was not only a popular actress at the time, she was also known to struggle with her weight which also helped.
User Social Proof
The principle of conformity explains that a person’s behaviour tends to change in order to fit in with a group or as a result of a group’s pressure. In fact, the greater the number of people who find an idea to be right, the more valid the idea will be for that person.
Because people are more influenced by similar people, many digital marketers are increasingly using techniques to make online users feel part of a community where they can also see other user’s behaviour and comments about their products.
Understanding your audience is important for creating content that could be relatable to them. A great example of this is the Sport England and FCB Inferno “This Girl Can” campaign, designed to reduce the gender gap of people playing sports in England.
After doing extensive research, they found that the main barrier holding women back from doing sports was a fear over their appearance and ability. With this insight, they created a campaign that shows other women just like them exercising that could inspire them to work out more without feeling judged.
The result: 8000 supporters for the campaign, 37m Facebook and YouTube views of 90-second “This girl can” spot, and the gender gap between men and women exercising regularly has fallen from 1.78m to 1.73m.
Some of the most effective user social proof techniques are:
Because it is more difficult for online customers to try out a product, they tend to rely on other’s opinions before deciding to make a purchase. According to a survey made by BrightLocal in 2015, 92% of consumers read online reviews. Have you ever wondered why Amazon has been so successful?
You can review products yourself if your affiliate website is focused on a specific niche and you are also an expert on the subject. But you can also include other user’s reviews.
Remember the following when using product reviews to social proof your site:
- Make sure your reviews are honest. Don’t be afraid to mention some negative points; this will improve credibility
- To increase review effectiveness, include visual ratings like stars or similar
- Reviews should be recent; most consumers expect a review to be made within one month or less
- Having more reviews will improve their effectiveness
Caption: Companies such as Booking.com display consumer ratings and reviews to guide the customers when choosing a hotel.
This is another great social proof tool which allows you to display the best comments from customers that can be relatable to your audience. To improve the effectiveness of your testimonials, include information about the customers and photos when possible.
For niches like weight loss or fitness, before and after images are very effective testimonials because they show potential customers real results from real people just like them.
Case studies or success stories are also effective social proof techniques that can help your audience identify more with your product.
Crowds Social Proof:
You’ve probably seen and heard phrases such as “one million customers can’t be wrong” many times on websites and commercials. The reason for this is simple; it works!
So, if your product has impressive numbers, show them off! Some techniques to influence consumers by using the wisdom of the crowds are:
- Top sellers and popularity lists
- Number of customers
- Social shares
- Number of your email subscribers
When using numbers, make sure you use credible figures. A number such as “105,600” would appear more real than “1,000,000”.
Friends Social Proof:
Personal recommendations or word-of-mouth is perhaps the most effective social proof technique. Digital marketers often offer incentives to refer a friend because they know how effective this is.
This is why it’s important to work on your Facebook fan page, so your visitors can see if their friends have also liked your page and posts.
Social proof is an extremely powerful marketing tool and something that all successful marketers use. Now you know the different types of social influence and the different digital marketing techniques, every time you create content for your site, ask yourself; how you are going to socially influence your visitors?
Do you have any other examples of social proof techniques? Share them here!