Do you offer a worthwhile product or service?
You know you do! But how can you convince the people in your target audience of its worth? That’s the purpose of marketing. It’s your job to prove your product’s worth.
There are all kinds of ways to prove that a product is good. Remember the old Coke vs. Pepsi taste tests? That’s one example of proof.
But, in these days of social media marketing, by far the most popular and impactful kind of proof is social proof.
What is social proof? Why does it matter? And – most importantly – how can you use it to come out ahead of your competitors and grab the lion’s share of your target audience?
What is Social Proof?
Let’s start by talking about what social proof is. It’s what happens when people talk positively about a product, service, company, or any other commodity.
Social proof can take multiple forms. For example:
- Online reviews
- Online ratings
- Social media mentions
- Professional certifications and recommendations
The idea behind social proof is that people are influenced by the behavior of others. Social proof provides evidence of the usefulness or validity of a thing – whatever that thing might be.
There are some psychological reasons that explain the effectiveness of social proof.
- People appreciate transparency. One of the benefits of social proof is that it doesn’t come from a company – it comes from consumers of what the company makes or provides. That’s part of why people trust it.
- People also have a need to feel that they belong. There’s a mental glitch known as the Bandwagon Effect that makes people more likely to support a cause or product when others do, too.
- FOMO (the fear of missing out) is a real thing and a powerful one. When everybody else seems to be doing something, we want to do it too.
- Human beings are hard-wired to connect with stories. Since customer reviews and testimonials are short stories, it’s no wonder that we gravitate to them.
Long story short: we want to be comfortable with the products and services we use. Social proof gives us a risk-free way to evaluate things before we spend money on them.
Why Social Proof Matters
Social proof matters because social proof works. In fact, it’s extraordinarily effective because it does the work for you. People might not take your word for how good your products or services are, but they’ll take other people’s word for it.
Research shows that about 86% of all consumers – and 95% of consumers between the ages of 18 and 34 – read online reviews before buying a product. In fact, they read an average of 10 reviews before a purchase.
It’s also interesting to note that more consumers are getting savvy about reviews. The same study found that 40% of consumers in 2018 only read reviews that were recent, meaning they were no more than 2 weeks old. That’s up from just 18% in 2017.
Here are a few other key facts…
- 80% of consumers between 18 and 34 have written at least one online review
- 91% of people in that age group trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation
- 89% of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews
- 57% of consumers will rule out any business that doesn’t have a high rating (4 out of 5 stars or above)
- 80% of consumers look at more than one review site before buying
What can we learn from this? Clearly, social proof is hugely important in marketing. We also know that it’s likely to increase in importance because young people are the ones posting and reading reviews. That behavior will shape marketing going forward.
Tips for Using Social Proof in Your Marketing
Encourage (and Respond to) Reviews
Reviews are still the most popular kind of social proof. As a business owner, you can encourage reviews by:
- Putting a link to your Yelp or Google My Business page on your website
- Asking your social media followers for reviews
- Respond to reviews quickly and professionally
- Add a rating scale to your website or allow people to post reviews of products there
You may even want to put some of your online reviews on your website for people to see. You can also display your Yelp rating in your business.
Get a Professional Seal of Approval
Not all social proof comes from consumers. Sometimes, it comes from a professional certification or acknowledgement of your product’s worth.
This type of social proof has been around for a long time. Decades ago, Good Housekeeping magazine offered its seal of approval to products. Today, you can get a professional seal of approval by applying for and receiving a professional certification or cultivating relationships with reporters to get press mentions.
Tap into the Wisdom of the Crowd
You already know that FOMO is real. One way to tap into social proof is to take a page out of Netflix’s book. The streaming giant highlights popular TV shows and movies for streaming. They know that when people are talking about something, the ones who haven’t watched it yet won’t want to miss a chance to get in on the conversation.
You can accomplish that by highlighting your best-selling products or services on your website or social media.
Finally, you should consider using influencer marketing to get the social proof you need to boost sales. Influencer marketing focuses on getting recommendations and endorsements from influential people, often on social media.
Keep in mind that an influencer doesn’t need to be a celebrity. Most small business owners can’t afford a celebrity’s price for influencer marketing. What you can do is find people who have authority and clout in your niche or industry and get them to talk about your company.
Social proof isn’t new, but it is growing in importance. The ready accessibility of online reviews – and the ease with which consumers can research companies – means that no local business can afford to ignore social proof.