Social proof is a marketing phenomenon that, when used correctly, can work wonders for your brand.
In this article, we’ll take a look at what social proof is, why it’s such a winning tactic, and how different brands are incorporating it in their marketing.
What You’ll Learn:
- What social proof is
- How to use social proof in your marketing
- Social proof in action:
It’s lunchtime on Tuesday, you have limited time, and you’re starving.
You’re frantically searching for a restaurant nearby. You pull up Yelp, and which do you choose? The restaurant with 5 stars and 1300 glowing reviews, or the one with a lackluster 3.5 star rating?
I’ll go out on a limb and say you’re enjoying lunch at the former. Why did you choose it? Because of social proof.
When you look around the world, whether in the physical or online, it doesn’t take long to see that we, as humans, are easily influenced by what we experience around us.
The things we see others buy, do, or even say help to tell us what is socially acceptable, where to go, how to act, and what to buy or believe in.
The ideology behind it is called Social Proof, and it explains much of the human brain. Thus, it can be used as an extremely vital tool in the marketing industry.
Below I will go into further detail about just how these outside sources shape our lives and how you can use them to benefit your business.
What is Social Proof?
Social proof is basically the idea that people are easily influenced by others in society and will perform specific actions based on the steps of those around them or who are similar to them.
This is exceptionally true when a person is unsure of the correct action to take in any specific situation. They will look at those around them or other members of society to tell them how and when to act.
Let’s say you are looking for a new vacuum cleaner. You will likely ask your friends and family for their opinion. You may also read reviews of customers who have recently bought a model you are interested in. According to ProfitIndusty.com, over 70% of Americans read product reviews before making purchases. (Fun fact: This sentence is an example of social proof.)
Another source of social proof may be a commercial you see, or a radio ad in the car, during which an expert or celebrity is using a particular vacuum cleaner.
All of these examples influence your decision on which model you will choose and why. They tell you that it is a good buy and one that is socially acceptable.
And for anyone who is even remotely in the business of sales/marketing, whether you own a company, are in real estate, or simply if you want to gain credibility as an industry expert, having a certain amount of social proof is key to your success.
You want people to know that you are well-liked, that others accept you, and that they will come back to you in the future.
If your consumers want to know if your product will work for them, all they need to do is check out the reviews, talk to others who have used your it, or see someone with credibility using it.
How to Use Social Proof
Social proof is arguably the most effective form of marketing used today, from simple word of mouth conversations to elaborate and well-thought-out TV commercials.
It is used to prove to the rest of society, or at the very least persuade them, that your company or business has a product worth using and telling others about.
But when it comes to actually using it, the decision on how or what that looks like is really up to you and the type of product you are selling or marketing. You will find that some ideas may work better than others.
Here are some statistics to think about:
- 78% of consumers trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations
- The average consumer reads about ten online reviews before making an informed purchase decision
- 57% of consumers only use businesses or products if they have more than four stars
- A logo or business association on a company website can increase conversions up to 400%
- Influencer marketing is the fastest-growing advertising technique
Here’s something else to think about as you develop your marketing strategy:
62% of consumers say they’ll more likely buy a product if they see customer photos and videos online.
When asked why photos are so important, here’s what the respondents said:
- It might highlight something (24%)
- Like to see the product in action (21%)
- Feel more confident that reviews are accurate (17%)
- Easier to see product quality (17%)
Just over a quarter of those polled (26.4%) said that Facebook was a popular place to gather product info from photos.
Another important tidbit of knowledge is that not all social proof is created equally, and some can actually hurt your business more than help it.
Be sure to steer clear of statistics or information that is negative. Take the following statement, for instance:
“Many past visitors have removed the petrified wood from the park, destroying the natural state of the Petrified Forest.”
While this incites that stealing is wrong and will destroy the park, it suggests that lots of people have done it, making it more socially acceptable. A statement clarifying that it is illegal to take petrified wood from the park will work much better to discourage theft.
No proof is better than low proof. When consumers come to your landing page, website, or a blog, they want to see that it and you are well-liked by others. If it shows low levels of acceptance, such as reviews or social media likes, people automatically assume you are somehow less trustworthy.
If your site is new or only has few reviews, don’t display this information prominently. Instead, give your page an uncluttered and clean look by eliminating social proof entirely until you have the numbers to prove your worth.
Choose your name drops wisely. While experts and celebrities can give you tons of immediate social proof, mentioning or including someone unrelated to your field or who is not well-liked by the majority of your industry may actually take away from your credibility and make you look rather foolish.
Social Proof in Action
While there are many forms of Social proof, most are gained from five primary sources:
- Experts – an endorsement from known and credible experts in a particular and relevant field
- Celebrities – an endorsement from paid or unpaid celebrities
- Peers – endorsements from friends, family, or people in similar situations
- Numbers – endorsements form large groups of people
- Users – ratings, reviews, or testimonials from past or current users
We will go through a few examples of each of these below and how to use them for the best marketing advantage.
Examples of Brands Using Social Proof (the Right Way):
1. Taste of Home
Taste of Home makes themselves relevant to those looking to organize and clean house like a pro by using organization expert Marie Kondo’s name and image. Just mentioning her immediately gives credibility and social proof to Taste of Home.
2. Nature Made
Nature Made uses two separate but equally important sources of social proof here on their product.
Firstly, it includes the USP emblem right on the front, letting people know that their product is accepted and approved by a rather significant health group. Furthermore, they tell their customers that they are the “#1 pharmacist recommended” brand for this type of products, giving them credibility through not one but two experts.
3. Cape Line Sparkling Cocktails
Cape Line Sparkling Cocktails using a quote from a popular and well-read magazine to tells consumers that an expert on fun, social life, fashion, and all things food and drink related approves of their beverages. Nothing but their word and a good picture of the drinks themselves are needed to prove their worth.
Many companies like Fitbit enjoy the benefits of social proof because they make sure to include what experts in their industry have to say about them right on their website.
From the screenshot above, you can see that there is no shortage of love from those who participate in fitness, tech, and health industries. It gives them and their products high credibility when others see proof of this.
6. Capital One
Rather than talk about all the possible benefits of getting a credit card through Capital One, the company simply uses celebrity social proof in the form of a known A-List celebrity like Samuel L. Jackson to endorse their products.
His face, voice, or no-nonsense humor is all that is needed to let society know that Capital One offers a card worth having.
6. Marie Claire
This Pinterest ad for magazine Marie Claire is a classic use of celebrity social proof. County singer Miranda Lambert poses seductively in a stylish outfit for them and says all that needs to be said, nothing. Her look is all that’s needed.
With this photo, they show they have what it takes to attract such stars and give their consumers the expert advice they need.
No one speaks for a good time, alcohol, and pure class, quite like Neil Patrick Harris. Heineken’s use of him in their commercials is a perfect example of celebrity based social proof and provides evidence to the world that their beer is “legendary,” and oh so worth investing in.
Jennifer Aniston has been around for ages it seems, and yet she still continues to look young and radiant. So who better to help you promote your skincare line? Aveeno has hit pay dirt with ads like this, implying that you, too, can have skin like Jen.
LinkedIn, like Facebook, suggests jobs, connections, and companies to you based on who your other contacts are and what their apparent interests are.
It also allows your contacts to endorse you, or a company, for particular skills or accomplishments. If you are good at organization, for instance, your peers and those who know you can make that known to employers through your LinkedIn profile.
Likewise, they can write reviews on companies that you may be interested in working for to let you and others make a more informed decision.
Ruggable, a company that produces washable rugs, uses a simple picture of a dog on one of their stylish mats and asks “Messy Paws? Not a problem.” In doing so, they suggest that you aren’t the only one with pets who consistently make having a clean home a difficulty and that there is a simple solution.
11. Stich Fix
Stich Fix, a personal shopping subscription service that sends you a box of new and stylish clothes whenever you want, uses social proof by offering its consumers referral bonuses in the amount of $25 when they refer their service to a friend. In this way, they are proving to others that their service is used and well-liked.
Another thing to note here is that Stich Fix employed accessible social media sharing buttons like the ones seen above to improve their social proof even more. Anytime you can add these buttons or a way to easily share your products or ideas, you definitely should.
Facebook is another company that uses your friends, family, and peers to suggest a great number of things to you based on what they have looked at on their platform. Everything from new friend suggestions to events and even jobs can be found through the influence of your friends and connections. And it’s important to remember that for most of us, these type of recommendations mean more than anything else.
13. Pancake Pantry
Lines of people waiting to get into anywhere is social proof in action. And many restaurants, such as the Pancake Pantry in Nashville, rely it on for even more business.
By limiting the number of people that can enter at one time, they ensure that there is almost always a line to get into their establishment. Those walking by are usually and genuinely taken aback, wondering what is so great about the place and their food.
14. New York Times
The New York Times uses the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ social proof technique very well by suggesting articles to its consumers that are popular among the masses.
By doing this, they are suggesting that many people have looked at and read these items, making them very socially acceptable. It also insinuates that to be more like most people you should read these.
Netflix is another company that prides itself on the use of popularity. It offers categories such as the one above labeled “Popular on Netflix” or “Popular on TV” inciting that many people have watched these movies or shows and so should you.
When you go to any app store such as Google’s, Apple’s, or Microsoft’s every app is rated based on the number of people that have tried it and liked it.
This is a perfect way for an app or company to have social proof. For instance, Minecraft, a popular children’s video game, can be seen with thousands of positive reviews as well as high marks in several categories.
Similarly, the number of likes, views, or comments on your page or website can have a tremendous influence as well. This tells anyone visiting that you and your products are popular and worthy of both their time and their money.
17. Eczema Honey Co
In this Pinterest ad for Eczema Honey Co., they use a short and straightforward review from another consumer, ensuring that the product not only works but is the best thing they have ever used. Sarah, in this instance, is seen as a reliable source and just as trustworthy as a personal connection.
18. FireDrum Email Marketing
Here, FireDrum showcases its popularity among users by prominently displaying social proof on their landing page.
This shows that users found their service helpful and that it works well for them. It also tells prospective users that most people who used them liked the service they received.
Zendesk, like FireDrum, also used testimonials and user reviews on their landing page.
However, unlike FireDrum, Zendesk used pictures as well. While the testimonials prove to clients that this company has been used by others and is appreciated by them, the added pictures make the lines of exclamations even more real and trustworthy.
Each item that shows on sites like Amazon is given a rating or number of stars based on its popularity or social proof. So when items like this one are given 4.5 stars and have over 6,000 reviews, it suggests that it is liked by nearly everyone who buys it. And if all those other people enjoy it, it must be good, right?
Wrapping Up Social Proof
Now that you have seen quite a few ways to do social proof and how others have used it to lend credibility and build their brand, it’s time for you start brainstorming on how you can do the same.
Try out a few of these tactics and see which ones work best for you. With an infinite number of ways out there, the sky is the limit. Just remember to use social proof wisely.
If you ever feel stuck, there are apps and software that can be used to calculate your website or landing page’s social proof as well as give you tips on how to increase it even more. Check out proof.com for starters.