Social proof is the most powerful marketing weapon in your arsenal. Do you know how to use it? Here's why it matters and how to master it.
Most people equate “social proof” with word-of-mouth advertising.
Personal product recommendations and reviews are one aspect of social proof, but not your only option.
We all rely on the opinions of others to make decisions. Before we make a purchase, about 70 percent of us read product reviews from independent review sites and social media. Social proof is so pervasive in online communities that we seek opinions on everything from toothpaste brands to the purchase of a new home.
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Endorsements are far more effective than sales copy. Go beyond the obvious value of reviews to harness the power of social proof on almost every page of your website.
1. The Value of Partnerships
Partnerships are two-way working relationships with other companies. Partnering Charities use them to thank companies for their donations. Ronald McDonald House displays contributor logos with links back to the website, and the companies have the option of doing the same. If it makes you feel good to learn that companies you buy from do good work, you're not alone.
Partnering can also involve working with other companies in a business sense. Data sharing is common among online services where integration is practical and useful. To make email campaigns more efficient, Mailchimp integrates with hundreds of other applications.
2. Introduce Your Clients
Adding client company logos, C-Suite recommendations, and case studies is a fast way to ramp up your credibility. Many companies are displaying client logos or testimonials right on the home page. Scroll down to the bottom of the Agile CRM home page, and you'll find encouraging words accompanied by photos of company execs. Including a photo makes the quote more credible and persuasive.
To really crank up the impact of your onsite endorsements, ask your customers for a video clip. A client's endorsement delivered in their own words is pretty impressive...and nearly impossible to fake.
3. Testimonials From Franchise Owners
There are a million barbecue restaurants in the U.S., and becoming the largest takes some doing. Dickey's Barbecue Pit encourages growth with an extensive franchise section that starts with facts about owning a franchise location, and goes on to detail every aspect of being an owner. While paging through the franchise section, you'll find owner testimonials with photos and store locations to add credibility, quotes from reporters, awards, and even a persuasive video. Few websites offer such a comprehensive and compelling argument for buying in.
4. Proof of Concept
In business, social proof is a factor in proof of concept. Before investing, or approaching investors, business owners need to demonstrate the viability of their idea. How will the public respond?
To find out if an idea is worth developing, many businesses today are crowdsourcing proof of concept. Fantasy series Otherworld co-creators Lindsay Archer and Carrie Anne Hunt turned to Indiegogo to finance the proof of concept for their fantasy-adventure show concept.
Their discouraging results may be due to any number of factors. They may not have the social reach they need to succeed, the competition might be too stiff, their pitch might be ineffective, or the idea might simply be bad. Either way, they learned something. When a solicitation bid for a comparably small amount to create proof of concept fails, you know there's a problem.
Any business can use proof of concept to make better business decisions. Crowdsourcing opinions is a brilliant way to introduce a new product to your audience in advance – with social proof baked in to the process.
5. Offer Buying Suggestions
It has become common for shopping sites use buying suggestions. The reasoning is simple: If you like that product, you will probably like this one. Another layer is “customers who bought this product also bought...” When I was shopping for a recent present, the Best Buy website reminded me to buy the film needed by the Polaroid camera I was shopping for and showed me the accessories other shoppers had ordered.
6. Display Your Awards
Another popular practice is using icons to display business awards and associations. Awards show potential customers you've been recognized by others for something you do right, and it also demonstrates that you're not a fly-by-night business. You've been in business for a while and you've gained recognition from your peers. Awards and membership to associations help you build trust and credibility.
7. Document Case Studies
Case studies are a particularly persuasive form of social proof. If you can outline a customer problem, detail how your product or service addressed your customer's needs, and show the result, it's a great incentive to buy from you. Lynda.com details how business, schools, and government has used their educational programs to grow business, train employees, and enhance learning.
8. Engage Influencers
Influencers might be anyone with an audience. If you can impress a writer, a Youtube star, or a social media star with an engaged following, you can earn ringing unsolicited endorsements without asking. I mention many brands that impress me all the time.
Recently, for example, I dropped in on #semrushchat and the subject was tools. I was fresh from doing some research on Buzzsumo and was happy to add my two cents to the discussion. Marketing chats are my chief source of information about new tools and marketing techniques.
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Social proof can benefit you from any source. Social media channels, comments and reviews posted on your own website, third-party reviews from journalists, bloggers, vloggers, and review sites, reciprocal and organization associations, and even the offline opinions of friends and family.
The web has made opinion so common and easy to access that lack of social proof may affect your business in a negative way. If no one is talking about your business, customers want to know why. Are you using social proof to convince and convert on your website?