Social Proof: What It Is, Why You Need It, and How to Get It

What Is Social Proof?

When everyone is standing in line for something, you assume it must be good. When a movie is sold out, you assume it must be good. When no one is in a restaurant on a Friday night, you assume it must be bad. This is the idea behind social proof. Humans naturally look to other humans for cues about how to make decisions, and when we see that others have done something, we feel better about doing it too. Marketers can leverage this concept by providing social proof that demonstrates to their audience that other people believe in, use, and love their products.Social proof can be utilized to sustain engagement on your website, to increase conversion rates on landing pages, to spur social conversations, and to build brand affinity.

Why Is Social Proof Important?

  • 74% of consumers rely on social media to inform their purchasing decisions. (Source: ODM Group)
  • 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations. Only 33% trust ads. (Source: Nielsen)
  • 4 out of 5 consumers reverse purchase decisions based on negative online reviews. (Source: Cone)
  • 17% of users have bought something based on a friend’s social media post about it. (Source: Forrester)
  • 77% of consumers are more likely to buy a new product when learning about it from friends or family. (Source: Nielsen)

Benefits of Social Proof

When someone gives your company the “stamp of approval,” this helps position your brand favorably and can:

  • Increase trust
  • Build credibility
  • Validate the product
  • Increase exposure
  • Simplify decision-making

This in turn can help you:

  • Increase conversion rates on a landing page
  • Drive ecommerce sales
  • Acquire new customers
  • Increase brand loyalty

Social Proof: Reach vs. Authority

Naturally, many brands go straight to the top when looking for social recommendations. However, there’s a time and place for different kinds of influencers. Celebrity influencers tend to have high reach, meaning they can help you reach very large audiences. But celebrities feel more removed than the people you know and trust already, your friends. This is why positive recommendations from your friends are likely to have high authority, giving them more influence, even though they have a much smaller reach.

“Influence is often best exerted horizontally rather than vertically.” – Robert B. Cialdini

Staying Balanced

It’s important to have a good mix of content that comes from celebrity-type influencers and from friends and other fans. People want to know about how someone like them experienced a product and how it worked for them. They want to see examples that are relatable. For example, it’s cool to see that a professional athlete uses a certain product to help them play the game, but they obviously use athletic products much differently than the typical user, and consumers aren’t oblivious to this. Does the fact that the product wears out quickly not bother them because they can just keep buying new ones? Are they required to get a certain brand under a sponsorship contract they have, so it’s not really reflective of what they would choose for themselves? Does the team mandate the athlete wear certain gear? All of these questions and more can affect how much a person takes a professional athlete endorsement to heart. Not only is it important to get endorsements from regular people, but also it can also be easier and you can get more of them.

Examples of Social Proof

  • Embedded social posts (tweets, Facebook posts, Vines, etc.)
  • Case studies/testimonials
  • User reviews
  • Video testimonials

How to Solicit Social Proof

Ok, social proof sounds great! Now how do I go about getting it? If you want to generate more social proof, there are a couple of ways to go about it.

1. Just Be There!

Sounds a little crazy, right? One of the things can do to help generate more social proof is to simply have an active presence on social media so that people know you are there. People like to know their feedback is heard.

2. Write Engaging Social Media Posts

You can write your posts in a way that encourages people to share good things about your brand. For example, you may ask, “How has (product) allowed you to get back to your life?” Use posts that ask directly for positive feedback about a product very sparingly though, because you don’t want to look like you’re only on social media so you can fish for compliments. Instead, try asking less direct questions are still designed to solicit positive comments. For example, you could ask, “How has your life changed for the better since recovering from your injury?”

3. Host Contests

Another way to generate UGC is to host a social media contest. You could ask your audience for pictures or video responding to a specific prompt, and offer the winning entry a prize. By instructing people to upload content under a campaign-specific hashtag, you can aggregate positive content and facilitate discovery. The key here is to give people the opportunity to share something they’re really passionate about, and not to just ask people to tell you why they like your product. It’s about storytelling that’s bigger than just the product.

4. Provide Other Incentives

Ask people to share photos and videos with a campaign-specific hashtag for an opportunity to get an exclusive discount. For example, a company that sells sports rehab products could ask people to share a photo doing what they love and explain why it’s so important to them to get back at it. You could also regularly share the best photos and videos you get, and feature them in other places, such as your website.

Social Proof: What It Is, Why You Need It, and How to Get It