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What makes you choose the products or service providers you use? You might not know the answer – it might feel intuitive – but the chances are you look at social proof, or evidence.
In an increasingly digital world where consumer choice is no longer limited by geography in many instances, customers have more choice than ever. So concerns about trustworthiness, value for money, security, quality, and customer service can cause potential clients to move on to another provider.
You need to feel there is sufficient evidence you can trust a company. Psychology plays a significant role in determining how likely you will be to use a particular brand or supplier.
‘Herd mentality’ influences decision making, whereby people assume that others know better and will therefore copy their behaviour. Cialdini called this psychological and social phenomenon ‘social proof’ in his 1984 book Influence.
So, what will persuade people that you and your product or service are trustworthy, reliable, and valuable? As we assume other people know better, their approval and endorsement evoke an automatic suggestion of validity. This can supply the ‘proof’ that consumers are seeking.
The Six Main Types of Social Proof
There are six general categories of social proof and they each rely on approval from, or endorsement by, a certain type of person or persons. So, who or what are they and how does it work?
1. Membership of professional organisations and governing bodies
Belonging to a professional organisation or a governing body implies trustworthiness. Any industry awards, ratings or standards that have been received or applied suggest expertise and professionalism.
2. Expert Approval
The opinion of an expert in the field of your product or service will carry a lot of weight. After all, if you are being endorsed by an expert, you must be good. Using quotes and testimonials from a perceived authority adds a layer of credibility and value to what you are offering.
3. Celebrity Endorsement
A celebrity using a product or service automatically makes it more interesting and desirable. People try to emulate their heroes in the belief it makes them more alike and therefore more special. And even if we know it makes no difference, we can’t always help ourselves!
4. Opinions of Other Users
Positive comments on social media and good reviews and customer testimonials on a website, email, or brochure will all help customers feel they are making a good decision. A recent Trustpilot study found that 89% of people read reviews before buying a product: they carry a lot of weight.
5. Friends and Family
A Neilsen study found that 92% of people trust personal recommendations by friends and family over all other forms of advertising. The more advocates you have your brand, the better.
6.The Crowd Effect
So how do you leverage your social proof? None of it matters if people can’t easily see examples that will help them conclude your company and services are credible, valuable and reliable.
Your authority and trustworthiness need to be visible and compelling.
The more social proof a company has, the higher Google will rank them. The more interesting, engaging and well-written content a company has across the various social networks, the more traffic it should bring.
How to Get and Use Social Proof
🔷 Show Compliance and Security
Make sure you use HTTPS for web pages. Display a GDPR or security rating, for example. Use trusted review software: prove to your customers and the search engines that you are trustworthy and a safe option.
🔷 Prove Expertise
Make sure people can see which professional organisations and so on you belong to..Display awards and ratings on your website and marketing material. Find expert endorsements. Use blog posts to inform and educate your customers about your products, services, or items of interest in your field, and establish your authority and expertise.
🔷 Solicit and post reviews, testimonials, and recommendations
Send requests for reviews after customer purchases and email customers asking for testimonials. Make use of Linked In recommendations. Ensure your website allows for the easy submission of reviews if relevant. Conversion rates, as reported by a Bazaarvoice study, are up to three and a half times higher on pages with reviews than those without.
🔷 Respond to Reviews
Responding to negative reviews quickly will show that a company cares and is prepared to solve a problem. A timely response will limit damage. Use positive mentions and reviews in your social media; appreciate customers appreciating your products by reposting or thanking them.
🔷 Encourage Follows, Likes and Shares
This ties into the crowd effect. Likes on social media will be seen by users’ friends and family which gives a personal endorsement too.
🔷 Use Numbers and Names
Make sure to display customer or sales numbers where appropriate and don’t forget to celebrate milestones. List your clients if possible.
🔷 Leverage Expert and Celebrity Clients
Suggest joint ventures, blog posts or social media takeovers to experts and celebrities who use your products or services.
🔷 Use Social Influencers and Brand Ambassadors
Reach out to your followers with a large social media following of their own and see if they are interested in becoming a brand ambassador.
🔷 Use Case Studies
Case studies based on customer experience tell a positive story and let people know how they could also benefit from your products or services..
Use your social proof to tell your customers you are professional, expert, and trustworthy; it’s what they want to hear, and it will help them decide that you are the right company to use. Why let your competitor get the business instead?