In an increasingly digital world where consumers have more choice than ever, concerns about security, products, or customer service can cause potential clients to move on to another provider.
Consumers need to feel there is sufficient evidence that they can trust a company and psychology plays a significant role in determining how likely they are 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? Approval and endorsement evoke an automatic suggestion of validity and will 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. Namely; a recognised body or organisation, an expert, a celebrity, another user, friends and family, and a large number of people.
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. Using quotes and testimonials from a perceived authority will add a layer of credibility and value.
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.
4. Opinions of Other Users
Positive comments on social media and good reviews and customer testimonials on a website 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.
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.
6.The Crowd Effect
Human psychology buys into the belief that the crowd must know something they don’t. Therefore, a person will copy the crowd’s behaviour. So, a large number of followers or users, high sales numbers or a lot of likes and shares will give an impression of legitimacy and desirability.
So how do you leverage your social proof? None of it matters if people cannot easily see examples leading them to 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 content a company has across the various social networks, the more traffic it will bring.
How to Get and Use Social Proof
1. Show Compliance and Security
Make sure you use HTTPS for web pages. Display a GDPR or security rating, for example. Use trusted review software.
2. Prove Expertise
Display awards and memberships on your website and marketing material. Publish 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.
3. 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. Conversion rates, as reported by a Bazaarvoice study, are up to three and a half times higher on pages with reviews than those without.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Leverage Expert and Celebrity Clients
Suggest joint ventures, blog posts or social media takeovers to experts and celebrities who use your products or services.
8.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.
9. Use Case Studies
Case studies based on customer experience tell a positive story.
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?