Let’s say a customer is walking along a busy avenue at lunch time looking for the perfect spot to eat, and there are a handful of places to choose from.
Two restaurants are empty, one with only a few customers seated inside. The other restaurant has customers at every table looking happy and satisfied. Which restaurant would the hungry customer pick? One with no one inside, or the busier establishment?
Even if the empty restaurants have better service or food, you would likely choose the one with the most customers.
That’s the power of social proof.
Clients and customers are more likely to make the same choice as others, thinking they have knowledge or expertise they don’t. If somebody is using and enjoying a product, they should use it too, right?
This example makes it easy to understand social proof, but a one-off experience isn’t enough for lasting impact. When building a business or brand, it’s important to work this concept into your long-term plan in as many ways as possible.
It’s just science; the Solomon Asch – Conformity Experiment found that when people were given a simple test question, but were put into a group of people who purposefully gave the wrong answer, they were more likely to pick the wrong answer too, even if they knew it was wrong. Why? They believed everyone else in the group knew something they didn’t.
Harnessing the power of social proof for good is just as powerful and can transform your business over time. Here are tips on where, and how, to keep using social proof over and over while building your brand.
On Social Media
The restaurant example is the perfect way to illustrate the importance of a healthy social media following. How many customers are showing up for your business online? Your social media presence is like looking through the window of a business and seeing how many people are inside, so invest time in engaging with your community and growing your audience.
You don’t need millions of followers, but a few thousand can lend the validity and social proof you need. However, a word of caution is necessary here. Some businesses think buying fake followers on social media will help accomplish this goal, but the opposite is true.
Buying followers could get your account banned, but even if not, potential customers, investors, and other visitors will see the number of followers doesn’t match the engagement on your posts. Fake followers and bots don’t comment on or like your posts, making low engagement a dead giveaway your audience is fake.
Influencer marketing is often a cost-effective way to provide social proof to new customers. Micro-influencers with less than 10,000 followers often hold more sway over their audience than larger celebrity accounts, particularly in niche areas. They also charge less than celebrities for promotion.
Consider putting together a target list of niche influencers in your area and offering free products or services in return for social media promotion. Bonus points if you connect with one of the many influencers who only promote products they enjoy. These kinds of influencers regularly communicate their standards to their audience, so followers know a promoted product is the real deal.
Posts from your followers are the best way to generate word of mouth and social proof. You can ask your audience to share their experiences with your brand by using a branded hashtag.
For example, Adidas asked users in 2018 to show off their creativity and Adidas products by using the hashtag #originalis. The company shared some of these photos and worked with celebrities to create sponsored posts, too.
This is a double-edged attack. Customers posted great Instagram photography wearing Adidas products, providing social proof. This also created content for Adidas to use on their own channels, further utilizing user-generated content.
On Your Website
The footer of your website is a great place to make a sales pitch or provide contact information. It’s also a great place to provide further social proof. A simple way to do this is including social follow buttons, a standard for any company’s website. This will link viewers to your social channels, hopefully driving home the work you’ve done by accomplishing the ideas above.
You can also utilize your footer by including ratings from third-party sites or business awards you’ve won. These act as literal stamps of approval by experts and objective outsiders, so viewers know they aren’t biased.
Recognizable client logos
Including logos of recognizable clients you’ve worked with can help increase conversions . If you’ve provided services or products to brands that people in your target market recognize, this tells them major companies your customers already trust, value and are familiar with also appreciate your work. Why shouldn’t they, too?
Testimonials are an important part of providing social proof and differ from online reviews. Have you worked with a recognizable or important client and absolutely knocked the project out of the park? If so, they may be willing to provide a few words you can use as a testimonial on your website.
You can also ask frequent and returning customers or top buyers to provide feedback you can use in marketing copy. Build a page for them into your website or use select testimonials in your footer.
As social media channels make it more difficult to challenge or remove negative reviews and search engines become harder to manipulate, it becomes more difficult to manage your business’ online reputation. These difficulties make reputation management more important than ever, but there’s positive progress, too.
As more reputation management companies and services become available, they become more and more cost efficient. Additionally, more customers feel empowered to share their experiences online, making it more likely they’ll discuss positive interactions with you. Managing and directing all this traffic is important, so if you can’t pay for reputation management services, ensure someone on your team has dedicated time to uncover problems and challenge false or misleading reviews and information.
Ask for reviews
Just like buying followers, buying reviews is never okay and can actually hurt your business when (and not if) customers find out you’ve done so. However, it’s a great idea to ask happy customers to provide input on your social platforms. Ensure reviews are enabled on your Facebook page and schedule a handful of posts asking customers to share their experience with you.
You can also email paying customers or a few friends if you’re just getting started. Just make sure they’ve used your product or service enough to craft a thoughtful response.
Responding in a timely fashion and monitoring multiple platforms
Online reviews can be posted on many platforms: Facebook, Yelp, Google, and more. Make sure someone on your team regularly searches these channels for reviews both positive and negative.
Both types need a response; positive reviews should receive a thank you, and can be shared on social media to further prove your value. Negative reviews should be investigated and if necessary or possible, aim to provide a solution to the problem described. Letting negative reviews fester is never a good thing.
There are so many ways to provide and guide social proof online in a way that benefits your business. In fact, there’s so many it can take weeks, or months, to implement them all effectively. That’s a good thing, because consistently working on social proof takes time.
Word of mouth doesn’t happen overnight, and working on the above ideas and strategies for months or years will provide long term benefits and growth for your business.
Get started right away, but make it a priority to commit to the project for the long haul. Social proof is a vital part of any business strategy.
Time and attention to detail will only increase the benefits.