Human nature is somewhat predictable. We tend to follow the crowd. For example, if you pass by a busy nightclub, with a long line, your first thought is probably "this place must be awesome".
Similarly, if you pass by an empty venue, you tend to assume that there are good reasons for the vacancy.
Nightclub owners know this, and we make these little decisions without really thinking. They're instinctive. They happen in a flash, and we tend to act on them.
That's social proof in action, and smart marketers know that it can be a powerful tool in their marketing strategies.
Social Proof Explored
The concept of social proof is nothing new, and it has been applied in a number of different ways for decades. At its heart is the idea that people will fall in line with the actions of others if they perceive those actions as being the proper response to the situation. Consider these examples:
- Limited Entry - The bouncers and barriers at nightclubs aren't necessarily meant to keep people out. They're there to testify to the popularity of the nightclub, and to entice you in.
- Waiting Lists - Being put on a waiting list may be frustrating, but it conveys a certain value to the commodity. For example, if you've been put on a waiting list for an apartment you naturally assume that the property has greater intrinsic value.
- Canned Laughter - Sitcoms live and die by canned laughter. That pre-recorded applause establishes and reinforces any perceived humor.
Social proof is nothing new, but with the internet becoming an ever more crowded place, it's time to bring social proof to your online marketing campaigns.
The 5 Types of Social Proof Marketing
There are five basic types of social proof that can be applied to online marketing. Most can be integrated into any marketing strategy, depending on the product or service you are offering.
- Expert Social Proof - Sometimes called the halo effect, getting an endorsement or testimonial from a credible industry influencer conveys value to your brand. Consumers instinctively extend the expert's reputation to you and your product.
- Celebrity Social Proof - Deeply rooted in the idea of self, celebrity social proof takes advantage of our natural inclination to identify with larger-than-life characters. An endorsement from a celebrity, when it matches your product or service, can be a powerful consumer motivator. That's why sports figures get paid extremely well to endorse running shoes and energy drinks.
- User Social Proof - This is particularly powerful for online retailers. Customer reviews and testimonials are great motivators and can help to drive sales and conversions. Who doesn't look at the reviews when shopping on Amazon?
- Wisdom of the Crowds Social Proof - This takes advantage of the natural fear people have of missing out on something valuable or exciting. It's the power of numbers. When McDonald’s advertises “30 Billion Served” they're not bragging. They're telling you that you're missing out on something great, and you need to become one of the 30 billion.
- Wisdom of Friends Social Proof - Studies show that we value the opinions of those people with whom we have the most in common. In short, our friends. This is where social media likes and shares come into play. When we see that a few of our friends like a brand or product, we are much more incentivized to do the same.
Practical Social Proof Marketing
Now that you have a basic idea of the five types of social proof that can be used to inform your online marketing, let's look at a few ways you can get started.
- Social Media Widgets - This is the quickest and easiest way to incorporate social proof into your marketing strategies. Add social media buttons to your blog posts and product pages. Your regular visitors will do the heavy lifting here by sharing your content over social media platforms.
- Customer Reviews - Solicit customer reviews and testimonials, and add them to your website. This reinforces the perceived value of your product or service and adds a human connection.
- Promote Your Followers - Don't be shy. Openly post the number of subscribers and followers to your blog or website. Remember, there's strength in numbers.
- Endorsements - Of all the social proofs, celebrity and expert endorsements are the hardest to achieve. Celebrities can be had at a price, but be careful. You don't want to partner with a celebrity that doesn't add value to your brand. Expert endorsements will take time to develop, and you will have to reach out to industry influencers and build relationships before you can expect to see any online mentions or testimonials.
- Trust Logos - These badges from industry-specific accreditation and award resources can bring a nice boost in conversion from your visitors.
Social Proof Marketing in Practice
With our list above, let's go through each of them in order.
Social media widgets is an easy-ish one, and we all have them on our blog. It could be a floating social bar or a static one at the top or bottom of the post. Then take a look at tip #5 here to promote your social media.
Next up is customer reviews. If you're running an e-commerce site, this becomes exponentially more important for your visitors to add to their shopping cart and checkout. But, this can also be very powerful in the form of testimonials on your services pages throughout your website.
Look at RavenTools.com for example. They have a testimonial right on their homepage to bring customer reviews directly into your buying decision.
Promoting your followers is another way to bring social proof, and next on our list.
Take a look at Digital Ocean's homepage - they show how 500K developers use and love them. If those many people are happy with them, wouldn't you think you'll be happy too?
Endorsements require a lot more work to interact with a celebrity in your industry. You see this done all the time with big brands all the time, but it can be done on a much smaller scale as well. The goal is always to create phenomenal content that others will share.
Did a leader in your industry link to your content? How about Techcrunch or Huffington Post? Let people know on your website that you're featured in those places! Again, don't be shy about doing this.
And lastly, trust logos are very common. This could be in the form of showcasing your top client's logos on your website or other things, such as using secure site seals. The idea is that you want to use logos on your website that your visitors "trust" and will recognize. This will immediately put them at ease and make doing business with you a much closer reality.
Quick Wrap Up...
Social proof marketing can be a powerful tool in your online strategies. When it comes to promoting your brand, understanding human nature and crowd dynamics can help you extend your reach, drive traffic, and realize greater conversion rates. Make sure these concepts are used throughout your website, and always feel free to reach out to us for help.