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How to Grow Your Business With Social Proofing

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  • How to Grow Your Business With Social Proofing

Globally, about 305 million startups open yearly, translating to 835,000 new businesses daily. By the looks of it, these numbers are far from waning. People are still rebuilding their lives after COVID-19, and many are opting to start their businesses. While the statistics vary by region and industry, they all suggest one thing for business owners: competition will be tough.

The good news is we’re not running out of bases in leveraging the human psyche for marketing. After all, who isn’t human here? It’s a matter of choosing the right techniques. In the social era we live in today, few are more opportune than social proofing.

What is Social Proofing?

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Social proofing is a marketing strategy based on the psychological phenomenon known as informational social influence. It’s when people duplicate the actions or choices of others, believing they are correct under certain situations.

For example, people not knowing how to act at a formal dinner. They take hints from the people in their surroundings. They copy how others use their cutlery, fold their table napkins, or wipe their mouths. No one tells them it’s the right thing to do, but they copy the action anyway.

The concept of informational social influence is a classic in psychology, but “social proof” was coined only in 1982 by Robert Cialdini. In his book, Influence: the Power of Persuasion, Cialdini hinges on social proof and its power to sway buying decisions.

The question is, will social proof in marketing be as simple as the formal dinner example? Maybe not because buying requires giving something back, such as hard-earned money. In that case, buyers might need a little more convincing.

Nonetheless, people ultimately depend on the actions of others to determine their own. They may even seek advice, a conscious and explicit way of acknowledging this dependence on others. All these make social proof one of the most powerful ways of driving your marketing strategy.

The ROI Advantage of Social Proof as eWOM

Truth be told, social proof needs no evidence. Its existence has been apparent, especially online. The dependence on those star ratings and reviews tells it all. It’s how we’re wired as humans. Then again, that’s also a testament to being conscious consumers.

As a business owner, digging deeper to understand why social proof lies at the core of your marketing strategy. This is where your return on investment (ROI) figures.

ROI can come in various forms, but social proof is one that can increase it dramatically. Take reviews, for example. How much does it cost to link to an impressed customer’s praises of your brand online? Essentially nothing. It depends on what you sell and how you sell it. Once you get it right, positive words will come as sure as the next sunrise.

An average customer reads reviews before making a buying decision. Additionally, word-of-mouth (WOM) brings in more ROI than paid ads. That’s how much reach and trust you get with social proof. With the almost zero cost of getting them on your channels, your ROI becomes a steal.

WOM vs. eWOM

Don’t get them started on reviews not being on the same level as traditional WOM. Research proves testimonies, also known as electronic word-of-mouth, or eWOM, may even be superior in at least two ways.

First, reviews are written and read countless times by companies and consumers. That means their longevity is relatively eternal. Second, eWOM spreads extremely fast, considering the digital platforms in use today. In contrast, WOM vanishes once it reaches the receiver and has a human-limited diffusion speed.

Here’s the best part: social proof goes way beyond reviews. There are many other ways to leverage this psychological phenomenon for your business, and that’s what we’re discussing next.

Different Types of Social Proof and How They Work

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Aside from informational influence, the halo effect is another well-documented psychological phenomenon that backs social proof as a marketing strategy. Simply put, it’s the assumption that when a person is good at one thing, they must be good at everything.

These six general types of social proof can increase business credibility:

  • Expert – When an industry expert recommends your product, people will think it’s good because someone knowledgeable believes in it.
  • Celebrity – Celebrity endorsement is influential because people tend to correlate popularity with credibility.
  • Organization or Authority – People generally trust endorsements from recognized organizations or the government as they trust expert recommendations. Hence, they usually view a seal of approval or a stamp from a regulatory body as a sign of competence and reliability. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) accreditation is one such example.
  • User or Patron – When a customer praises a service or product, people assume it’s good because someone who has tried it recommended it.
  • Friends – If people can believe random strangers and their opinions about you, they will believe their friends more.
  • Crowd – Having thousands or millions of social media followers is often interpreted as a sign that a product or service is good.

Ways to Leverage Social Proof for Marketing

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Social proof may have six common types, but there are myriad ways to leverage each. If you’re serious about growing your business, explore each idea you get a hold of, starting with these ten:

Design Testimonials for the Win

People who read user-generated content, such as testimonials, are 161 percent more likely to convert than those who don’t. However, not all testimonials are created equal, but there are a few things you can do to make them effective.

One is adding a headshot of the customer, plus a link to their website. This makes the testimonial more genuine and credible to your reader. On top of a Testimonials page, place reviews on sales pages where your visitors are at the point of purchase. It could be that final nudge they need before jumping in with the purchase.

You can also explore different ways of presenting your testimonials, from videos to interviews to peer reviews. Use only your own material instead of grabbing something from a review site. If you must, always link back to them on your website.

In the end, remember that testimonials boil down to credibility. No matter how well-placed or exciting they are, they can only be as good as how real they feel to the reader or viewer.

Display Your Site’s Stats and Create FOMO

Your stats can be anything significant unfolding for your brand. They can reflect purchases, subscriptions, the number of people currently logged on to your site, and more. There are also plenty of tools to implement these stats. Having “on fire” notifications for a product that’s currently hot in your store is one.

Aside from being great social proof, real-time stats can help you build FOMO or fear of missing out, especially on landing pages and checkouts. Around 60 percent of consumers who experience FOMO make purchases within 24 hours.

This social proof works particularly well with specific businesses. For example, a travel website can add stats to show the limited availability of airline tickets, thus creating urgency. Another FOMO technique is displaying the number of people viewing a special offer in real-time.

Specific demographics are also more inclined to experience FOMO than other age groups. Not that we should be surprised, but millennials (69%) top the list of the most FOMO-prone age groups.

FOMO marketing has been getting a bad rap for its ethical implications, with some critics calling it predatory. However, it’s generally acceptable with reasonable use, such as in the form of live stats as social proof.

Announce Your Industry Awards and Ratings

Make your business stand out by announcing your awards and ratings. This helps build brand authority and increases consumers’ trust. While all benefit from industry recognition, some may need to brag about their wins a little more.

Say you manufacture abrasive liquid cleansers, which are hardly the friendliest products to humans. Despite this, your brand receives an industry award for being the safest in your market. That’s something you should tell the world about louder and more often.

Regardless, any awards or impressive ratings you receive should make the rounds. They will go a long way in building trust and establishing your brand as an authority in your industry.

Social Media Takeovers

In a social media takeover, an expert or influencer takes over your social media accounts and promotes your brand for a specific time. You’ll find this effective in attracting an audience who may be interested in your brand but lacks awareness.

Belgian beer maker Stella Artois had one of the most successful Instagram takeovers when it partnered with Hollywood icon Matt Damon. The brand’s 2018 “Buy a Lady a Drink” and #1Chalice5Years campaigns sought to raise consciousness about clean water shortage.

With Damon’s help, Artois stopped being just another beer with an aristocratic-sounding name and became a respected brand with high social consciousness.

Takeovers also help by letting your brand tap into the celebrity’s or expert’s audience and vice-versa.

Answer FAQs with UGC

Instead of adding a typical FAQ section, let your customers ask and answer other customers’ questions directly on your website. This modified FAQ is effective as social proof because it shows actual doubts addressed in real-world scenarios.

Through a UGC-driven FAQ, you can address questions down to the minutest details that inquiring customers will find helpful. Hence, you reduce your risk of losing sales because of missing information.

You need not do this manually, though. Many conversion rate optimization (CRO) solutions can make the job more efficient. Onsite surveys and exit forms are great for gathering customer feedback about the problems they have with your product or service.

Even your usual customer communication channels can provide lots of insight into what goes into your UGC-powered FAQs. Of course, this will still need some curation to avoid a waste of web space and the annoyance of repetitive information.

Flaunt Your Media Mentions

If a TV, podcast, magazine, or any other media has mentioned your business, by all means, flaunt it. Grab an excerpt or photo and put it out in your channels. It will be great social proof that helps establish your authority in your industry.

A subtler way to do it is to add the logos of the media outlets that have featured your business. You can add a link to the coverage or actual mention for more credibility.

Show Off Your Customer Base

Displaying the logos of the brands you’re currently working with on your website is very effective as social proof. For example, if you make commercial hair products, integrate the logos of all your hair salon clients, especially the popular ones.

Featuring all the logos together on the homepage of your website creates an impact but also adding it to the ‘About Us’ page where customers can connect with your brand further. Another area to add your logos would be in your emails with new sets of clients you get periodically. This way, your client list will feel more current, creating a FOMO effect.

For example, WordPress’s pricing page says it is behind 33 percent of the world wide web. While this is not displayed as an actual, moving counter, it proves the power of numbers. It makes WordPress irresistible to its target market.

Feature Real Customers

Dedicating a social media post to a happy customer’s experience is another excellent social proof. If you own a cosmetics brand, feature a shopper on your Instagram using your products.

Come to think of it; this could even be more effective than setting up a professional photo shoot. With a real customer showing off her experience with your brand, what model could top her?

Develop Case Studies to Emphasize Your Benefits

Benefits over features is a cardinal rule in copywriting. When people learn about these benefits through detailed, comprehensive, and authentic case studies, it becomes highly effective as social proof.

A case study communicates how a product has helped a specific customer or client. What makes it particularly effective is that it goes down to the depths of user experience. If the case study matches what a potential customer is looking for, conversion may be next. Additionally, this will help you prioritize your leads.

Introduce and Promote Exclusivity Through Groups

Wanting to be part of a group is part of human nature. Creating in-groups among your customers is, therefore, beneficial. Big brands know this very well and usually tailor their messaging to specific audiences while creating these groups.

For example, a fashion brand may tailor its sportswear ads for the physically fit and active. All their messaging for this particular product line will focus on this set. A cooking blog may create a group for mothers who like to cook for their families and another for millennial entrepreneurs looking for potential blockbuster food ideas.

If anything, these in-groups give people more opportunities to develop an attachment to your brand. The bigger your groups and the stronger the attachment, the better they work together as social proof.

Social Proof: Your All-In Formula for Business Growth

In the ever-evolving world of business, survival is a matter of adopting new techniques that increase one’s competitive advantage. But time-honored methods have always worked, albeit in different names or forms. Social proofing is one.

While the media and approach have changed, the core of social proof as a marketing strategy remains. Prove your benefits, and the customers will come. It’s one of the most natural things in the world – humans seeking benefits – because that’s how we are. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. We need to think of ourselves to survive. As a marketer, that’s the most crucial truth you must acknowledge.

So whether you’re selling ball pens or insurance, don’t just tell people you offer benefits. Substantiate your claims with social proof, and do it where it matters the most today: social media.

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