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How social proof can boost sales

Implementing social proof strategies in your marketing and advertising can have a huge impact on conversions, sales and profitability.

Social proof is the idea that consumers will adapt their behaviour according to what other people are doing.

When we see a line of customers waiting to eat at a restaurant or a photo of a celebrity drinking a certain brand of coffee, this is social proof of the product’s quality and desirability.

At the most basic level, social proof works because it appeals to our innate herd mentality – our instinct to do what the rest of the pack are doing. People relate to other people; their friends; to celebrities and experts. What they are saying or doing helps to validate our own behaviour.

We’re always asking people for recommendations – where’s the best food, is this movie worth seeing, what colour should I paint my house? We place value in other people’s opinions, and they can help us to feel confident about our own decisions. 

According to Buffer, there are actually five different types of social proof:

  • Expert Social Proof. This is when an industry thought leader or influencer approves of your product. This could take the form of them blogging, posting on social media, or being quoted or photographed as a product user.
  • Celebrity Social Proof typically takes the form of a celebrity using a product and promoting it on social media or in public. This form of social proof is especially meaningful if the endorsement is unpaid.
  • User Social Proof consists of positive feedback from actual users of a
  • product or customers of a company, typically taking the form of reviews and testimonials.
  • Wisdom of the Crowds Social Proof appeals to our sense of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO): when lots of people are using or buying a product, others want to follow suit.
  • Wisdom of your Friends Social Proof refers to how recommendations from people we know and trust carry more weight than other types of promotions or advertising.

What type of social proof works best?

The most effective social proof strategies will depend to some extent on the product or service you are marketing (for example, while queues outside a nightclub make it look like ‘the place to be’, a queue at a bank simply makes it appear inefficient).

Research conducted by ConversionXL revealed some interesting statistics about the types of social proof that perform best, and what you need to know about convincing your prospective customers:

  • Testimonials featuring photos perform best.
  • 66% of consumers trust customer reviews online.
  • 60% of consumers prefer to make purchases from brands they are familiar with.
  • 77% of consumers say that word-of-mouth from family and friends is the most persuasive way to get information about new products.
  • Excessive negative customer reviews in Google Search results can result in a loss of up to 70% of potential customers.

Implementing social proof

Now that we’ve reviewed what social proof is, and the impact it can have, it’s time to incorporate it into your own marketing. Following are some strategies that you could implement right away:

Make people feel part of the crowd

  • Include stats in your sales and landing pages (and other marketing material) to show that lots of people have already used your product/service: e.g. talk about how many carports you’ve built, how many people have purchased your product, or that you’re the suburb’s ‘most popular’ plumber.
  • Make your service/product seem more desirable by positioning it as something ‘everyone’ wants. If you’re a painter letter-dropping in a suburb, you could say ‘65 per cent of homes in this suburb have been professionally painted’.

Effective reviews and testimonials Add customer testimonials to your website or newsletters. Make them work even harder by adding a photo of the person giving the testimonial. This shows it came from a ‘real’ person and makes it more powerful.

  • Ask your happy, satisfied clients to review your product or service on external sites such as True Local or Product Review. Being ‘third-party’, these reviews are even more credible and persuasive.
  • Automate follow-up with great customers or contacts to ask for referrals.
  • Add any relevant awards you have won to your website, email signature and anywhere else you talk about your business.

Social media 

  • If you’ve got a great Facebook page that attracts plenty of ‘likes’ you could add a Facebook Like Box to your website to showcase your popularity. This will display how many followers you have along with a quick ‘like’ button to entice yet more people to become fans of your page. 

Boost credibility by association

Placing the names and logos of other familiar, well-respected organisations or companies on your own website is another way to implement social proof. If people are familiar with, trust and respect those companies, the implied association with your own will help to build your trustworthiness and credibility.

  • Add the logos of all industry associations you are affiliated with to your website.
  • If you regularly use a trusted product when carrying out your services, e. g. Dulux or Colorbond Steel, include these logos on your website.
  • If your business has any industry certifications or accreditations (e.g. GreenSmart accreditation), be sure to display these qualifications on your website.