What is Social Proof?
Social proof is a psychological concept that people will generally follow the masses. We’ve all been there – away on holidays, wandering down the street looking for somewhere to go for dinner – we all walk past the restaurants with a handful of diners and dismiss them as they mustn’t be very good. The busy, bustling restaurant is the place we want to get a table at.
There is a belief that if so many people are doing this one thing, or going to this particular place, then it must be the correct thing. Interestingly, some research has actually been done on this phenomenon, showing that people will follow even when the masses have got it wrong.
Evidence of the power of Social Proof
The most famous of these studies is the Solomon Asch conformity test from 1951. In this test, people had to select which line on page 2 matched the line on page 1; a distinction that was easy to determine.
Participants were divided into groups, where only 1 person in each group was actually being tested. The other participants preselected an agreed incorrect answer.
Astonishingly, the true test subject selected the obviously incorrect answer 75% of the time! In the control study where there was no collusion between the participants the incorrect answer was given only 1% of the time. Such is the power of the masses!
Social Proof in a physical store VS an online store
Social proof can tap into peoples’ need to fit in and trigger a lack of trust to make decisions, believing that the masses are better informed than they are. Hence, why tapping into social proof is a great way to build your brand and reputation as it can really leverage you and give you that X factor that money can’t buy.
It’s interesting to apply social proof in a bricks and mortar (physical retail shop) setting versus online shopping. There is less external influence in a bricks and mortar shop, as when you walk in, you can actually see and feel the quality of the t-shirt you may be looking to buy, perhaps ask a shop assistant for help and then base your decision on that.
In contrast however, when you are trying to buy a t-shirt online, many people will look to product reviews to provide them with the knowledge that they cannot gain online. What have other people had to say about the quality and the fit of the t-shirt? A handful or more of great reviews is often all it takes to sway us to make the purchase.
How to tap into Social Proof
1) Have great reviews across all related platforms
There we see the power of social proof but how do we start to tap into it? It needs to be easy to see that lots of other people love and trust your products and services. The most obvious way to do this is by having great online reviews on multiple platforms relating to your business. On average, consumers will check reviews across 2-3 websites before making a decision regarding a particular item, so try to ensure your reviews are across all the related platforms to your business.
Once you have a number of great reviews across a number of sites you can use them directly in your marketing. Display some of the reviews on your webpage, on your social media etc. Don’t forget the flipside here; that poor reviews can do a lot of damage to your business – a study found that most people will only shop with a brand that is rated 3 star or above.
2) Testimonials – use your raving fans
Another great way to grow your social proof is through customer testimonials to use in your marketing. Hearing about a positive customer experience builds brand credibility and offers reassurance to potential customers. We see this used a lot in TV shopping channels where they display snippets of multiple customers raving about a new life changing gadget. As corny as those adverts usually are, you can’t deny the power of the people. Don’t forget the weight loss shake before and after photos – undeniable social proof that the product does what it says it does and has lots of smiling and happy customers. The key to a great testimonial isn’t just about someone liking your product or service – it needs to point out the problem that your product or service solved for them, building more brand credibility and driving the need to purchase.
3) Celebrity/Influencer Endorsements
Taking a testimonial to the next level is using a celebrity or influencer to endorse your products. There is evidence to show that consumers trust the word of a celebrity/influencer more than they trust the actual brand of the product. This makes influencer marketing very profitable for brands averaging a return of $6.50 for every $1 spent. The key here is to know your demographic so that you choose an influencer or celebrity who has credibility with your target audience.
4) Boost your follower count
Simple yet effective, your follower count is an easy way for the masses to make a quick assessment of your brand. Simply put, people feel safer in trusting your brand knowing that many others already do.
Don’t be afraid to use your customer count as social proof. Making your potential customers aware that you have already serviced lots of people, gives potential users comfort and allows them the benefit of the herd mentality. If you have some big name clients, don’t be afraid to name drop them in your advertising.
5) Community involvement, awards and accolades
Awards, accolades and community recognition are also great tools to boost your social proof. If you’ve won something, if you’ve been featured in the media, if your business has supported charities or given back to the community, shout it from the rooftops. These things help to show your brand is trustworthy, established and socially responsible.
Implement these above tools where you can to boost your customer’s trust and willingness to use your business and make use of this sure fire way to grow your business.