Social Proof: What is it and How Do You Use it?
One of the most effective ways for an e-commerce business to build trust is through social proof. But what is social proof, and where and how can you use it to drive your sales?
What is Social Proof?
Social proof is a psychological theory which states that we have the tendency to rely on the actions and opinions of others to inform our own. More than likely, social proof has already influenced decisions throughout your life, whether you realize it or not.
People will stop and check out a post on social media because it has a lot of engagement. People are more likely to take a chance on an unknown brand because of the positive things others are saying about it. You'll also probably end up checking out that new TV show or movie everyone seems to be talking about.
The social proof theory works because it validates a choice that something is worth your money and interest by using other people as proof.
Types of Social Proof
Social proof can be generated on platforms where you have a presence, like your website and social networks.
One common type of social proof of a brand's popularity is quantifiable signs that can get potential customers more inclined to check out what you're selling and possibly buy from you.
For example, shoppers are likely to judge a business they are unfamiliar with by the number of followers the business has on their social media accounts. A Facebook page with 60K Likes will probably seem more established than one with 500 Likes.
Types of social proof that fit under this category include:
- Amount of viewers on live Facebook and Instagram broadcasts.
- The number of comments, likes, views, and shares on your social media posts.
- Sharing the number of people who subscribe to your email list to entice your audience to opt into it.
Shoppers tend to trust what others are saying online, so having peer-driven praise will probably be your most effective marketing tool.
According to a survey done in 2017, 78% of customers trust online reviews as much as personalized recommendations. Reviews definitely influence buying decisions and can be the difference between having high bounce rates and high conversion rates.
The two main types of public praise are user-generated content and reviews / ratings.
User-generated content is content that your customers are sharing online about your brand. Often, customers will share a post talking about their experience with your brand and products or services on their personal accounts. These customers may tag you in their post or use one of your hashtags. Keep in mind that this is different from sponsored content and is more likely to be trusted by users because it seems more authentic.
Ratings and reviews can be collected and displayed in places like your social media networks, your website, through an app, and forums such as Yelp and Google. Both general business reviews and product reviews benefit you, and customers will trust what their peers are saying.
Influencer marketing can be tricky - while paid partnerships are not always considered as authentic as the social proof coming from peers, they can still be effective (especially if they're genuine).
Content from industry experts and influencers that is shared publicly counts as an endorsement. As long as the posts don't sound like sales pitches, endorsements from micro-influencers such as bloggers and complementary businesses can ring true.
Proof of Demand
Proof of demand is a form of social proof that shows that customers are interested in what you're saying and that they're actually purchasing products and services from you. By having a large volume of sales, it can create more demand and sales as a result.
The easiest way to use this form of social proof is to share how many orders you've fulfilled and incorporating it into your copywriting. You can also showcase whatever metric is the most relevant to your particular business.
With the help of tools and apps, you can automatically make some information visible to site followers in order to establish social proof:
- Individual customers who have recently purchased specific products.
- Number of customers viewing your website or a particular product.
- Number of items sold. This can be reflected in sales counters or by showing customers when supplies are sold out or running low.
Where to Use Social Proof
Social proof is an excellent marketing principle that all e-commerce businesses should focus on using to their leverage. Let's go over some of the different places you can display social proof.
There are three common ways to leverage social proof on your website.
The most popular approach is featuring customer reviews. Try to gather some reviews and showcase them on individual product pages - especially ones that have images. For example, someone may be convinced to buy clothing because of the positive reviews - seeing how amazing it looked on other people and hearing how much they loved it can turn a skeptic into a customer.
The second approach to leverage social proof on your website is to feature user-generated content. For example, if you're selling fishing gear, you can showcase your products through content from your customer's fishing trips in an on-site Instagram gallery.
The last approach is the simplest because it does not require you to use a third-party tool. Let your audience know that you've made customers happy and get specific with numbers, such as the number of products you've sold or the customer satisfaction rate.
Social media platforms are another great place to showcase social proof because they are most likely the places people will turn to first to find it. These platforms may also be the first point of contact for many potential customers, so having some good visible social proof up front can encourage those people to visit your website as well.
To showcase social proof on social media platforms, focus on engagement-building campaigns instead of just sales-oriented content. This kind of content will help generate conversations and followers on social media. Some examples include:
- Posts that ask users a question.
- Social media contests that ask users to caption a photo, tag a friend, or share a picture with your brand's hashtag.
- Instagram Stories that use polling stickers and ask people to choose between two different options. Answers are visible in real-time.
Many of your engagement building campaigns can be used to get or leverage user-generated content in the form of product photos that come straight from the customers themselves. Feature these photos on your channel by sharing them (with permission) and tagging the original poster. You can also remind other customers that by sharing their experiences, they could be featured on your channel as well.
A lot of customers like this approach because it helps them feel appreciated, and they might be inclined to share more content about your brand in the future.
Create a strong impression from the start by pinning a post to the top of your Facebook Page and Twitter account. You'll want to choose a high-performing post with an image that has a sizeable amount of social proof. Not only will this give the post excellent visibility, but it will also entice visitors when they first visit your profile.
If you don't yet have reviews enabled on Facebook, you can enable them to bring your reviews off-site and on your Business Page.
To enable reviews on Facebook, go to your page's settings and click on "Edit Page." If there isn't one already, make sure you add a review tab and click on it to enable reviews.
Pay Per Click Campaigns
You can also use reviews as the focus of ads in PPC campaigns. This is an especially effective tactic in Instagram Ads, Facebook Ads, and Promoted Pins - all of which have plenty of description room to do so.
Place the text in the description and use images or videos of the products featured in the testimonial. By using customer reviews as a basis for things like Facebook Ads, many businesses are able to build trust and grow their sales quickly. Over time, you'll collect more comments, likes, and shares on your ad, giving you stronger visible social proof and making new customers more likely to pay attention to what you're posting. This creates a snowball effect where the more you run a specific ad, the more momentum you'll gain.
Another excellent place to use social proof to grow sales is in emails. This can be especially beneficial when you have a community of subscribers who are warmed up to the idea of purchasing from you.
You might think about incorporating glowing customer ratings and reviews about specific products into your email design, along with an image of the product and the name of the customer if you have the permission to.
By including a line like, "Check out what our customers are saying," you can capture your audience's interest and increase open rates. Because social proof is not used all that often in emails, it can really grab your audience's attention and can be used to your advantage. You can also create automated email programs for your top products that include reviews and send them out to customers who have recently viewed those products or abandoned their cart before making a purchase.
One great way to build trust is through content marketing, and you can use certain strategies to help you collect and share social proof. Generate more social proof on your blog posts by using engagement-building techniques, like CTAs (call to actions) that encourage your readers to leave comments by asking them questions or allowing them to ask you questions.
Another great way to leverage customer success stories is through case stories. A customer or story can be used to create proof that shows you are able to help other customers accomplish the same thing.
People are more likely to read something that is shared by their friends, family, or colleagues. If visitors can see that your posts have been shared several hundred - or thousand - times, then that will act as a powerful motivator for others to read and share content from your website.
However, you should keep in mind that no social proof is actually better than low social proof.
Social proof is about growing your sales through authenticity, trust, and a good reputation. One of the first and most important things that a lot of entrepreneurs learn is that a happy customer can outsell almost anything. This is what makes social proof so special and important. By providing more value to your customers, you are encouraging others to give your brand a chance.
Making the most of social proof really comes down to taking a good look at your business, including the milestones you've reached, accomplishments you've made, and customers you've gained. By finding ways to share these moments with your audience in enticing marketing messages, you're sure to grow your sales.
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