The power of social proof in marketing

The term “social proof” is a buzzword being thrown around like confetti these days. But what does it mean and how does it help SMEs increase sales?

Social proof describes “a psychological and social bias that makes us believe that what other people do and say in an attempt to reflect the correct behaviour, is in fact the correct way of doing or saying things”. Even if the behaviour doesn’t make sense. Social proof is indeed powerful, and it is important to leverage it in business.

Statistics show that over 97 per cent of consumers look at product or service reviews before making a purchase. And 85 per cent of those consumers trust these reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Positive and negative social proof

Positive social proof is very influential and should be the only form of social proof used, as our brains are wired to gear toward trusting the positive. It can be amplified with graphics or video as the visual aspect increases trust also.

Conversely, negative social proof is detrimental to persuasion, avoid it! Contrary to antiquated belief to use “FOMO” as a motivator, it destroys conversion rates. So, if your sales pages or ads warn people of the dangers of missing out, cease and desist.

How to build social proof in your business:

1. Showcase customer reviews: Get into the habit of asking your clients for a review immediately after you’ve delivered your service or product, while the good experience is fresh in their mind. Send them an email with a link to your review page or ask them for a testimonial on LinkedIn. Only ask customers that best represent what your ideal client looks like, as you want to attract a similar audience. Also, avoid generic “great service” quotes. Instead, ask them to describe a very specific pain point that they solved with your product or service.

2. User-generated content: If people like buying what other people buy, then they love seeing other people using what they buy. That’s why user generated content is very powerful. Things like video testimonials or images are a valuable form of user-generated content, where your clients send you a photo or video telling you how your service improved their business. So, instead of asking for a review, you’re asking for a photo or short video of them thanking you for your service or using the product. This is a tougher ask generally, so giving a little incentive, like a gift card or perhaps a reciprocal piece of content for their business might “loosen up” the client.

The final thought to keep in mind, is that it’s better to have no proof, than low proof. Certain forms of social proof can hinder the goal of conversion if it appears unpopular. Low engagement could appear less trustworthy, because we live in a world where social media buttons clog up our screens and people often look mistakenly at share counts and likes as a sign of overall popularity.

Customers want proof you are trustworthy, have a great service and are well established, so make sure you give it to them. Even if you are a new business, use personal service social proof from previous customers and companies that you have worked for. There are many authentic ways to skin the social proof cat.

Sue Mills, Principal, Sassy Marketing & Communications

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