How social proof can help your website
Social Proof is the 'new marketing', the art of creating positive influence around your brand using our natural reliance on others for cues that guide our own behavior. While the term 'social proof' is relatively new, the concept isn’t. In fact it helped build Sylvan Goldman a $400 million shopping trolley empire in the 1930s!
How often do you look at reviews on Amazon before making a purchase? That's because those are the candid views of your peers, and it's this social proof that reinforces your decision to buy (or to keep looking). Social proof decreases your perception of risk, as you feel more comfortable in your purchase.
In order to incorporate social proof in your website, you first need to think about how customers buy. The sales funnel online is now more complicated than it was in the past. Consumers now research products and services before buying, scouring reviews, reading testimonials, consulting forums, watching demos on YouTube, asking opinions on social media, and then finally making a decision to purchase. All of this research and discussion is social proof, and takes into account all of the experiences your customers have had with your business.
Taking advantage of social proof in your marketing can influence buyers, increase conversions and directly affect your brand reputation. Below are five key techniques you can incorporate into your website to use social proof to your advantage.
1. User generated content
Social proofing is all about people, and if you invite your consumers to be a part of your story, you are building a powerful relationship. One of the best ways of building that connection is through user-generated content, which is content created by consumers and publicly available online to other users. It works incredibly well as most consumers trust their peers rather than advertising or marketing agencies. User-generated content can include photographs, video, blog posts, and reviews, and can be repurposed and reformatted, shared and promoted on social media, providing prospective customers authentic feedback. Content contributed from your consumers can help validate your product or service, reaffirming purchasing decisions and alleviating any fears or feelings of risk.
Consumers trust peer-to-peer content over traditional media and it is now such a powerful marketing tool that companies such as Get Candid let e-commerce stores create galleries of real customer-generated images for use on their product pages, increasing conversion rates by up to 30%. GoPro does a remarkable job of integrating user-generated content into their marketing, showcasing user videos across their social media platforms, encouraging customer loyalty and growing their following.
2. Testimonials & case studies
Testimonials build trust, and well placed testimonials throughout your website can positively impact conversions, assuring potential customers that they can be confident in what you're offering. Choosing a well worded testimonial can build credibility and reflect how your product or service can help prospects. Video or photo testimonials have the biggest impact, as consumers feel they are being approached on a genuine, personal level. This can help improve your conversion rate and build a better relationship with your consumers.
Case studies take testimonials one step further, allowing greater detail and giving your customers a genuine review to base decisions on. The best way to turn prospects into customers is to showcase positive feedback from your existing customers, and case studies are a great example of targeted marketing. Case studies make your product or service easier to relate to and add value to your business, by showing tangible results from real customers. When potential customers visit your site, they will look for the case study that most resembles their problem, so it's important to know your target audience well.
Beyond the testimonial is the celebrity or industry leader endorsement, which can act as powerful social proof, as consumers look to influencers they recognize and respect for their insight. If a service or product is recommended by an expert in your relevant field, your consumers are more likely to trust that review and think highly of your business. Recognition from celebrities or industry experts can impact positively on the perception of your brand and increase its appeal.
People will often act based on the recommendation of someone they perceive to be an authority figure, and it doesn't have to be Obama or Oprah giving you an endorsement. A leading figure in your niche or a local celebrity can prove extremely successful, as you can use their established reputation to tap into their audience and popularity for your own brand. This is known as 'influencer marketing' and can drive significant interest and engaged traffic to your online platforms, giving your social proof a real boost.
According to a CompUSA and an iPerceptions study, “63% of consumers indicate they are more likely to purchase from a site if it has product ratings and reviews.” With consumers trusting customer reviews 12 times more than they do the manufacturer's own descriptions, incorporating user reviews of your products or services on your website is invaluable to potential customers. This results in increased conversions and improves user experience, but user reviews are also a powerful way of driving increased traffic. Search engines like unique, regularly updated content, and user reviews are a fantastic way to attract more content, increasing the chance of ranking highly in search engine results.
Don't be afraid of negative reviews either, as polite, but negative reviews can make a brand seem more "honest, down-to-earth, cheerful and wholesome," compared to no complaints at all.
5. Strength in numbers
Statistics and social sharing numbers are a powerful form of social proof. Showing off the number of mentions, followers and fans you have on social media is proof of your popularity and approval. Social sharing stats are valuable in content marketing, and show credibility and trust. Trending stats, such as “50 people are viewing, 120 people are listening, 25 people bought this item,” etc., are instantly compelling and relevant to the user.
However don't just see your site in terms of it's statistics — highlight the benefits and strengths of your website using numbers. For example, Elance publicizes how their service has helped freelancers earn over $1 billion, which is an incredibly persuasive stat! Use numbers to your advantage: share product/service usage or user base statistics to show prospective consumers that they are not alone and that people are already benefitting from your service. The caveat is that this only works if you have decent numbers. Having low numbers and showing them off can actually hurt you, as visitors might believe you to be too new or risky, or not truly believe in your service or product.