Whether it’s a social situation, a business decision, or making up your mind about what kind of paper towels to buy, a lot of things influence your choices.
I would argue that the most powerful and influential of those factors is social proof, especially when it comes from people you trust who have practical, real-world experience.
Before you hire someone, you ask for personal and professional references. We read customer ratings and reviews online, look for testimonials on websites before making a purchase decision, and ask our friends or family members for recommendations.
That’s the power of providing social proof.
What is Social Proof?
The principle of social proof is a psychological concept that states that people are more inclined to mimic the actions and behaviors of others in order to adhere to the accepted norms and behaviors of their group. It’s how we learn socialization as we grow up, and we continue to gauge our own actions and attitudes against others throughout our lives.
Social proof is widely used in marketing to influence consumer behavior.
If we’re investigating a brand of software and see all of the known brand logos scrolling across the bottom, that eases our minds. It’s proof that established companies believe in that product as well. When we see a social media post from a friend raving about a book or restaurant or movie, that’s social proof that maybe it’s worth our time and we should check it out.
Leveraging social proof does more than compel us to act. It touches deeper needs within us that amplify that drive for acceptance.
How Different Types of Social Proof Influence Buyer Behavior
Before marketing became a profession, social proof was already at work within society. It was the neighbor who bragged about how well his new car performs or the friend who discovered a new brand of coffee and told all of their friends about it.
Mass marketing used social proof in the form of celebrity endorsements, and that is still a common practice. It now extends to influencers with a wide following and other forms of digital media marketing.
Social media influencers are one form of social proof. Others include:
• Expert opinions and endorsements
• Celebrity spokespersons
• Thought leaders
• User-generated content
Of the different forms of social proof, some of the most effective are customer reviews and testimonials. They’re more persuasive than influencer marketing and paid endorsements because they come from real people who interact with your brand.
Rather than being paid to sing your praises, they’ve invested their hard-earned money in you and consider it well-spent. This form of social proof incorporates several psychological concepts that increase its power.
One is FOMO, or fear of missing out. You see people online raving about a product or service, and you feel like you’re missing out on something exciting. It also reinforces our need to fit in and be accepted by our peers.
Another concept is that the wisdom of the crowd is more correct in a given situation than the opinion of a single person or expert.
Wisdom From the Field
We don’t want to toot our own horn, so we’ll let our customers do it for us. Call it a case study.
One of the review sites that mention Level343 is Featured Customers. This industry platform provides reviews, case studies, and customer testimonials from thousands of real-world users to help companies find the right products and services for their businesses. Of our more than 700 ratings on that site, we’re holding strong at 4.8 out of 5.
This is exactly what the “wisdom of the crowd” looks like, and it is powerful!
The Six Principles of Persuasion
The “Godfather of Influence”, industry expert, psychologist, and academic Robert Cialdini, has written a book on the power of persuasion. Several, in fact.
For more than 35 years, he has studied the psychological factors that impact our decision-making, and he has the receipts to back up his findings. He’s also put them into practice in his professional life. In fact, social proof is one of his “six principles of persuasion”.
Social Proof is a psychological concept that states that people make decisions based on the actions of others. In simpler terms, if something is popular or in demand, it’s more likely that other people will also want it. Therefore, social proof can be a powerful tool for entrepreneurs looking to increase the persuasiveness of their websites.
There are six principles of persuasion beyond social proof, which are: reciprocity, commitment and consistency, authority, liking, and scarcity.
Let’s use this example: a business owner is selling a beauty product and can include customer reviews and images of people using the product. To increase the effectiveness of social proof on a website, business owners can use customer testimonials, social media shares, and ratings and reviews.
- Reciprocity means that people feel obliged to repay someone who has done something for them. The business owner can implement reciprocity by offering exclusive discounts or content to individuals who sign up for their email list.
- Commitment and consistency mean that people are more likely to follow through on something if they have made a public commitment to it. Using the principle of commitment and consistency, the entrepreneur can encourage customers to publicly pledge their support for the product by sharing on social media or creating user-generated content.
- Authority is the principle that people are more likely to trust experts or individuals who hold authoritative positions. The principle of authority can be implemented by showcasing any relevant credentials, certifications, or awards received by the business or the product.
- Liking involves the idea that people are more likely to believe and be influenced by people they like. Building relationships with customers through user-generated content, responding to feedback and engaging on social media, can utilize the principle of liking.
- Scarcity means that people are more likely to act if they feel that something is in limited supply. Creating a sense of urgency or scarcity via limited-time offers, special promotions, and countdown timers can make use of the scarcity concept.
In addition to the “six principles of persuasion,” you can make your website even more persuasive by using attractive visuals, compelling headlines, clear call-to-actions, and storytelling. By providing persuasive and engaging content, offering high-quality products, and providing excellent customer service, entrepreneurs can increase sales and build a loyal following.
One change he offers from traditional ideas about marketing and sales is the idea of using “pre-suasion” rather than persuasion. Rather than just changing minds about your brand, you must change the state of mind of your potential audience. In other words, to challenge their perception of who you are, what you stand for, and how these things can impact their lives.
So, how do you accomplish that? By letting your customers do the talking on your behalf.
Leveraging the Power of Customer Opinion to Boost Brand Awareness
A satisfied customer is a happy customer. Give them a reason to crow about your product or service, and they will sing your praises all around town and on social media.
Here are the statistics:
• More than half of customers between the ages of 18 and 34 trust a company more if they read favorable reviews
• More than 90% use reviews to guide day-to-day purchase decisions
• 94% of those surveyed claim negative reviews have caused them to avoid a brand
However, few of your customers will give you props online of their own accord. Create a landing page where they need to be asked. Here are a few ways you can do that, and they require very little effort or expense.
1. Add a customer review widget to your website. This puts the idea in their heads to leave a review since it’s right in front of them and all they have to do is say a few kind words about your product. The best ones can be converted to customer testimonials. Make sure to display them prominently on every page of your site.
2. Request a review at strategic places. This could be as part of a thank you follow-up email, at checkout, or as a popup before someone leaves your website.
3. Make the review part of a customer survey. Whenever someone interacts with your brand, it should trigger an automated response that simply requests to leave a rating or review. Apps do this all the time through a popup that asks for a star rating while using the app.
4. Claim and utilize industry/customer review platforms. Make sure that you claim and complete your Yelp, Google My Business, and other pages and request that customers visit these sites to leave a review.
5. Request reviews and testimonials on your social platforms. This could be on the social profile itself, somewhere in your content, and in the About section.
Make sure to pay attention to negative reviews as well. Don’t delete them. Engage with them instead, and do it as soon as possible after they appear. This tells potential customers that if there is a problem, you will address it right away.
Seasoned business owners and marketers understand the power of social proof for building brand awareness and trust with their audience. This psychological phenomenon demonstrates your authority and tells potential customers that you’re a brand they can count on to deliver on promises.
Marketing is all about forging long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with your audience.
By leveraging social proof, you’ll increase your reach and establish yourself as the brand people trust to address their pain points and improve their lives.
Originally published on LinkedIn by Gabriella Saninno