Social proof, a term coined by Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book, Influence, is also known as informational social influence. It describes a psychological and social phenomenon wherein people copy the actions of others in an attempt to undertake behaviour in a given situation.
Basically, social proof is the premise that if other people are behaving in a certain manner then we presume this is the correct behaviour. This form of interaction is an ever-increasing phenomenon with the rise of social media. Think of all the youtube stars with millions of followers or that picture of an egg that got 52 million likes, the general idea that other people enjoy it so it must be interesting and we engage.
This is a hugely powerful aspect of human nature and obviously has a massive impact on how people interact with the content and services we offer. So how do we take this idea and apply it to our own marketing campaigns?
Something like a viral video can have a huge impact on your social presence, but in reality these require a lot of effort to produce with little guarantee of creating the impact you want. There are however some basics that you can use.
Word of mouth
The most basic and original form of social proof must be the simple comment shared with a friend over a coffee. Arguably the most powerful form of recommendation is always going to be from those closest to you. We trust them, so it follows that we will be more likely to take their recommendation into consideration.
This translates into the digital world as well. With the rise of social media it is easy for people to share where they are, what they are doing or the new purchase they have made. You can use this behaviour by encouraging this activity with a simple call to action on your product or in your store.
For example have a specific hashtag for your product and encourage users to share their experience with the hashtag. Polar the wearable sports technology company do this to great effect on Instagram with the #TeamPolar tag. They encourage users to share pictures of them using the Polar products on their channels for their friends to see.
Customer reviews are a powerful form of social proof. Amazon is the king of this system, how many times have you been browsing for a product and then looked to the reviews to see if it really holds up to the lofty claims in the description? Generally, these come in the form of a 5-star system with a ranking between 1 and 5 stars and a space to add a comment on the product from the users perspective.
Most eCommerce solutions offer a system to handle this and even platforms like Facebook and Google My Business offer the ability to post reviews on company pages. Customers who are overly delighted or extremely unsatisfied with your product are likely to post a review, but realistically you will need to remind or prompt people to post reviews of your products. Again to reference Amazon, a few days after you receive a product from them that you will receive an email asking for your feedback on the item.
Systems like MailChimp have various automated options to email customers after a specific action such as product purchases. If you don’t sell your products online there is no harm in a personal email from you to your client asking for a review. For small businesses I would recommend this over automation, you are much more likely to receive a response when it’s a personal request.
An important point is once you have received a review, respond to it! It demonstraights that you are interested in your customers and responsive to their needs.
These can be a great source of information on how your products perform and give you feedback on any issues there might be.
Testimonials are longer forms of positive customer feedback about your brand or product. These are generally a short summary of how your service was above and beyond what they expected or of how the product they purchase made a situation easier for them.
Testimonials can be used for directed marketing material such as adverts and they are a great addition to your website.
Adding testimonials to places such as your product description page describing how it solved a real problem for a real person can go a long way to helping you secure the sale. For added impact ask if you can use their picture and name and if its another company add a link to their website. These all add to the credibility of the testimonial.
Don’t be scared to go out and ask for things like reviews and testimonials, or any form of social proof. A company that is actively looking for feedback from their customers is much more attractive than one who ignores them.
Also don’t be afraid of a bad response, it is your chance to improve a product or service. It also gives you the chance to engage and possibly restore a customers trust in you. Most people complain to get an issue resolved so do your best to offer a solution or replacement and where suitable do this publically. It all adds to your image and shows that you care about your customers.