Many of the choices people make can be tied to social proof. Think about all the big stuff you’ve bought—things like your car, electronic appliances, and even clothing for special events. What is the first you did when you started shopping for them? Based on relevant stats, we will say that you looked for social proof.
According to Nielsen, 83% of consumers trust reviews more than advertising. Additionally, more than 50% of consumers won’t use a business that has a rating of less than 4-stars. Moreover, Gartner finds that more than 80% of consumers specifically seek out negative reviews online. These are just a few of the several statistics that show the importance of social proof today. So, what exactly is social proof, and why do so many people look for it? Let’s find out.
What is Social Proof?
A concept based on normative social influence, social proof is the idea that the behavior of people is based on what the masses are doing. Since it is an idea originating from the concept of normative influence, we can say that the reason people seek social proof is to be liked or accepted by the relevant society or group of people.
An example of social proof would be someone browsing a business website and finding a testimonial from an industry expert they respect; the person has found the accreditation they were looking for. Also referred to as informational social influence, social proof assumes the actions of others to be correct if the frequency of such actions is high.
It would not be wrong to tie social proof to human psychology. Social proof is a phenomenon in which people simply copy the actions of others. If a person finds that a lot of people are leaving negative user reviews and testimonials about a business or its product/service, then they are unlikely to buy from the said business. Such is the power of social proof.
If leveraged properly, social proof can help any business to increase their conversions. According to Spiegel Research Center, more than 90% of consumers read online reviews before making a purchase. Additionally, the chances of a purchase increase by almost four times if a business has at least five online reviews. Perhaps, the most important statistic—one that exemplifies the importance of social proof for business—is that 97% of shoppers say that they read reviews before making any buying decision.
Understanding the Psychology Behind Social Proof
If you want to leverage the power of social proof for your business, then you need to understand the psychology behind it. According to Bright Local, 90% of consumers form an opinion about a brand after reading just ten reviews about it. Therefore, just ten user reviews can make or break your business. So, how can you ensure that the ten user reviews that shoppers read about your business or your product/service online are all positive? Simple: pay more attention to providing great customer service and positive user experience for all consumers.
This focus becomes critical because it is in human nature to seek and get the approval of others about the choices we make and the decisions we take. As humans, we want to feel a sense of belonging. As such, our decisions and choices are largely influenced by the opinions, choices, and behavior of other people who come across, both in-person and online.
What is the significance of social proof in purchase decisions? Not many people realize this, but our brain is constantly looking for shortcuts whenever it is required to make a decision or choice. As a result, we look to choose or decide about a purchase decision with minimal effort or intellectual thinking.
The opinion and choices of others provide the best shortcut, and thus, we start to look for social proof of the business or product/service in question. Ultimately, it is social proof or the choices/decisions of others that influence our decision to buy from a business or not.
If you don’t pay attention to what people are saying about your business or products/services online, then you will fail to attract new customers. According to Review Trackers, online reviews convinced more than 90% of shoppers to avoid visiting a business.
So, not only do you need to ensure positive online user reviews, but you also need to make sure that there are no negative reviews about your business online. If you ensure this, then you can start to think about using social proof to your advantage. To do that, you first need to understand the different types of social proof and their influence on buyer behavior.
The Different Types of Social Proof That You Can Use to Your Advantage
As mentioned above, there are several types of social proof that you can focus on increasing your conversions. Social proof can be categorized into twelve different types. Each type requires a different approach from businesses that are looking to leverage the power of social proof to their advantage. The following are the twelve types of social proof and how businesses can use each their advantage.
These are the in-writing opinions of your previous customers or clients about your business or a product/service you offer. Using positive testimonials from people representing your ideal customer is a great way to get the approval of potential customers about your business or product/service.
You can easily display testimonials to visitors using WP Proof (see below) on your WordPress website.
2. User Reviews
These are somewhat like testimonials, but they are not present on your website. Instead, they can be found on review sites such as Yelp. Unlike the testimonials on your website, you cannot cherry-pick quotes from your previous customers or clients about your business to show to prospective customers on online review sites. Instead, you will have to work hard and put in the effort needed to ensure that previous customers leave positive reviews about your business or product/service online. If that is too difficult for you, then at least make sure there are no negative reviews about your business on the web.
3. Influencer Endorsements
The importance of influencer endorsements cannot be emphasized enough; they are vital today. Count the number of times your favorite Instagram personality or YouTuber has promoted a brand on their page or channel. Do you know why they are promoting the brands? Because they are getting paid to do so.
Today, more and more businesses are paying influencers to put in a good word about them; these businesses are well aware of the influence that celebrities and popular social media personalities can have on the choices and decisions of prospective customers. If someone religiously follows a celebrity or social media personality and their activities, then there are likely to believe what the celebrity/influencer says about a business and its product/service.
4. Client Case Studies
If you worked with a client who got great results after using your product/service and you believe the experience cannot be described in a single quote or short testimonial, then you should look to develop a client case study; doing this will provide prospective customers with social proof about your business. You can present the case study in the form of a research paper or a blog post. However, make sure to get the approval of the said client before posting the case study to your website.
Ratings provide insight into what users think about a particular brand and its product/service. For example, a product with a 2-star rating on Amazon is a product that most users do not think highly of. On the other hand, a product with a 5-star rating shows that the product is useful. In short, ratings are important, so encourage users to give you a rating online, but make sure it is a four-star rating or higher.
6. Number of People Using the Product
The number of people using your product/service can greatly influence what opinion people or prospective customers form about it. If only ten people are using your product or service, the prospective customers won’t feel like they are missing out on anything.
On the other hand, if the current customer base of your product is in the thousands, then you can expect to get more customers shortly as people have a fear of missing out, and they wouldn’t want to feel left out. So, if you have thousands of existing customers, then make sure everyone out there knows about it.
Using WP Proof you can easily show this information. You can even show the number of visitors currently browsing your website (or fake it!). Check out the image to the right of a screenshot showing the WP Proof live visitor notification in action.
Sure, user reviews and testimonials can make your product more trustworthy and valuable, but it can never match your business credentials in terms of significance. If you have thousands of existing customers, are accredited by a reputed industry body, and have awards/certifications that you can proudly show, then that’s enough social proof for prospective customers to be convinced about your business and product/service. No further accreditation is needed.
8. Media Coverage
Has any media outlet covered your business operations? Have they written a piece about your product/service that got published in a newspaper or online news site? Has there been any mention of your product/service on talk shows? And have they interviewed the important people at your company on podcasts?
If none of the above has happened to you yet, then you need to start rethinking your media strategy. You need to socialize with important people in the media industry, win their trust, and provide something worthy to say or write about your business. Do this successfully, and it will get a whole lot easier for you to provide people with social proof about your business, ultimately resulting in increased conversions.
9. Email Subscribers
If you have a large email list, then make sure that every one of your prospective customers knows this. Post the following message to your website/social media page or send out via email: “Join 50,000 satisfied subscribers by signing up today’.
10. User-Generated Content
If you have a large customer base or many people following your social media pages, then use this to your advantage by getting them to submit content for you to display. An easy way to do this is by creating a unique hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook related to your business or product and then asking your customers/followers to submit related pictures, testimonials, or comments using the hashtag.
11. Social Media Shares
Getting your post or content to go viral is easier said than done. However, once you have a few hundred shares, the snowball effect comes into play. Before you even know it, you have 5000 shares on social media, and many more are expected.
If someone has shared a post once, then they are likely to share it again. Therefore, you should look to post content that appeals to your followers on social media and is worth sharing. Your content will direct more social users to your page, and more people will start to become aware of your business. People are more likely to buy from a business they know and have been interacting with online.
12. Social Media Followers
The last type of social proof that you can use to your advantage is the number of followers you have on your social media pages. If you have only a few people on your Facebook page and no presence on other social media platforms, then people will start to assume that your business is not very active and thus cannot be trusted.
All successful businesses today have a sizeable presence on social media platforms. Not only do they have a decent number of followers on their social media pages, but they are also quite active on them. All this helps to build trust and rapport with the prospective customers, which ultimately helps the business to increase conversions. So, if you are not doing that already, start putting more effort towards increasing your following on social media. More followers on social media will provide your prospective customers with the social proof they need; you can use this to your advantage.
How To Action This On Your WordPress Website
A lot of these social proof methods can be action’ed on your WordPress website very easily. Tools exist that make it easy for even non-tech’y WordPress website owners to add social proof mechanisms to their website.
WP Proof is the social proof platform built for WordPress websites. It has a starter account with 1,000 free impressions per month which is ideal for trialing the service and may even be enough for a small websites.
You sign up, install a plugin to your WordPress website (it also works on non-WordPress sites too) and you then connect the platform with your site. Once connected you can then create campaigns and add notifications to test ideas.
You can choose from 14 different types of notifications with each one being customisable. You can also alter where the notifications show on your site and in what order they appear (see the demonstration on the WP Proof home page on the bottom left).
The importance of social proof for businesses is increasing by the day. Almost no business today can be successful without providing social proof about its product/service online. In today’s increasingly connected world, winning the trust of customers has become critical; you can achieve this with transparency, social participation, and authenticity.