10 ways social proof can improve your marketing

Renowned for being studied by Robert Cialdini, as part of his exploration on the psychology of persuasion, social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people view behaviour (even if unusual) as correct if they see other’s performing it. What’s more the more people demonstrating this behaviour, and the more similar they are to you, the more you will feel compelled psychologically to follow.

But why is that exactly. It all goes back to social norms and us wanting to fit into groups, basically to conform. To be accepted, which is a very strong primal driver. Here is a great experiment showing just this effect Social Conformity – Brain Games.

There are 6 common types of social proof to be aware of to help you in your marketing efforts:

  1. Expert: When an expert is positively associated with your brand or recommends your products or services. Why? They are highly credible and therefore trustworthy.
  2. Influencer: Where a micro-influencer endorses your products. Why? This is a ‘celebrity’ they aspire to or believe in.
  3. Consumer: When your consumer audience recommends your products and services based on their experiences with your brand. Why? These are ‘similar others’ that they can relate to and therefore trust.
  4. Crowd: When a large group of people endorse your brand. Why? There’s safety in numbers, if everyone is raving about your service or product then there must be something in it.
  5. Friends: This type of social proof is gold, and is when people see their friends approve your brand, service or product. Why? You trust your friends implicitly and share common values/tastes.
  6. Validation: When you are given a stamp of approval by a credible authority in your industry, it could be an individual or group.

So now you know the principles, how can you apply them strategically to your marketing to leverage opportunity?

1. SMART collaborations. Collaborate with experts that share your values, vision and ethos. Ask them to contribute to your social media posting, write a blog for your website or run an event/workshop together. It’s often the case that two heads are better than one and you can bounce ideas off each other.

2. SMART celebrations. Sharing key milestones is a good way to signal social proof. Here are some typical milestones you can celebrate with your target audience:

  • Attaining X audience size
  • Achieving X downloads of your app/e-book/whitepaper
  • Reaching X followers/connections on your social media profile
  • Key anniversaries (e.g., birthday, new website launch, rebrand)

Remember it’s never really about you, but always about how what you’re doing relates/benefits your audience, so only use this tactic as a big thank you to them, and/or your team, for their support in helping you get there).

3. SMART influencing. A great way of getting influencer social proof, is having a popular influence, as a brand ambassador can be a cost-effective way of reaching a much larger audience.

4. SMART content. Propagate user-generated content, especially if shows love for your service or product, to help attract more followers and increase engagement. Don’t forget to especially share content from those that represent your ‘ideal audience’ as like attracts like.

5. SMART reviews. This is an obvious one, but don’t forget to display testimonials on your website, in fact on all your communication channels. Make sure you refresh them as often as you can as each one is a valuable endorsement of your brand and the service or products you sell. There are many sites such as Trust Pilot and Feefo who can help you gain crowd social proof too, as well as act as a validator.

6. SMART targeting. If you don’t yet have a very clear idea of who your target audience is (Adaray can of course help with that), and have the budget for social advertising, target the friends of those who are engaging with you, whether it’s those that are liking your Facebook page, or second and third connections on LinkedIn. As they will be similar to those who value your brand, service or product.

What’s great is that Facebook will automatically show you how many of their friends like your business, doing the job of social proof for you.

7. SMART words: Another great use for social proof is in crafting compelling content for your outreach campaigns. You could choose from various types of social proof to mix things up, e.g.:

  • Expert social proof: Get an expert to endorse your service or product
  • Celebrity social proof: Feature a micro-influencer using or demonstrating your product
  • Crowd social proof: Mention your audience figures  (the number of customers/clients/users you have) – even better include a great testimonial!

8. SMART ratings: Encourage your ideal audience to leave a good rating on your social media together with a google review. A great form of user social proof, a survey by research Statista shows that a massive 91% of consumers say that seeing a positive review makes them more likely to use a brand. It can also influence how much they are willing to pay for your service or product if they feel assured that they will have a better experience.

Here’re a few tips on asking customers for reviews:

  • Ask in person if you can, then follow up with a call or email
  • Reach out to repeat customers, they are brand loyal, so predisposed to help
  • Add a prompt at the end of a survey or final thank you email at the end of a project
  • Offer an incentive, something that is pretty much universally valued e.g., prize draw for Amazon vouchers or offer to donate to a charity of their choice
  • If you are collaborating with a partner, why not try a win-win approach (my favourite) – you write one for them and vice versa
  • If you know that the person you are talking to is super busy ask them to send you bullet points – then write something for them to tweak – as an old colleague once said ‘it’s far easier to tweak than create.’

9. SMART validation. Whether it’s a verification tick on social media, a prestigious award you’ve won or a membership group you’re a part of that shows your credibility. Ensure you are highlighting this as part of your social proof strategy.

10. SMART trending. Aim to get your posts trending on social media, as this is again another way of signalling crowd social proof. Helping you reach a much bigger audience it could even help you attract additional people wanting to find out more and join in the conversation.

Are there any other ways you’ve successfully used social media in your own marketing? If there are, I’d love to be able to share your best practices (and promote you in so doing) with my community online.

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