The Importance of Social Proof in Digital Marketing
Perhaps you’ve heard about how social proof helps businesses achieve a higher level of success, but do you understand how and why it works? What role does it play in marketing your brand online? If you’re not quite clear on these things, this article will help answer your most basic questions.
What is Social Proof – and Why Does It Matter?
According to Wikipedia.com, “social proof” is a term coined by Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, to describe a “psychological and social phenomenon wherein people rely on the feedback and actions of others to determine their actions under a particular situation.”
It’s human nature at work. If a lot of people behave in a certain way, others will begin to believe that it must be the right thing to do and will eventually follow their lead. Some may call it herd mentality, bandwagon effect, or the wisdom of the crowd, but one thing’s for sure – social proof can be a powerful marketing tool.
The results of the 1951 Solomon Asch conformity experiment best demonstrates how far people are willing to bend to conform to the decision of the majority, even if it means making the wrong judgment.
In this classic experiment, Asch, a pioneer in social psychology, gathered 50 male students to participate in a vision test and divided them into groups. However, only one participant in each group was actually being tested; the remainder were all secret accomplices who previously agreed on what their responses would be.
Each group was presented with a set of images – one showing a single line and the other showing three lines with varying lengths. Their task is to judge which of the lines best matched the reference line. As agreed, the accomplices gave the wrong answers in 12 of the 18 trials. While the answer is quite obvious, 75% of the real participants readily conformed at least once to the choice of the majority.
Why did they do it? Their reason is simple. They want to fit in with the group and believe that the group is more informed than they were. While Asch’s experiment demonstrated a darker side of social proof – people can be made to believe things that aren’t true through peer pressure – it can be used to help convince people of positives as well.
In other words: Through social proof, people can become more confident that your products or services will help solve their problems.
Types of Social Proof: How Many Are There?
Reviews and Ratings
Reviews are a powerful force. While more and more people are losing their trust in traditional advertising, presumably unbiased reviews from reputable third-party sites such as Yelp, Google, Foursquare, and Yellow Pages are gaining more credibility by the day. 76% of consumers say that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from family and friends.
Ratings can also sway consumer purchasing decisions, with 57% of consumers claiming that they prefer using businesses with 4 or more review stars. That’s social proof at work!
Customer testimonials are just as effective, so if you have a lot of satisfied customers, ask them to share their experience with your brand. With 89% of customers citing testimonials as the most reliable type of content, highlighting them in your marketing materials will bear good results.
Influencer and micro-influencer Endorsements
Consumers tend to emulate the actions and decisions of others, especially those whom they look up to. No wonder, 30% of consumers and 70% of Millennials are more likely to buy a product endorsed by a non-celebrity blogger. The same study also found that celebrity endorsements are less effective and only influence the buying decision of 3% of consumers.
Who are your clients? Displaying their logos on your website and marketing materials can help build your brand’s credibility.
Awards and Recognition
People buy from brands they trust, so give them a reason to trust you. Validate your credibility by prominently displaying the awards and recognition you received from different organizations and by mentioning websites and media outlets that featured your brand.
The number of customers, users, and subscribers serves as undeniable social proof and further validates a brand’s credibility. Therefore, if you have an established customer base, don’t hesitate to use it to your advantage.
People love the feeling of belonging and are more likely to follow your brand if a large group of people is doing the same thing. However, don’t be tempted into buying fake followers just for the sake of increasing your follower count. You need an engaged audience to grow your business. Not fake ones – and this can backfire by making you look desperate.
Displaying your social shares can work both ways. If your numbers are great, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t flaunt it. But if your social shares are relatively low, it may backfire and give people the idea that your content is not share-worthy.
Social Proof in Digital Marketing: What Roles Does It Play?
We’ve already established that social proof can be an effective marketing tool if used correctly. But how exactly does it help? Here’s how.
It conveys value and boosts credibility.
Testimonials from industry experts and displaying the logo of big-name clients on your website or landing page gives an impression of authority and lends more credibility to your brand. Here are some great examples of how to incorporate social proof in your landing pages for maximum effect.
It increases conversions.
People only buy from brands and businesses they trust. You can’t force them to take out their credit cards to buy something from an unknown, unverified source. To help buyers overcome their resistance, you need to provide social proof such as trust icons, testimonials, and positive reviews to make them trust you enough to do business with you. With 88% of consumers claiming that reviews affect their online purchasing decision, incorporating social proof in your pages will positively affect your bottom line!
Additionally, you’ll score big if you have five (or more) reviews for your product since it increases the purchase likelihood by 270% as compared to a product with no reviews, according to the Spiegel Research Center.
It improves web traffic and SEO.
Social proof helps improve your SEO in several ways. According to the BrightLocal Local Services Ads Click Study, review ratings are the biggest driver of clicks in local SERPs while another study claimed that review signals make up 15% of Google local pack ranking factors.
And here’s another bonus – incorporating social proof such as testimonials also increases website by 45%.
So, what are you waiting for? Start adding social proof to your site and product pages today, and see how effective it can be for yourself.