Most customers need some type of proof that a product, service, or experience works before they’re willing to buy it. Testimonials or reviews from other customers are some of the most effective types of proof. This is called social proof. Gathering and utilizing social proof is especially important in digital marketing. Let’s take a look at six ways to use social proof to improve digital marketing and how to reach customers more effectively.
What is Social Proof?
First, what is social proof? Social proof is essentially any evidence provided by another person about an experience, which may influence the actions or decisions of others. The term was coined by psychology professor Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book Influence: Science and Practice. This concept can help us understand one facet of our own and others’ decision-making processes. This is especially helpful in psychology and marketing.
Why is Social Proof Effective?
Social proof may sound simply like a case of conformity, but it’s more complicated than that. All of us use social cues as a way to interpret how to behave appropriately and what decisions are likely to have good outcomes. This has always been an adaptive mechanism; consider early humans using the experiences of others to determine which foods, animals, or areas were dangerous and which were safe. As the world becomes increasingly complex, we must make more decisions about our consumption and activities. Many of these decisions, though they generally involve lower stakes than survival, also involve more information—whether or not a berry is safe to eat is a yes or no question, but choosing between a 401k or IRA account is less direct. Learning from the experiences of others can help us process information faster. This is one reason that social proof is effective.
Our peers are not always a good indicator of what is or isn’t a good decision—we all have a tendency to be misled by the same biases and logical fallacies. However, we are, in general, also likely to benefit from and enjoy similar things, such as a clean environment, healthy food, kindness, honesty, and products that function in a reliable way. These similarities allow us to rely on the (honest) testimonials and sentiments of others. Social proof works because of these similarities, and the information we gather from other people can help to inform our own decisions. This is another reason that social proof is effective.
Why is Social Proof Important in Digital Marketing?
So, social proof can help us gather information and make decisions. But why does this matter in digital marketing? Increasingly, buyers are making purchases digitally; they’re ordering food, consumer products, and even buying big-ticket items like cars and homes online. The digital landscape is also fraught with fraud and theft. Testimonials and reviews from others help us decide whether a product, service or experience is worthwhile or not.
In fact, 92% of online consumers look at a product review before making a purchase. Consumers no longer rely on promises or advertisements as a signal of quality; consumers need proof. Businesses that do not clearly demonstrate social proof to their potential customers are fighting an uphill battle against doubt and uncertainty. With this in mind, let’s take a look at ways to use social proof to improve digital marketing and improve conversion rates.
6 Ways to Use Social Proof to Improve Digital Marketing
1. Email marketing
Email marketing is one of the best ways to use social proof to improve digital marketing and your overall strategy. Once your prospect has given their email, they likely have interest in your business, but they may also have some doubts. The right email drip can address your prospect’s concerns one by one and guide them towards the right purchase.
Social proof can be powerful here; you might include testimonials, reviews or case studies from previous customers in these emails. Customizing the emails to suit the target audience will make social proof more effective. A prospective customer who relates to the person providing the testimonial or review will be more likely to have their doubts resolved.
2. Product Pages
Another way to use social proof to improve digital marketing and improve conversion rates is to include reviews or testimonials on product pages. When customers review product pages, they’re likely to be interested in making a purchase but, just like the previously mentioned email stage, they probably have some doubts or questions. Including reviews from customers who have previously purchased the product can be a convincing factor.
Reviews can also help to inform customers, and help them avoid purchasing the wrong product. This might include how clothing items fit, how a product functions in particular situations, or particular attributes that might turn off some customers. When a customer makes a purchase, you might send an email to ask them to submit a review and use question prompts to encourage them to mention particular attributes of the product, service or experience.
Your product pages are, most likely, a part of your website, but this is not the only place that you can use social proof to improve digital marketing and conversion rates. There are other areas of your website where social proof can help to keep potential customers on the page, improve their opinion about your business, or help to move them to other product pages to make a purchase.
In addition to your product pages, consider using social proof on the following parts of your website:
- Home page: Include a few short reviews, or snippets from testimonials or case studies, on your home page to immediately demonstrate to visitors that other customers love your business.
- Contact page: When customers consider reaching out to you for a quote or they have another question about your business, seeing social proof can make them more comfortable taking that step.
- Informational pages: Informational pages about your product, service, or experience helps customers early on in the buying process. Social proof can help move them to the next or final decision stage.
- Case Studies: When customers visit your site, they might be looking for social proof right away, especially if they can’t find it elsewhere. Include a case studies page to give detailed accounts of customers’ experience. This is especially useful for B2B businesses who probably don’t have reviews on third-party websites.
4. Case Studies
As previously mentioned, case studies can be a powerful way to demonstrate social proof. Case studies are usually longer and more detailed than reviews or testimonials. They usually use a more detailed story format, which includes how the business solved the customer’s problem. Case studies also include more details about the customer and their needs, which can help other prospective customers visualize their own problems and solutions.
With this type of social proof, it’s best to divide case studies based on your target markets. Though each customer is unique, they will probably have some things in common which can allow you to group them together. Visitors to your site can click on the case studies section and not only see your work and your clients, but also find the work that is most applicable to them. To make the transition from research to purchase easier, you might include a “contact us” or “request a quote” CTA on the case studies page.
5. Social Media
Social media is a great way to use social proof to improve conversion rates, bring in more customers, and improve overall sentiment and awareness about your brand. Social media platforms are hubs of social proof. Some of this social proof is orchestrated by the brands themselves, while other types of social proof are organically generated or produced by customers. Usually, it’s a bit of both; a brand might encourage customers to share their experience on social media, and offer some type of reward in return.
There are many ways to share social proof on social media. Here are a few you might consider:
- Share case studies: You might share a snippet of a case study on a social media platform and include a link to the longer story.
- Share reviews: When customers submit reviews or testimonials directly to you, consider getting their permission to repost these on social media.
- Repost positive mentions: use a listening stream to monitor mentions of your brand or products, and repost or share the positive mentions.
- Work with influencers: Social media influencers have large audiences and can promote your brand by posting about their experience using your product or service. Remember that influencers do not have to be celebrities with millions of followers; someone with a prominent following in your industry can be a valuable influencer.
Digital advertisements, including search ads, display ads, social media ads, and more, can be a great way to get customers’ attention and they can also be a great way to use social proof. An advertisement usually includes a promise from a business about a product or service, and including social proof can help to validate these promises.
There are many ways to use social proof in digital advertising. You might include parts of a review or testimonial in a display ad, or positive sentiments from a follower in a social media ad. You might use snippets of a video testimonial in a video or audio ad. If you use reviews from third-party sites, such as Google Reviews or Yelp, make sure that this usage complies with the website’s user agreement first.
There are many ways to use social proof to improve digital marketing and conversion rates. Social proof can be a powerful tool to showcase the quality of your business and overcome prospective customers’ doubts. As you leverage social proof, be sure that you go about this in an honest and straightforward way. Consider whether your current customers, prospective customers, and other interested parties would consider your activities honest. To collect more social proof and make the process easier, consider automating your testimonial or review collection process. With a streamlined process to collect social proof, you’ll be able to utilize it in more parts of your digital marketing strategy.