You know how you’re more likely to purchase a product recommended by family or friends? That’s social proof at work. If you’re not harnessing the power of social proof psychology in your marketing efforts, you’re wasting the opportunity to leverage the influence of existing customers to build trust among prospects.
Over 95% of consumers read online customer reviews before making a purchase. With this, you essentially miss out on the chance to turn clients into ambassadors when you don’t make an effort to generate reviews and client testimonials.
But what makes social proof marketing so effective? More importantly, how can you apply the principle of social proof to elevate your business reputation management?
We answer these questions and cover the following topics to help you get started on the right track:
- What Is Social Proof?
- Understanding the Principle of Social Proof
- Social Proof Psychology in Action
- Examples of Social Proof in Marketing
- Where and How To Display Online Reviews and Client Testimonials
What Is Social Proof?
Social proof is a psychological and social phenomenon where people refer to the actions and decisions of others to decide what’s right or wrong.
The principle of social proof holds that people imitate others when they want to ensure they’re making the correct decisions and do not have the time or knowledge to do so, believing their actions are the norm or proper behavior.
“Social proof” was introduced by psychologist Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book, “Influence.” Also called informational social influence, the theory maintains that individuals uncertain about the correct or acceptable behavior in a particular situation refer to other’s actions and behaviors.
Social proof marketing has been around for a long time. Consumers have traditionally accepted recommendations from credible experts, celebrities, friends and families. But with the rise of social media and the internet in general, the accessibility and effectiveness of client testimonials and reviews as tools of persuasion have skyrocketed.
Understanding the Principle of Social Proof
Using social proof psychology to boost your online reputation successfully entails understanding the four primary mechanisms behind it.
- Uncertainty. Being in an unfamiliar situation prompts people to look to others for behavioral guidance.
- Similarity. Still, people don’t simply follow the actions and behaviors of another person. They are more likely to refer to those they relate to, either based on their age, gender, race, shared interests, common experiences or other similarities.
- Expertise. People perceived as experts on a certain topic tend to be more influential.
- Number. An action or behavior becomes more valid the greater the number of people who find it correct.
Social Proof Psychology in Action
Many studies have been done to observe how social proof theory works in real-life settings.
MJ Salganik’s “Leading the Herd Astray”
When Princeton sociology professor Matthew Salganik was a doctoral student at Columbia, he studied how social proof influences the success of music, movies, books and other cultural products.
With his coauthors, Salganik set up an experiment where participants were asked to listen to and download songs by unknown artists. They were randomly assigned to different virtual rooms. Some rooms showed only a list of songs, while others showed other information, like how many times a certain song was downloaded.
The same songs were used for the experiment, and they climbed up the charts the more they were downloaded. The only difference was that Salganik introduced his own popularity rankings in the virtual rooms showing stream/download stats.
As the experiment progressed, participants responded to Salganik’s popularity rankings and downloaded the “popular” songs over the others. The result? Different songs charted in different rooms. For example, a song titled “Lockdown” by 52 Metro came in first in one virtual room but ranked 40th out of 48 in another.
“A Room With a Viewpoint: Using Social Norms To Motivate Environmental Conservation in Hotels”
A 2005 study conducted by Robert Cialdini with his graduate students Noah Goldstein and Vladas Griskevicius observed the effect of social influence on hotel guests’ behavior.
The researchers enlisted the aid of a hotel in Arizona and experimented with the effect of using descriptive social norms in its messaging. They created three cards bearing three different messages:
“You can show your respect for nature and help save the environment by reusing your towels during your stay.”
PARTNER WITH US TO
“In exchange for your participation in this program, we at the hotel will donate a percentage of the energy savings to a nonprofit environmental protection organization. The environment deserves our combined efforts. You can join us by reusing your towels during your stay.”
JOIN YOUR FELLOW GUESTS
“Almost 75% of guests who are asked to participate in our new resource savings program do help by using their towels more than once. You can join your fellow guests to help save the environment by reusing your towels during your stay.”
The first message focused on environmental protection and shared that reusing their towels lets guests contribute to saving the environment. The second emphasized environmental cooperation and encouraged guests to join them in their environmentally friendly efforts. Meanwhile, the last card simply told guests most of their counterparts do reuse their towels.
These cards were randomly placed in 190 rooms in the hotel. According to the data gathered, the first two messages generated a reuse rate of 38% and 36%, respectively. On the other hand, the social influence messaging effectively encouraged recycling activity about 48% of the time.
Social Proof at Work in Marketing
Whether buying a product or hiring a service, consumers want reassurance. They’re eager to see others’ experience with your product, service and even customer service before making a commitment.
This is why there’s value in taking the time to generate reviews or investing in a review monitoring service. The more customer reviews you have and respond to, the more you can leverage social influence to fortify your marketing efforts and build trust in prospects.
Examples of Social Proof in Digital Marketing
The fact is customers won’t always believe everything you say about your product or service. Reviews and feedback from previous customers are more powerful in influencing their decision-making process and shaping their perception of your brand.
This is why eCommerce websites like Amazon prominently showcase reviews on product pages. They maximize social proof psychology to help customers find the best items and give them the assurance they need to go straight to checkout.
However, remember that review generation is not enough to make social proof work for you. It’s crucial that you also enlist a review monitoring service moving forward. Proactive online review monitoring enables your brand to manage and respond to all customer reviews promptly and professionally.
Case studies give an in-depth look into how a current or previous customer achieved their goals or noteworthy milestones using a product or service. They can be published in downloadable PDFs or hosted on your blog.
At Rize Reviews, we dedicate pages to customer stories. Here, we share what our clients wanted to achieve and what they were able to do with our service.
EXISTING CUSTOMERS AND CLIENTS
Circling back to the third item on the four mechanisms behind social proof, one effective way to instill confidence in prospects is to show the big brands using you, too. If they allow you to, sharing that these well-known names partner with your company is an excellent way to show you’re a trusted authority.
AWARDS AND ACCOLADES
Your awards are other examples of social proof you can use to leave a positive impression on prospects and instill trust in them. Showcasing the accolades you received, especially from reputable award-giving bodies, lets people know your business is regarded for its excellence.
Where and How To Display Online Reviews and Client Testimonials
While online customer reviews are typically shown on review sites, you’re not limited to these platforms. Working with reputation management consultants can explain your options best, but you can start taking your social proof marketing up a notch today.
Supercharge your business reputation management with the following creative ideas:
Display Testimonials on Your Homepage
After you generate reviews, showcase the best and meatiest you received on your homepage to make it more authoritative. Reputation management consultants recommend the following tips:
- Use the real images of your customers to accompany their reviews, if possible.
- Use your most recent reviews. More than eight in 10 people disregard those older than three months.
- Dedicate a space in your landing page to showcase prominent customers. When people see you’re receiving positive feedback from notable brands, they’re more likely to turn to you, too.
Turn Them Into Video Testimonials
Around 80% of consumers get more information about a business, product or service by viewing a video testimonial. On top of that, two out of three said they’d be more encouraged to make a purchase after watching a video testimonial about how an offering benefited someone they relate to.
Capture your target audience’s attention and create a stronger emotional connection with them by creating video reviews.
Add Online Customer Reviews to Product Pages
A Spiegel Research Center survey revealed that 95% of customers read reviews before making a purchase. With this, placing reviews on your product pages helps you create a more focused customer journey and gives your buyers everything they need to decide.
That’s not all – a test conducted by Trustmary showed that eCommerce conversion rates of websites rose by 67% when website visitors saw customer reviews on the same site. For service bookings, the conversion rate grew by 29%.
Boost Your Ad Copy With Social Proof Marketing
Besides enhancing your brand image, harness online review monitoring and incorporate online customer reviews into your ads to supercharge your paid campaigns.
Here are some strategies to try:
- Use the wisdom of the crowd. Show trending products on your online store, feature product ratings or reviews on your ads or highlight the number of clients who trust your business.
- Leverage the expert’s stamp of approval by sharing about an industry thought leader or influencer who uses or recommends your product or service.
- Showcase your credentials. The number of customers you currently serve, the awards or certifications you received or a news story or article about your brand published by a well-known authority can add trust to your business.
Invest in Robust Online Reputation Management Software and Make Social Proof Work for You
With today’s markets becoming increasingly competitive, it’s crucial that you become creative when boosting your online reputation. Understanding the psychology behind consumer decisions and the role social influence plays in them can help you enhance your image and generate more leads and sales.
However, you need a steady stream of valuable online customer reviews to start incorporating social proof psychology into your business strategy. The question is, how do you get them?
This is where Rize’s review generation and online reputation management services prove useful. With our robust software, you can implement tailored review generation strategies and launch personalized campaigns to create a continuous flow of reviews.
The best part? The capabilities of our online reputation management software don’t end there. It also offers a review monitoring service through multi-site tracking, notifications and email alerts to help you address reviews as promptly as possible. As many as 97% of shoppers also read review responses from businesses when evaluating them, and replying to both positive and negative feedback quickly helps show that you care for your customers.
Harnessing the power of social proof opens up opportunities for you to take your online reputation and business to the next level. Contact us today to learn how Rize’s done-for-you online reputation management services can help you in this endeavor – and make it easier for customers to trust you.