Social proof: Definition, Types & How to use

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When it comes to eCommerce, social proof is a powerful tool to convince your prospects to make a purchasing decision. If you want to truly understand this, reflect on how you decide to buy as a consumer.

Have you ever left a product because it has bad reviews? If you were looking for a place to eat in a new city, would you come to a crowded restaurant or an empty one? When you wanted to buy the TV that your friend just bought, would you ask them where they bought their TV and go there, or would you go to a random store? I think we all have the same answer here.

Bad reviews are a strong signal that tells a product is too risky to try. The emptiness of a restaurant would look really suspicious, especially for things that we put in our mouths, and of course, it feels safer to buy the TV where our friend did because we can see the result in front of us. The customer will be ready to leave a tip in your tip jar if they rely on social proof in choosing you.

This is the impact that social proof has on our purchase behavior. So, what is the definition of social proof? What benefits can it bring to your bottom line? And how can you implement the most common types of social proof for your brand? You will find all of the answers to these questions in this article. Let’s jump right into it!

Table of Contents:

What is social proof?

Social proof is the psychological influence that the attitudes and actions of the people surrounding us (online and offline) have on your own thinking and behavior. The “proof” factor in social proof is the notion that if other people are doing/buying something, then it must be correct.

How strong social proof affects us depends on the numbers of people who are using/promoting something; the more people there are, the stronger the impact will be. Social proof can influence people to make decisions and take actions differently than they would if they had relied merely on their own judgment.

Benefits of social proof in marketing

Social proof is an effective marketing tactic for a variety of benefits that it can bring.

The Bandwagon Effect

At its core, social proof takes effect thanks to a psychological effect called the bandwagon effect. This psychological phenomenon states that people are more likely to do something if they see other people who are also doing that thing. This is very obvious to see when you look at the book industry. A book that sells two million copies attracts more people who are curious about what makes that book so special.

The execution of this form of social proof involves showcasing that a large number of people have bought a product (For instance, “Over 20,000 copies sold!”) or a large number of people are happy with your service (“Over 1 million satisfied customers!”).

Another way of showing social proof is displaying social media follower counts. These numbers, however, are hard to verify and easily faked (Facebook Fan Page likes and Instagram follows can be purchased very cheaply), so the effectiveness of this technique relies on how much the customer trusts what the business is showing.

Learn more: ow to Get Verified on Instagram

Sense of Trust

The trust effect is another benefit that social proof can bring. When there are other people who are buying from an online business, that shows that the business is reliable and shoppers are less likely to have to worry about getting tricked or ripped off. Trust is the most crucial factor when it comes to buying, and it’s even much more important with buying online as the seller and buyer don’t get to interact in person.

On top of that, most eCommerce businesses carry out transactions via credit card, so if a business doesn’t look trustworthy, it’s very unlikely that the customer will use their credit card on its website.

Sense of Authority

Last but not least, social proof in marketing is a way to establish authority. For instance, with some special types of products that require expertise such as electronics or medicines, a testimonial from a well-known expert of the associated industry is more reliable than a hundred reviews coming from average people.

Using logos of big clients or testimonials of reputable figures on your website is a great way to demonstrate social proof and establish authority. If big companies and well-known figures are in partnership with a brand, that brand must be a good one.

These are the three main benefits that social benefit can offer. It works by tapping into our instinct to follow other people’s actions as humans. It will help you build up trust, credibility and break barriers between you and your online customers.

11 types of social proof

As you have learned why social proof is important, let’s move on now to what the most widely-used types of social proof are. These types of social proof are the key when you draw up a plan for your marketing campaign.

#1: Testimonials

Social proof
Customer testimonials

These are quotes from your previous clients and customers who shout out for the benefits of your product. This can be a great way to convince prospects of your products’ benefits. You should use testimonials from people that are similar to your target customer, and use reviews that are not generic, but as specific as possible.

#2: Influencer Endorsements

Social proof
Gigihadid promotes a brand of cosmetics on her Instagram

Have you ever wondered why companies pay celebrities to endorse their products, even when those celebrities have nothing to do with the company? The reason is quite simple; people make an association between the celebrity and the product after the celebrity says something about it. If you are a fan of the celebrity, you may want to give the product a try.

Influencers don’t necessarily have to be singers or pop stars, they can be highly respected doctors, fitness trainers, food experts, etc. (Basically anyone who has the expertise to influence their followers). Find an influencer in your product niche who can endorse your products, and you’re likely to find some (or lots) of their followers becoming your followers.

#3: Ratings

Social proof
Ratings on Amazon

On Amazon, I only buy products that have a rating of 4.5 stars and higher. Products with ratings under this number look too suspicious for me, so I’ll just stay away from them. New buyers rely on ratings from old buyers to make their decision, so if your ratings are good, sales will come in drove.

#4: User Reviews

Social proof
User reviews on Google

A user review is, to some extent, similar to a testimonial, and it usually comes alongside with ratings. The difference is instead of cherry-picking customer quotes to strategically place on your website or use in your marketing materials, customer reviews are often seen in the review section or review sites, and they tend to be a mixed bag of good and bad reviews.

#5: Number of Product Users

Social proof
Showcasing product users

People are less likely to buy products that few people buy. That’s why there’s the best-selling items section on almost every eCommerce store. So, how many people have bought your product? 1,000? 100,000? Larger numbers of product users indicate that the product delivers its promise very well, and vice versa. So, just simply showing the number of people who have bought your product is a powerful form of social proof.

#6: Previous Successes / Client Case Studies

Social proof
Case studies of customers

This form of social proof is used to showcase your past work that can’t be in a single testimonial. This usually comes in the form of a blog post that describes the details of a past project that you have carried out.

#7: Credentials

“PhD in medical science at Harvard Medical School”. That title makes it more likely for us to trust what the person who holds it states, doesn’t it? Havard is a prestigious and reputable university in many people’s views, and that is a credential.

Showing your credentials (your degree, your expertise, etc.) conveys that you are a real deal, and that helps you earn trust from your potential clients. So, what education, training program or other credentials do you have or could you earn to leverage it as a form of social proof.

#8: Email Subscribers

Do you have a large email list? Tell other potential subscribers about it by adding a quote under your subscription box showing how many people are already on your email list.

“Join 100,000 experienced marketers by signing up today!”

#9: Media Coverage

As seen on these magazines
As seen on these magazines

The media, especially reputable news channels or magazines (like Forbes) is considered a trustworthy source of information. Products and people can manage to get themselves on media coverage can gain trust and credibility more easily than those who can’t.

#10: User-Generated Content

Social proof
User-generated content on Instagram

If you have built a community around your product, how can you leverage your community to show your product to potential customers? One good way is by offering incentives (discounts, etc) for the customers to create content with your brand and submit their content for your display ($5 off the next deal per review, for example). On both Facebook and Instagram, you can leverage hashtags to receive content generated by your customers.

#11: Social Media Followers

Social proof
Instagram followers as social proof

The number of followers you have on your social accounts is a form of social proof as well. People automatically make an assumption that an account with 5 followers is not very active or has no good content to share when compared with one with a million followers.

Put into practice

Now as you are familiar with the different types of social proof there are and know why this form of marketing is essential to your business, let’s grab some quick ways to implement it immediately in your next marketing campaign.

  • Feature customer testimonials on your website or newsletters
  • Emphasize the number of customers, followers or subscribers you have
  • Automate the follow-up with the customers who have bought from you and ask for referrals
  • Look for experts who are interested in what you’re doing, build relationships and work together to discover ways that they can help promote you (and what you can give them in return too; that’s important).

Final words

Social proof is a simple but powerful way to build up an eCommerce brand, and ultimately, bring conversions. When you want to tell your prospects how great your product and service are, using evidence that comes from your happy customers can make the message hit home more powerfully. And when you want to boast about your achievements, you are allowed because you have got testimonials from dozens of people to back up what you say.

When it comes to eCommerce business, social proof is not just something that is useful; it’s necessary. Your prospects want to see this social evidence as they want to get the feeling of confidence before handing their money over to you.

Now you have got eleven ways to implement social proof for your business. Both service-based and product-based eCommerce businesses can use these elements. So can starters or veteran entrepreneurs alike.

It’s time now for you to tut these elements of social proof to work. You will see that engagement on your content will shoot through the roof, and conversion rates will skyrocket.

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