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With so much information on the internet, it can be difficult for customers to know who to trust. This is where social proof comes in.
Social proof is the idea that people are influenced by what others do, viewing it as ‘correct behaviour’.
Social proof isn’t a new concept, but thanks to the rise in social media it has become more versatile and easier to use and monitor. Taking advantage of social proof is not only becoming easier, but common practice.
With 81 percent of consumers using the internet to research purchases before making them, it’s easy to see why ‘social proof is the new marketing,’ according to Aileen Lee.
We’ve summarised six ways you can easily use social proof in marketing to widen your reach and increase your impact.
Social media interaction
Consumers are increasingly anxious about missing the next big thing, since there are so many things out there.
With so much choice, we often rely on others for a nudge in the right direction. Shares, likes and retweets all suggest that something has been tried, tested and enjoyed. As social proof is all about following the herd, the more interaction you get, the more you’ll gain.
As one study of German banks has shown, customers that come from customer referrals have a 16 percent higher lifetime value than those acquired in other ways, meaning social media sharing can be rewarding.
You can’t force people to interact, but by creating and sharing genuinely useful and remarkable content, tailored for your customers, they can’t help but get involved.
Everyone knows that a happy customer is a marketing tool in itself, but very often this idea is confined to the word-of-mouth business they could generate.
With case studies you can take that word-of-mouth and give it a further reach than your customer’s network, which in 2010 was estimated to be 1,375 people.
A case study or two can give your potential customers a genuine glowing review to base decisions on – taking one happy customer’s review and magnifying the effect, directing it towards your pool of potential customers.
User-generated content takes the benefits of a case study even further as readers can hear the story straight from the horse’s mouth.
A great example of this is ASOS’ ‘as seen on me’ campaign. ASOS asked customers to Instagram pictures of themselves in their purchases using #AsSeenOnMe. Pictures then go into a gallery on the ASOS website as an incentive.
Incentives and competitions are common tactics to drive participation, but taking advantage of user-generated content is really about finding a platform that suits both your product and customers, which encourages them to create exciting content they are proud to share.
Instagram is a popular format for user-generated content but, Youtube, Vine, Twitter and Facebook are all excellent platforms for your customers to show you some love.
Consumer reviews are now the second most trusted form of advertising and in 2012 52 percent of consumers were influenced by online reviews.
In real terms this means that a one star increase on a Yelp review corresponds to a 5-9 percent increase in revenue.
Yelp is great for attracting business and is free to signup for, but isn’t the only way to use reviews.
Setting up a Google+ business page will sync your Google+ customer reviews with Google maps and search, while on Facebook you can add a review tab to your page. You can also incorporate reviews into your website and blog.
Having the channels available to leave reviews will encourage customers to give them.
Just as bloggers boast their number of subscribers and fast-food restaurants their number of customers served, you too can use numbers to your advantage.
When using statistics it's worth considering the power of positivity. Psychologists Noah Goldstein and Steve Martin studied the impact of negative language in social proof statistics, using signs in the Arizona Petrified Forest, discouraging theft.
By highlighting that ‘many past visitors have removed the petrified wood’ theft tripled.
Leave out the negative. If you don’t have the numbers, don’t use them and focus on how many people are doing, liking, or benefiting from something: not how many aren’t.
Expert and celebrity endorsement is rife in modern advertising and may appear wildly unattainable for smaller business, but is more accessible than you think.
With the prevalence of social media and so many bloggers and social media stars, connecting to someone with a wide net of influence relevant to your ideal customers is much easier than it used to be. Media and blog mentions are great PR for your company and are something that you should track and encourage.
Social proof is about people
Customers increasingly personify brands, meaning they apply human traits such as trustworthiness to them: trust is now central to consumer-brand engagement.
With so many online platforms, it’s easy to use the confidence that others have in your brand to develop a similar level of trust in new customers.
Marketing frequently relies on human instincts for success, so our herd mentality should be no different. After all, as Seth Godin says on social proof, ‘the first thing that happens after we encounter an earthquake is to wonder if anyone else felt it.’
Quiz: Put your inbound knowledge to the test
(Hat tip to Waltarrr, Gareth Hacking, Jvleis and Ricky Brigante for the images)