The Power of Social Proof in Digital Marketing & 18 Ways to Use It
Imagine you’re interested in finding a new coffee shop to try.
You search “Coffee shops near me” on Google and several results appear. Naturally, you read the reviews for each, opting for coffee shops with multiple ratings rather than those with only one or two reviews.
After reading the reviews, you have an idea of which shop to visit. But for good measure, you head over to their Instagram page. After all, you want to see if their pastries look as good as the menu made them sound!
You tap through their feed and tagged photos from customers and see that the pastries indeed look tasty. You grab your keys and head off to the coffee shop!
This situation is a perfect example of social proof in action. We use social proof—from customer reviews to social media posts—to make purchase decisions every day.
What is Social Proof?
The Social Proof Theory was coined by psychologist Robert Cialdini in his book, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” The theory states that if an individual does not know what the proper behavior is for a situation, they will look to other people to guide their actions.
Essentially, we will follow what the masses do. If a large group of people exhibits a specific behavior, we believe it must be correct.
In the digital marketing world, we use this idea to guide consumers toward purchasing our product or service by providing online proof that other consumers have used and enjoyed our products and services.
There are six main types of social proof:
- Customer – Social proof generated from existing customers. Often seen in the form of reviews or testimonials.
- Experts – Proof from credible experts in your industry.
- Certifications – Evidence that a 3rd party entity can certify that your company is a reliable, knowledgeable source. (Ex: FDA approved, Twitter verified, etc.)
- Crowds – A large group of people who exhibit social proof for your product or service. For instance, McDonald’s statement of “Over 1 Million Served” in 1955 (and growing!)
- Celebrities – Social proof from celebrity/influencer endorsements or mentions.
- Friends – Proof of a product or service provided by friends.
Why Should We Use Social Proof?
As humans, we rarely take statements at face value. We research and look for evidence that confirms the statement is true.
If a brand stated they were the best product in their industry, you’d want them to prove it, right? 63% of consumers say they need to hear company claims 3-5x before they believe it.
Leveraging social proof in your digital marketing strategy also offers many online and offline benefits, including:
- Building trust with your customers
- Improving search rankings through website testimonials, blog content, and reviews
- Growing your social media following as more users see the value in your brand
- Increasing brand awareness and online reputation
How to Use Social Proof in Digital Marketing: 18 Tactics to Try
The Social Proof Theory can be applied to multiple areas of a digital marketing strategy. Try adding these tactics to your marketing efforts:
Website Social Proof
1. Customer Testimonials
Since 72% of consumers say positive testimonials and reviews increase their trust in a business and 88% of consumers trust customer testimonials and reviews as much as personal recommendations, it’s fair to say that customer testimonials are among the best forms of social proof.
Compile written or video testimonials from customers and place them strategically on your website. Testimonials from previous and existing customers prove that your product or service delivers significant value.
2. Real-Time Statistics
Showcase the value of your brand with real-time data. You can do this to demonstrate the number of products sold, clients served, or whatever makes the most sense for your brand.
Or, take OptInMonster’s approach! They showcase a non-intrusive website pop-up every time a customer purchases their product.
3. Case Studies
Case studies illustrate how your product or service successfully solved a challenge for a customer. Through data and testimonials, case studies provide a solid piece of social proof for brands looking to attract new customers.
When writing case studies, be sure to:
- Identify the client problem
- Explain the solution
- Showcase the results
- Include a testimonial and quote from the client
4. Prominent Customers
Take a look at any SaaS company website. They always include the logos of prominent brands that use their software.
Because showcasing the logos of business customers can increase conversions by as much as 400%.
Doing so tells potential customers that if the leading companies trust this product, they should too.
Has your brand received a coveted industry award? Is your team certified in their areas of expertise? Is your company a member of an industry organization?
All of these accolades are excellent indicators of social proof.
Consumers would much rather purchase from an award-winning and certified brand than one without the proof of merit.
Social Proof Example: SproutSocial
Take a look at SproutSocial’s Customer Stories page. The entire page is dedicated to providing social proof of their product’s value and performance. From case studies like this one with Trello to the number of customers served, SproutSocial leaves it all on the table and shows website visitors how successful their product is.
On this page alone, SproutSocial includes:
- How many customers rely on SproutSocial for their social media efforts
- Which popular brands subscribe to SproutSocial
- Featured customer case studies
- Reviews from individual users
- Proven results from customers using the product
- Media mentions of SproutSocial’s success and client stories
- Social media mentions from SproutSocial users
- A targeted call-to-action
SproutSocial’s Customer Stories page is the prime example of how to leverage social proof on a website as part of your digital marketing strategy.
Social Proof on Social Media
6. Expert and Influencer Takeovers
Generate social proof for your brand by aligning it with prominent experts or influencers in your field. Tap into their network and influence by allowing them to take over your social media channels for the day.
Not only will this tactic get the word out about your brand to the expert’s audience, but it’ll also cement the association between your brand and its expertise.
Check out Buffer’s guide to Instagram takeovers for actionable ideas and insights.
7. Celebrity and Influencer Endorsements
The concept of celebrity endorsements dates back hundreds of years. An endorsement from a prominent public figure carries significant weight in our society. Today, much of that influence comes from notable social media stars with a large following.
Scroll through your favorite social media influencer’s feed. Chances are, you’ll find paid endorsements for everything from protein shakes to clothing brands.
But how much persuasion do influencers have on customer purchase decisions? A lot. Nearly 40% of Twitter users say they’ve made a purchase as a direct result of a Tweet from an influencer!
8. Brand Mentions
When a customer takes the time to directly tag and interact with a brand, that’s the ultimate form of social proof.
Interact with every customer who makes the effort to mention your brand online. Send them a direct message or reply in the thread to show your appreciation.
9. Sharing Social Proof to Social Media
It’s not enough to simply have social proof. You need to share it with your audience, too.
This can easily be accomplished by:
- Retweeting brand mentions on Twitter
- Sharing customer feedback and reviews to social media
- Posting customer testimonial videos to your timeline
- Reacting (liking, commenting, etc.) to social media posts that mention your brand
10. Leverage Brand Ambassadors
Brand ambassadors are individuals who represent a company on social media. They aren’t necessarily full or part-time employees, but rather individual influencers who support a company’s product or service.
These ambassadors post content about those brands to their personal social media channels, along with copy encouraging fans to purchase the product or sign up for the service. As a result, brand ambassadors are a viable form of social proof.
A 2016 Tapfluence & Altimeter study found that 71% of marketers believe that ongoing ambassadorships are the most effective form of influencer marketing.
11. Social Media Reviews and Recommendations
We all understand the power of customer reviews. Extend that authority to social media by encouraging customers to share their experience on sites like Facebook and Yelp.
Customers can leave reviews on your company’s Facebook page or post their experience to their personal pages. Be sure to amplify those reviews and recommendations by sharing them on your feed too.
Adweek cites 80% of people said they’d be more likely to purchase from a company with positive user reviews on Facebook.
12. Celebrating Company Achievements
Company accomplishments are a strong example of social proof. Did you just mark 10 years in business? Did your team just make its 10,000th sale?
If a social media user sees your brand posting about serving the 1 millionth customer, they’re definitely going to be interested in learning more about your product or service.
13. Targeting Friend Groups on Social Media
Have you ever seen an ad on Facebook that said something along the lines of “John Doe and 14 other friends like ContentWriters”? This is an example of a social media ad targeting setting designed to promote social proof.
When creating a Facebook ad audience, be sure to select the “Friends of people who like your Page” connections option. This will show your ad to the friends of people who already like your page.
This tactic taps right into the “Friends” type of social proof.
Social Proof in Online Ads
14. Share Social Proof in the Ad Copy
Whether you’re launching PPC ads on Google or retargeting ads on the display network, make sure the social proof is clear when writing ad copy.
Within your copy, you can mention:
- The top brands you’ve worked with
- How many customers use your product
- Tangible results from case studies
- Celebrity endorsements
- Any relevant awards the brand has won
15. Promote Customer Testimonials on YouTube
If you’ve logged onto YouTube in 2020, you’ve likely seen the customer testimonials ad from Noom. It’s everywhere—and it’s a phenomenal example of social proof.
Why not leverage this video strategy for your brand, too?
16. Use Customer Reviews in Paid Ads
Add social proof to your online ad campaigns by including customer reviews. Multiple ad platforms like Google Ads and Facebook allow marketers to tether their positive reviews to the ads.
Social Proof in Search Rankings
17. Obtain Reviews on Google My Business
Google My Business is an extraordinary tool for social proof and marketing in general. By gaining more reviews on this platform, you will improve future customers’ perception of your business and actively work to rank higher in search rankings.
Do your best to obtain as many glowing reviews as possible. 57% of consumers will only buy or use a business service if it maintains at least a 4-star rating.
18. Drive Reviews on Other Platforms
75% of searchers will not click through to the second page of the search results. With this in mind, it is imperative to gain reviews on other platforms that commonly show up in the search results such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, Amazon, BBB, Yellowpages, and on.
For 92% of Google searches with a city and/or business category, Yelp listings appear in the first five search results. Showcasing positive reviews on other websites will flood the first page of the Google rankings with clear social proof about your brand.
Put Social Proof to Work for Your Brand
Unlike fleeting social media trends or shiny new software, social proof is a psychological concept that isn’t going away any time soon.
Find creative ways to leverage the power of social proof throughout your digital marketing strategy for the best results.
Anne is a copywriter and digital marketing specialist currently residing in the Greater Nashville area. Originally from New England, she leverages her three top talents (writing, marketing, and coffee consuming) for businesses and brands of all sizes across the globe.
Anne is a 2013 Marketing Communications/Advertising graduate from Western New England University in Springfield, MA. She credits her launch into writing to her legendary elementary school poem about pizza that wowed the judges and won the creative writing award in her school district.
When not writing or working on marketing campaigns, you can find Anne at a coffee shop, exploring somewhere new, or training in martial arts as a 3rd degree black belt.