In the age of social media, online review sites, and the way news spreads online like wildfire; a growing number of customers are taking to the web to research businesses and brands before interacting with them. This means that leveraging positive social proof is now more important than ever.
Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where we look to the actions and experiences of others for a cue on how to act ourselves. In modern business, this is often seen in the form of online reviews, customer testimonials, or the recommendations of those close to us as well as celebrities.
Simply put, we look for validation and guidance from others to decide what we, ourselves should do. If a product has 5-star reviews across the board, it must be good. If a celebrity is wearing it, it must be fashionable, and so on.
Types of Social Proof
Social proof occurs in many ways, though it is most often understood to exist in five basic forms:
- Expert proof: often seen in consumer healthcare products, i.e. “the number one doctor recommended brand.”
- Celebrity proof: Essentially endorsements. However, the impact is typically more widespread if the endorsement is unpaid, or has the appearance of being unpaid; such as an athlete being seen wearing a specific brand of clothing without being a paid spokesperson for that brand.
- Proof of the masses: Typical of online review sites. If everyone is raving about a specific product, the feeling is that it must be good and you can expect a similar experience.
- Friend/Family proof: Word of mouth from people you know, whose opinions you trust.
- User proof: Often seen in the form of customer testimonials, i.e. “I’ve been using ABC company for 10 years and would recommend them to anyone.”
Why It’s Important
In an increasingly online world, even brick and mortar businesses are not immune from the watchful eye of the internet. What’s more, the data suggests that social proof more important now than ever before.
No doubt owing to the rise in mobile technology, more consumers are taking the time to research and find out about the businesses they’re interested in before becoming customers. In fact, research suggests that 70% of all online customers look for product reviews or testimonials before deciding to buy.
Furthermore, 79% of consumers say they trust online reviews just as much as a personal recommendation (which is also important). And perhaps most shocking, online reviews are considered 12x more trustworthy than information put out by the brand itself.
Don’t Neglect Your Customers!
Assuming you aren’t shelling out millions of dollars for celebrity endorsements, remember that social proof comes from your customers so don’t neglect them! Be reachable, open to provide support, and convey how highly you value their business.
Grow your social following, respond to customer inquiries, and generally being willing to hear and work with customers will go a long way. If a customer has a positive experience, there’s nothing wrong with asking them to provide a testimonial or leave a review.
Providing great service will help elevate your brand, improve your reputation, and put you on the path towards securing great social proof. Customers who feel a true connection may even become raving fans who actively promote, endorse, and recommend you to their circles.
It’s a win-win situation, what more proof do you need?
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