What is social proof and why is it important for marketing?

What is social proof and why is it important for marketing?

An introduction to social proof

According to Wikipedia, social proof (also known as informational social influence) is a “psychological and social phenomenon referring to people’s reliance on the feedback and actions of others to determine what is right and what is wrong in a given situation.”

Social proof is a concept as old as marketing itself (just think about testimonials on old adverts), but the rise of social media has enhanced the accessibility, importance, and effectiveness of social proof. Social media allows companies to always ‘be on’ and also makes feedback from customers more accessible than ever before.

This old advertisement below is a good example of how social proof is used. Testimonials are littered throughout the ad, boosting consumers’ confidence earlier in the customer journey, and therefore pushing new shoppers to buy this product.

                                               Old ad utilising social proof

                                               Old ad utilising social proof

So how does social proof affect you?

Any positive comments about you, your business, or even your product are considered ‘social proof’. Social proof is an endorsement that says that this person, company, service, or product is great, and that the overall customer journey has satisfied previous shoppers. The very presence of social proof makes a business more trustworthy because social proof, by definition, comes from customers, not the business itself. Social proof allows companies to take advantage of external validation in order to influence potential customers.

Another good example of social proof is this customer testimonial:

                         Example of social proof

                         Example of social proof

Testimonials, among other things, are a form of social proof because they allow your customers to tell your story. And when your story is that you’ve made your customers happy and satisfied, it’s pretty compelling.

Social proof in a nutshell….

Big Commerce defines social proof as “a demonstration that other people have made a choice or partaken in a product or service - such as reviews - thereby encouraging others to do so.”

Social proof tends to boost other consumers’ confidence whilst shopping online. Shoppers feel more comfortable buying from an eCommerce store if they know other customers have done it before and have had a positive experience.

As a result, businesses and brands have an opportunity to make social proof a part of their social media and overall marketing presence. Today, companies have a variety of options to choose from when it comes to integrating social proof to their customer buying journey. These include:

  • Customer reviews
  • Social likes and shares
  • Trust symbols
  • Testimonials
  • Case studies
  • Celebrity or influencer endorsements
  • Earned media

Now let’s get to the important part... Why do businesses need social proof so much these days?

Why social proof is essential

We believe (and have the data to back it up) that social proof is one of today’s best marketing tools in order to boost consumers’ confidence and build trust earlier in the funnel. Social proof helps consumers buy a product or subscribe to a service they will most likely enjoy based on the “wisdom of the crowd”.

The degree to which social proof affects customers can be a result of the number of people promoting the business or product. The more, the merrier.

eBay leverages social proof on all their product pages. This screenshot of the purchase page shows:

  • The number of views this product received over the last 24 hours
  • How many orders of that item has been sold so far
  • How many people are looking at the product on the page
  • The number of the seller’s customer reviews
  • The rating of the seller, based on customer reviews
                                                               This eBay page is full of social proof signs

                                                               This eBay page is full of social proof signs

Why go to the trouble of highlighting so many different instances of social proof?

Since 84% of consumers do not trust advertisements anymore, it is safe to say growing competition and lack of trust in advertising are profoundly affecting the customer journey and the decision-making process. And that presents online retailers with a challenge.

Shoppers can easily and quickly compare brands by cost, quality, and customer experience in just a couple of clicks, making it harder for retailers to stand out from the online competition.

Social proof allows businesses to capture ‘the voice of the customer’ by leveraging existing brand advocates to acquire new customers. It is also a great way of gaining valuable insights and identifying what could be improved in order to satisfy both new and existing customers.

By utilising social proof at every stage of the customer journey with testimonials, positive reviews, likes or shares, brands can build customer confidence, trust, and encourage new consumers to buy from them based on their previous customers’ satisfaction.

Leveraging reviews as social proof

Today, 92% of consumers read online reviews, and 80% of shoppers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations.

This statement alone should be enough for companies to put more effort into leveraging online reviews as social proof. Social proof and customer feedback are becoming a necessity for any eCommerce business looking to beat the competition and increase customer confidence at different touch points of the buying journey.

Most people will read up to ten reviews before making a purchase decision, and 54% of respondents will visit a website after reading positive reviews. Recommendation and review engines rely on other people’s feedback to help businesses drive sales and refer people to brands they will like based on the buying decisions of people like them.

Social proof can also be used to improve search performance. ConversionXL found that rich snippet stars, the yellow stars that show on organic search results, increased CTR by as much as 35%. One of our clients, LensDirect, saw their CTR increase by 45% after rich snippet stars, powered by reviews, appeared on their search results.

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Third-party review platforms like Trustpilot are more recognised and trusted by consumers because other customers’ opinions can not be edited or deleted by companies, which makes every single review on there completely authentic, and therefore more reliable and credible.

On Breezemount’s Trustpilot profite, shoppers are able to check the company’s overall score, number of reviews and average rating:

                                                Breezemount reviews/social proof

                                                Breezemount reviews/social proof

It’s important to note the importance of these third-party, independent reviews. Giving full control of reviews to business owners makes it more likely that they will amend and delete unpleasant customer feedback, presenting their reputation inauthentically. Choosing a more transparent process, where neither companies nor review platforms can change reviews, is more likely to make retailers more trustworthy in the consumer's’ eyes.

With third-review platforms, businesses are forced to listen to their customers’ feedback and make the necessary efforts to improve their customer experience and service, in order to receive more positive reviews in the future. This also ensures consumers looking to buy online can truly rely on reviews as social proof.

Are you ready to apply credible social proof to your business?

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