“Social proof” is a term that gets thrown around a lot. But what does it actually mean and why do you need to think about it if you run a business?
Let’s start with a definition:
The term “social proof” was coined by psychologist Robert Caldini in his 1984 book, Influence. It describes a phenomenon where individuals in a group take cues from people around them on how they should act.
It’s something we do every day, for example picking the crowded restaurant over the empty one or adjusting the speed of your car to match the traffic around you.
You’ve probably already realized why this is important for your business.
Yes, that’s right. When people see that a product or service is popular with others (like the example of the restaurant above) they are more likely to think that it is good.
Popularity can also be conferred by an association with something popular or authoritative, for example “as seen on TV” tag lines on advertisements.
Building social proof isn’t difficult, especially if you run a successful business. But it does take a little work. Here are five ways to start creating social proof today.
Monitor Online Reviews
The most obvious forms of social proof in the 21st century are online reviews and social media posts. A high rating and good reviews on sites like Google, Yelp, and Facebook can translate into more customers, while low ratings and bad reviews will obviously drive customers away.
To avoid the latter scenario, make sure you are monitoring your brand sentiment online. If you start to see an upsurge in negative reviews, respond quickly and courteously to resolve the issue.
Leaving bad reviews to fester or responding aggressively will only turn more people against you.
Create Case Studies
Customer testimonials are a powerful form of social proof. It’s not always enough to simply ask a customer for a quick quote, however.
If you can, tell the story of your relationship with the customer using a case study. What was their problem? How did you come up with a solution? How did they feel when you resolved the issue?
Dive deep and really go into detail about the benefits of your product or service and use stats and data to back up your claims if you can.
Tap Experts and Celebrities
The opinions of notable people like respected industry experts, popular celebrities, or influencers are also a form of social proof.
Again, for maximum impact it’s worth getting these types of endorsements on video in order to bump up the authenticity of the claims and highlight your close relationship with the person.
If you can, get them to be as specific as possible about your product or service rather than a simple “I love brand X!” type endorsement. Ideally, they will have first hand experience of your offering and be able to speak about it knowledgeably.
Publish a Book
While self-publishing a book and having it available for download on your website will NOT confer a great deal of social proof, landing a deal with a respected publisher and having a bestselling book that is reviewed in major media outlets certainly will.
Being the author of a book on a noteworthy issue makes you an expert, and if your book is particularly topical or insightful you may even get media requests unprompted.
Not everyone is capable of writing a book, so of course it’s acceptable to hire a ghostwriter to help you out if you don’t think you’re up to the task.
Do Media Appearances
What do you think when you see the logos of big media outlets like CNN, MSNBC, Fox, and others on someone’s website?
For most people, it’s a marker of legitimacy. When someone has a direct association with well-known media brands, it immediately confers authority on that person. Despite declining trust in the media, people still look to these brands for guidance on important issues.
The fact that you have appeared on these networks lends clout to your claims. If you you’ve done any media appearances, add the logos of the networks to your website along with clips of your appearances. It’s a highly effective form of social proof.
Social proof is vital if you want to build trust with your customers but there’s another reason it’s important: Google may also look at social proof when determining rankings.
For example, if you happen to have a link to your site from a news outlet like Harvard Business Review or if you’re a published author and known expert in your niche, Google will likely consider that when evaluating your content.
Social proof is no joke. It’s something that every business needs if they want to be taken seriously, both online and off.
For more killer tips on marketing, check out my interview with Seth Godin on the Marketing Speak podcast!