Think back to the last time you were looking to do business with a company or buy a product. Did you read the reviews? How much of an impact did the reviews or the star rating have on your decision to buy? Probably quite a bit of an impact. You just unknowingly exemplified a concept in marketing we call social proof.
What is social proof exactly? Social proof is the idea that people will make decisions and change their behavior based on what other people are thinking or doing. One of the most common examples of social proof is online reviews — if people are saying they loved a product or business other people take that as proof that the product or business is good and they can have the same experience.
Social proof goes beyond just online reviews — it can include things in the physical world as well. If you are walking past a store you have never been in and you see that it’s packed with shoppers what are you going to think? You will probably think it’s pretty good since people seem to like it. That is social proof.
TYPES OF SOCIAL PROOF
Customer proof is all about customer reviews and ratings.
This kind of social proof is the most important and easiest to implement for a small business looking to expand a customer base. Customer testimonials or reviews are important at showing prospective customers that others have had a good experience with your business. According to TrustPilot nearly 89 percent of people seek out reviews before buying a product or service. That’s quite a majority!
And the more the merrier. If a customer sees you have 100 reviews with an average star rating of 4.5 they will be more inclined to do business with you before even reading a review. People trust the opinions of other people and they trust it even more when there are a lot of them.
According to a study by BrightLocal, consumers tend to read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling that they are able to trust a local business. This means that having a handful of reviews is not enough — you need a steady stream of reviews hitting the major review sites to have a lasting impact.
Reviews aren’t the only place to utilize this concept. You can also share user-generated-content on social media to show your other followers proof that people are loving and appreciating your products or services.
Celebrity is a powerful concept and businesses know this. Think of your favorite Instagram celebrity. When was the last time you were tempted to purchase something they explicitly endorsed or were photographed using? This concept is the celebrity side of social proof, which you could also call influencer marketing.
Getting someone influential to openly use your product or do business with your company is a great example of social proof. People who love and follow a celebrity are inclined to trust their opinions especially when they are not being paid to give them.
For small businesses getting a celebrity to endorse your product or service is impossible and probably a waste of time. But you can get a local celebrity or influencer and have a similar impact in a smaller circle. Teaming up with someone well known and followed in your community can produce a similar effect — it’s just all about choosing who that person is.
We’ve all seen the tagline “doctor recommended” on a supplement or “dermatologist recommended” on a skincare product. This is an example of expert proof.
When someone with a known expertise in a field endorses a product or puts their stamp of approval on a product people are more inclined to purchase it. Expertise is powerful! People feel more confident in a purchase if they know an expert in that field recommends it to them. This can also include things like having an expert involved in a piece of video content for your business or even them engaging with your customers through social media.
Numbers are powerful. People trust other people. Thus people trust lots of other people. This concept is crowd proof or “wisdom of the crowd.” This concept says that people are more inclined to have a favorable view of a product or business that they see many, many other people engaging with.
This doesn’t just mean reviews, it can be anything. One of the most common examples is social media following. Are you more likely to want to do business with a company with 500 followers or 50,000 followers? You are more naturally inclined towards the company with more followers because you think that more people must mean it is a trustworthy and quality company. “50,000 people couldn’t possibly be wrong, right?!”
This also boils down to individual items at one individual store. If you label something as “popular” or a “best seller” you are more likely to sell it because people assume that if lots of people are buying it must be good.
This one is traditionally known as “word of mouth.” Essentially people are more likely to trust the reviews and opinions of people they know.
Recommendations of family and friends are very powerful at influencing purchasing decisions on a smaller scale. According to Nielsen, 82% of Americans say they consider endorsements from family and friends before buying a product.
As a business owner you can foster this trust by giving out your business cards to happy customers as well as running referral promotions to bring more people in the door who your happy customer knows directly.
Social proof is a powerful concept that shapes the way billions of people interact with businesses all over the world. Our own human psychology has a big role in how we choose who to do business with. Leveraging this concept is the difference between a thriving business and a failing one. Small businesses can utilize social proof for a little effort and very little cost when they focus on areas like social media and online reviews. What’s stopping you?
For more tips and tricks on how to get your business online visit BryanCaplan.com