If you’ve owned a business website for more than 5 minutes, you know you need 2 things
Traffic and conversions.
Traffic is, well, besides that thing we sit in to get to work every morning, what you want. You want more eyeballs on your site, more potential customers to see your business, etc.
Conversion is that voodoo magic where the lookey-loos become actually callers or form filler-outers or (gasp!) actual customers
While we can talk all day about good web design and all the festive ways to bring more traffic to your site (I’m looking at you SEO and Facebook ads), this post is really all about how to use social proof to help with conversions.
Aren’t familiar with the term “social proof”? Allow me…
What Is Social Proof and Why Should You Care?
The term “social proof” may sound a bit intimidating if you’re new to the digital business world.
However, it’s really just a form of online social influence.
Think about it—how many times have you browsed through your feed on social media or hopped on a company’s website and read comments or reviews that made you want to try it out? I mean, if Joe Schmoe had a good experience, why wouldn’t you?
And that’s just one instance of social proof.
But, that’s exactly what social proof is used for. It’s a psychological marketing tool, so to speak, as it’s the use of consumer feedback and other means of credibility that influence the purchase decisions of new consumers.
The concept behind social proof is as old as time. Businesses have always relied on customer testimonials and referrals to prove that their products or services are reliable and worth every penny.
Of course, thanks to social media and the increasing popularity of that internet thingy, this marketing tool has been given new life in terms of enhancing its accessibility and effectiveness. Now, all it takes is the very presence of social proof to make a business seem trustworthy.
For years now, consumer trust in traditional advertising has declined significantly. In fact, according to a recent consumer survey, less than 3 in 10 consumers said they trusted digital advertisements—i.e., targeted ads, marketing emails, commercials, sponsored ads, etc.
However, when it came down to the very things that consumers valued—aside from a good deal and a worthwhile innovation of a past product or service—84% said that they trusted the online reviews.
Despite that, it’s amazing how many small businesses (or any size business for that matter) do not use social proof which is known to increase conversion.
Everything today is geared towards search engine optimization (SEO), paid search, and other aspects of pull marketing. Consumers like to do their own research to come to a purchase decision. The one thing that helps them along with this research is the written experience of other consumers as well as a show and tell of top businesses using a certain service or product.
It’s the who that counts.
How Do You Use Social Proof?
How you use your social proof depends entirely on the type of business you’re running, what you’re offering, and who your target audience is. There are a variety of options when it comes to choosing and using social proof, including (but not limited to):
To help you figure out which is best for you and how to leverage it properly, let’s break down the six most commonly used and concrete types of social proof:
Case studies highlight your wins by providing an in-depth look at how the product or service you’re providing has helped your customers. They’re most commonly used among B2B companies, agency services, and the like, but that’s not to say a B2C business couldn’t use them as well.
If it feels like that’s bragging, well, it is, but with numbers. Simply tell the truth about what happened when someone used your services and present the data around the outcome. More on that later.
Your audience won’t just be taking someone’s word for it—they’ll have a real-life example from a customer similar to them laid out to aid in their purchase decision. The idea here is to present case studies from the very target audience you’d like to work with even more. Talk about your awareness of specific problems in that industry and how you solved them.
The idea here is to help people come to their own realization of, “Hey, he solved that problem for that guy, then I’m sure he’ll solve it for me too!” and call you.
A testimonial is a straightforward recommendation from a happy, current or recent customer. They’re typically presented as direct quotes and are often accompanied by a photo of the person giving the testimonial as well as their name, company, and role. Some businesses have even gone to the next level of getting video testimonials which is great.
It’s most common to see testimonials spread across a business’s landing pages or even throughout every page of their website.
In order to get a testimonial, the business owner or marketing team must reach out to the customer and ask for a short or long-form statement with permission to post it on their website or social media channels.
Testimonials are great, but you should know that at this point, there is an expectation that you’ll have them on your website and many browsers see them like job references- you’re only going to list the people that will recommend you. Given that, there is a trust issue there.
Customer reviews are arguably the best form of social proof that a business in an overcrowded market can get. Unlike testimonials, customer reviews are objective and given at will.
They’re also given on every platform possible. That means your customers, happy or unhappy, will leave reviews on your website, social media pages, in forums, on Yelp!, Google, and on accredited review sites such as TrustPilot.
Your audience will likely trust another customer’s unbiased experience before they trust a testimonial or even a case study. Therefore, it’s important that you monitor any place that hosts reviews regarding your business, and do damage control for any bad reviews.
The problem with doing damage control is that some platforms prevent that. Yelp’s algorithm tends to pin a good review, a bad review, and a “meh” review at the top and let the others fall where they may. This means a company can have 1498 good reviews, 1 bad one, and 1 so-so one and that’ll be what displays.
We seriously can’t think of a reason your company wouldn’t have a Google My Business listing and when you put a system in place where customers leave reviews on this platform, they are actually helping you get better visibility. Plus, the more positive reviews you get, the more your overall rating can take a bad one.
Whether your audience is liking, sharing, or commenting, it’s all proof of how your business is performing. Social media provides another place where consumers can talk about their personal experiences and interact with your business.
It’s also a place where you can partner with influencers that can speak on your behalf to their network.
Trust icons are like small badges or symbols that show your audience the big names you’ve provided your products or services to. They’re also used to show your review score among top review sites as a way to say hey, check out all the great things people are saying about us!
If you plan on using trust icons as part of your social proof, it’s a good idea to include review snippets along with them for a little extra oomph.
Another way you can put trust icons on your site is to put the logos of bigger, more recognized companies that you’ve worked with on your site. This helps the browser know that you have some credentials if you’ve worked with A, B or C well-known company.
Data and Analytics
Data and analytics refer to concrete numbers that can boost your credibility, such as the number of customers served, the percentage of happy customers, or even how many people have an item in their digital shopping cart or how many people use to abandon items in your shopping cart and now don’t. Even data you don’t like can be helpful.
When using data and analytics, it’s best to combine them with another form of social proof, such as customer review snippets.
An example would be: “so far, X amount of people have used our services, and here’s what they have to say about their experiences.”
The reality is that people who track their numbers want to see improvements, and those that don’t track any numbers really do need some to begin with so that improvements can be seen. Demonstrating improved numbers for your target audience is exactly the kind of social proof most people are looking for.
How to Get Social Proof
When it comes to garnering social proof, you need to start with what you already have. So, check all of your social media accounts, Google reviews, and any other sources at your fingertips and repurpose any positive reviews for your landing pages and social media targeted posts.
From there, you can start building your social proof by simply putting systems in place. One of the most simple “systems” is asking for reviews and testimonials. Find a place in your customer’s journey where you think they’ll be the happiest with you and use that time to send them the link to give you a review. Obviously, not everyone will do this, but a percentage of something is way better than a percentage of nothing.
If you’re not using social proof in your marketing, just know that you are missing out on an opportunity to improve your conversion rates. Is it the secret to making you rich and finding all your earthly rewards? Eh, probably not, but the industry experts say it’ll help, so they must be right.
Social proof is an ongoing digital marketing effort—and it’s one that we can help you with. To learn more about the best ways to get social proof or how we can help you with your other digital marketing needs, contact the staff at Make It Loud today. We’re here to help improve your numbers.