Social Proof Psychology: What is it, and how to use it to make more sales.

Social Proof Psychology: What is it, and how to use it to make more sales.

Alex Lee
By Alex Lee

When I drive past a particular bakery near my place, there’s always a line outside. Doesn’t matter if it’s a weekday, weekend, early in the morning or slightly drizzling with rain– the line is always snaking around the corner and down the road. What does that line tell me? The baked goods this bakery is offering are worth waiting for. They must be, if that many people are willing to line up for them day in, day out. After seeing that line, wouldn’t you be curious to try the baked goods yourself?

Humans are social creatures. Before we make a decision, purchase an item or sign up to a service, we naturally look to what others are doing. If we see an expert using the product, a celebrity endorsing it or indeed a long line of people showing their enthusiasm for it, we’re more likely to purchase the product. Psychologists call this social proof. 

Understanding how social proof works is one of the best ways to boost the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. In the online world, you might not be able to show potential customers a long line of people waiting to buy your products. But there are other ways to tap into social proof psychology. Below, we’ll walk you through some of the most effective social proof strategies we use for our clients. But first, some basics.

What is social proof?

Social proof was popularised in the 80s by psychologist Robert Cialdini. He explained that when humans don’t know how to behave in a certain situation, we look at what others are doing and saying. In other words, it’s natural to take our cues from what everyone else is doing around us.

In the world of marketing, it’s the same. We check out what others are doing and saying about a product before we buy it. We ask our friends and family for their recommendations. We look to the industry giants to see what products and systems they rely on. We factor in how many people have good things to say about a brand before we decide to trust them ourselves.

How important is social proof in marketing?

Marketing experts across the board recognise the power of social proof. Whether they specialise in Google Ads, SEO, web design or copywriting, they’re going to tell you social proof matters. If you want to convince people to buy your product or sign up to your services, you’ve got to show that others are doing the same. And loving it.

Need more proof? Take a gander at these stats:

  • 81% of consumers trust advice from friends and family more than advice from businesses (source: HubSpot)
  • 97% of consumers wouldn’t consider using a business with an average star rating of two stars or lower (source: BrightLocal)
  • 93% of potential buyers read reviews before making a purchase decision (source: Finances Online)
  • 87% of shoppers believe that social media helps them make shopping decisions (source: Smart Insights)

7 Ways to make more sales with social proof

Start putting social proof to good use with these strategies:

1. Collect reviews and ratings

1. Collect Reviews and Ratings

Would you rather buy a mattress that has one hundred 4.5 star ratings or a mattress that has a handful of 3 star ratings? I know which one I’d be picking.

Reviews and ratings matter in virtually every industry. According to a study by Bright Local, 77% of people always or regularly use reviews to make a purchasing decision. And only 3% of people would consider using a business with an average rating of two stars or lower.

When it comes to collecting reviews, you need a solid strategy in place. You can use email, social media, Google or website prompts. You can even directly ask your loyal customers. Just make sure you’re focusing on both the quality of the reviews as well as the quantity. After all, a million reviews are only worthwhile if they’re reflecting well on your brand.

Further reading: How to ask your clients for Google reviews.

Pro tip: Received a particularly glowing review? Share it on your social media channels or include a quote on your website. Drawing attention to what other people are saying about your brand can be a great way to back up your own claims about how great you are.

2. Case studies

2. Case Studies

Case studies take a deep dive into how you helped a particular client. Or how your product changed someone’s life. To really pack a punch, case studies should be detailed, specific and reflective of your best work. 

Where possible, include direct quotes or video footage of the client. You want to drive home how satisfied and super impressed they are with your brand. For that reason, it’s important to choose your case study clients wisely. Choose clients that are enthusiastic, and already singing your praises.

Need some inspiration? Take a look at our case studies.

3. Share your milestones

3. Share Your Milestones

In many industries, customers see numbers and data as cold, hard truths. If that’s true for your business, you might benefit from making it obvious how many sales you’ve made, how many customers you’ve helped or how many people downloaded your software.

You can have running counters on your website, or on particular product pages. Or you could use figures to celebrate milestones you reach. Hit 1,000 subscribers? Let people know on your social media channels.

Pro tip: pair your data and statistics with some softer, more personal stories. The contrast will make the social proof stronger. Start with: “Our timber products have been used in over 500 projects across Australia, and here’s why builders keep choosing us…” Flow from here into testimonials or glowing reviews so customers can hear proof from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

4. User generated content

4. User Generated Content

If social media is a key marketing arena for your brand, gathering user generated content (UGC) could be a smart move. UGC includes photos, videos and reviews created by your customers. By collecting and sharing UGC, you’re basically saying to visitors, ‘hey, look at all these other real-life people who use and love our stuff’.

One way to hack user generated content is to create a brand-specific hashtag. Encourage your customers to tag photos and videos of them using your products. You can even repost photos or stories to generate hype. It’s a good way to show love back to your audience.

Referrals or recommendations from your existing customers is another powerful way to leverage social proof. Get started with our guide to asking for referrals.

5. Display brand logos

5. Display Brand Logos

Do you work with big names in the industry? Or stock some renowned brands in your shop? Display those logos on your website. Loud and proud. Associating your own brand with these bigger, respected names in the game will reflect well on your own brand. It tells visitors: “Hey, we’re cool too. We’re mixing with brands you already know and respect.”

6. Awards and achievements

6. Awards and Achievements

It can be hard to toot your own horn sometimes. But if you’ve received awards, certificates or accolades for your work, show these off! It’s a great way to prove to your audience that your brand is recognised in the industry. A third party has recognised your value, and has backed you up.

7. Collaborate with an expert

7. Collaborate With an Expert

If an expert in the industry is endorsing your product or recommending your services, it’s sure to turn heads. This is especially true for industries like healthcare, finance and IT where credibility matters a heck load.

Getting an expert endorsement can take a lot of networking, but if you’re up for the challenge it can be a hugely effective source of social proof. 

In some cases, collaborating with an expert can have even more of an impact. For example, you could run an experiment with an expert using your product. Or you could invite an expert to write a guest blog post on a topic relevant to your industry. By getting a voice of authority to talk about your brand, you end up boosting your own brand authority.

Over to you

Marketing success starts with a solid understanding of how people think and what drives their behaviours. The psychology of social proof can be a really helpful tool for businesses, whether you’re just starting out or you’re already an authority in your industry. Like most marketing efforts, you’ll need to take an ongoing approach to social proof if you want lasting results. After all, people want to see what others are saying about your brand today, not what they were saying 5 years ago.

If you need help implementing a digital marketing strategy that gets excellent results for your brand, give us a call. We’ve helped hundreds of businesses across Australia hit their growth goals, and we’d love to help you too.

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