Social Proof marketing leverages one of the most powerful psychological effects we experience in our everyday lives. It is the reason why trendy bars make people queue outside, and why bartenders “salt” tip jars with their own money. Using Social Proof in your marketing can have a dramatic impact on your online sales.
For example, websites that use reviews and testimonials on product pages have been shown to increase their order values by an average of 31%. Using live Social Proof, by showing information about recent sales, can generate up to 15% more conversions from the same amount of traffic. This article explains why Social Proof marketing is so effective and shows you how to use it to get more sales and sign-ups.
Build Your Business with Social Proof Marketing
- Why Everyone Is Talking About Social Proof
- The Science of Social Proof Marketing
- 5 Ways To Use Social Proof Marketing To Sell More
- The Four Factors of Group Persuasion
- Examples of Social Proof in Marketing
- Social Proof Marketing in 2020
Social Proof is a psychological effect that influences Consumer Behaviour through imitation, conformity and consensus. Social Proof Marketing is one of the most effective tools available to digital marketers. A number of factors enhance the effect, such as when people are unsure how to behave or when they like part of a group.
Smaller businesses often use apps and plugins to provide the same effect that eCommerce giants like Booking.com use. Social Proof apps are now some of the most popular plugins for eCommerce stores, with over 200 options in the Shopify app store devoted to “Creating Social Proof”.
Whilst technical solutions for creating Social Proof are quite modern, the effect has been studied for over 50 years. The influence of groups over individual behaviour was first identified in the 1930s.
- In 1935, the social psychologist Muzafer Sherif produced a big change in they way his subjects perceived a moving dot by placing them in groups. When his participants were together they gave different estimates for the speed and direction of the dot than the ones they gave when they were alone.
- As recently as 2008, the sociologist Mathew Salganik demonstrated the effect of group influence. He found that his subjects preferred songs that were described as “popular”, even when this popularity was made up.
Social Proof and the Psychology of Marketing
In 1969, the sales and marketing expert Cavett Robert published Human Engineering and Motivation. In a section where Robert imagined selling to a “Mr Jones”, he famously stated:
95 % of people are imitators and only 5% initiators…people are persuaded more by the actions of others than by any proof we can offer.
However, it took another 15 years for the term “Social Proof” to be applied to marketing. The psychologist and marketing expert Robert Cialdini coined the term in his 1984 book Influence. It was one of his Principles of Persuasion:
- Social Proof
Cialdini noticed that TV shows use laughter tracks even when it was clear audiences disliked them. He also saw that products described as “popular” sold more quickly than others. Unlike traditional economics, Social Proof can make the fastest-selling products the most desirable.
1. Add Testimonials to Your Home Page
You have under 50 milliseconds to convince someone they can trust your website. People make their minds up fast – and they tend to stick with their first impression. So, how do you show someone they can trust you? Without being aware of it, most of us use visual clues to judge if a website is trustworthy.
- Trust signs (such as Norton or McAfee security) use symbols like padlocks and shields to make browsers feel secure.
- Well-designed websites create a general feeling of “goodness” which implies trustworthiness.
- Social Proof, in the form of “likes”, ratings and testimonials build trust immediately.
2. Use Expert Reviews To Add Authority
When people are unsure about a subject, they tend to assume that an expert knows more than they do. That makes an endorsement from an expert even more persuasive.
3. Mark Best-Selling Products As “A Popular Choice”
Nearly 70% of the things your customers add to their cart are abandoned at the last minute. Basket abandonment is a big problem for online businesses, and Social Proof marketing is an easy way to prevent it. By reassuring your customers that they have made a good choice, you can help to reduce the number of people who do not complete their purchase.
4. Include Pictures of Your Customers
Pictures of your customers show browsers that they are in the right place. You can make an even bigger impact by choosing pictures that a potential customer might relate to.
5. Create Live Social Proof
Social Proof expires fast and the more up-to-date your reviews are, the more trustworthy they appear. In fact, 85% of consumers do not consider an online review to be relevant if it is more than 3 months old.
Social Proof apps show what other people are doing on your website, displaying recent events like sales and sign-ups. By making these things visible in notifications or live text, Social Proof apps create the same experiences that a busy high street shop provides.
When it comes to social proof, four ingredients can turn mild interest into red-hot desire:
These four ingredients are all present in the world of online business. They help to explain why Social Proof is such a powerful tool for digital marketers.
The Uncertainty Principle and Social Proof Marketing
Ambiguity and doubt have been shown to enhance the effect of social proof. Modern life presents an overwhelming amount of choice. Not only do we have to decide between toast or cereals for breakfast, we now have to choose between hundreds of different brands for each.
Decision-making can be exhausting, and that increases that likelihood that we will look to our peers for recommendations and advice.
Similarity – Why “Us” is Your Secret Weapon
We are more likely to copy the behaviour of those who are similar to us. The characteristics that affect us most significantly are age and gender.
In 1984, the behavioural specialist David Murray conducted a study on the best way to stop adolescents from smoking. He compared four persuasive strategies and their effects on adolescent behaviour. The study found that the teenage subjects responded far more readily to advice and information from their same-age peers.
The Law Of Attraction
We are more likely to listen to, and comply with, people who we find attractive. In 1979, Shelly Chaiken conducted an experiment in which her students were approached by one of two people.
The responses to these people showed that subjects were significantly more likely to be persuaded by people they described as “attractive”. This was true not only for their verbal responses, but also for their behaviour.
Some researchers, for example Albert and Bernice Lott, have found that attractiveness is transferable. In other words, positive feelings or experiences can be transferred to associated objects. This is one reason why “attractive” people and glamorous settings are used in advertisements.
Sense and Sensibilities: Why Being “Good” Always Matters
From a young age we are taught to behave according to certain norms and standards. These ideas are extremely powerful and very difficult to change. When you do manage to shift the earth, the effects can be dramatic.
To supercharge your Social Proof, you should focus on building momentum with people that your target market find attractive, relatable and recognisable. However, one of the most enduring forms of persuasion is simply to make a product or an idea Socially Desirable.
With the emergence of large e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, which offer an unprecedented number of options for any given item, Social Proof is a way of simplifying our choices.
A recent investigation explored the most significant influence on consumer choices for sites such as booking.com. It found that the most influential factor across all case studies was Customer Reviews. Subjects were particularly responsive to reviews written by their friends.
How Amazon Uses Social Proof Marketing
Amazon is the king of Social Proof. Seconds after entering the platform’s homepage, browsers are greeted by a subtle message that highlights the volume of activity taking place.
Amazon groups products into “Best Selling” and “Most Popular” groups, giving its collections more authority and reducing the impression that it is selling to the browser. This effect also increases the impact of product recommendations.
However, Amazon uses Social Proof most effectively on its product pages where products are reviewed, rated and assigned a number of stars. These Ratings are so valuable that an extra star can produce over 30% more sales.
How Booking.com Uses Social Proof Marketing
Booking.com uses Social Proof more sparingly than Amazon does on its homepage. Even so, the browser is made aware that exciting things are taking place behind the scenes. On their catalogue pages, Booking uses a minimum of 4 Social Proof features to highlight popular products.
The website uses the same strategy to draw attention to specific features on their product pages. As the gallery below demonstrates, there are usually around ten elements on every page designed to leverage group persuasion.
How Social Proof Marketing Sold Cigarettes To Women
On 31st March 1929, Bertha Hunt led a group of women on what became known as the “Torches for Freedom” march through Fifth Avenue, New York. The carefully orchestrated incident challenged the stigma surrounding women smoking in public. Rather than a demonstration, though, the public stunt was part of a marketing campaign for the American Tobacco Company.
Edward Bernays, the new PR consultant for ATM used this, and other PR initiatives to present Lucky Strike cigarettes as a symbol of women’s empowerment. The result: by 1935, six years after Bernays’ campaign, the percentage of cigarettes purchased by women in America had more than doubled.
Consumers are exposed to social proof in a number of ways. Because of this, marketers need to think carefully about how and when they use customer reviews and ratings. However, when it is used well, social proof marketing is a great way to communicate key parts of your value proposition.
Why Social Proof Is Key To Your Marketing Campaigns for 2020
- It avoids reactance and banner-blindness. Because you’re talking to potential customers through your current users, the normal responses to advertising aren’t as strong. That means people will pay more attention to your ads and will be more open to your message.
- It helps to build trust fast. Building trust is key to running a successful online business. Social Proof is a shortcut that every website needs.
- It improves customer satisfaction. Just knowing that you’re paying attention to your customers is proven to create better reviews and more return business. In a world of fickle customers and expensive advertising, customer loyalty is key.