Homicide investigators looking for social proof
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Humans are social creatures. Not only do we like the company of other humans, but we also enjoy hearing their thoughts and opinions — particularly when it comes to purchasing a product or service. That’s why we surf long and hard to discover online reviews, thoughts, and experiences when it comes to choosing a restaurant, a holiday destination or the latest smartphone. 

In fact, a 2016 study by BrightLocal found that 84 percent of shoppers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and over half of people will visit a company’s website after reading positive reviews.

This natural valuing of social proof has led to the rise of review sites and star-ranking systems within industries to help consumers make informed decisions based on the opinions of fellow shoppers. Similarly, when it comes to onsite conversion optimization, there’s nothing quite like social proof.

Related Article: 5 Ways Marketers Can Improve Engagement in Social Media

What Is Social Proof?

Social proof is third-party endorsement of a product or service. Social proof comes in many forms, from customer reviews to influencer or celebrity mentions.

According to OptinMonster, there are six types of social proof:

  1. Customers: This includes social proof from your existing customers or users via testimonials, product reviews or case studies.
  2. Experts: Getting credible and well-renowned experts to share positive comments about your product or service.
  3. Celebrities: Sharing examples of celebrities and top influencers using your product or have visited your establishment.
  4. Crowds: Include statistics of a large number of people using your product. For example, “over 10,000+ have used our lead generation software to gain more email subscribers”
  5. Friends: This includes people who are friends or acquaintances of your users/website visitors (e.g. “40 of your friends like our lead generation software”).
  6. Certifications: Using a credible 3rd party entity to certify that you are a knowledgeable, high-quality or trustworthy source (e.g. “Google Partner Badge”).

How and Why Does Social Proof Boost Conversions?

A 2015 Rebrandly study found that 69 percent of American consumers look to other people’s opinion on goods and services before they make a purchase. Out of these consumers, 70 percent have said they’re more likely to check review sites and 57 percent have said they will check social networks. “Social proof helps businesses to grow trust and engage people, literally glue them to your product. It's in the human psychology that people perceive recommendations as a trustable source of information. No matter whether these are recommendations from their friends, some experts and celebrities, or unknown people. People just conform to [actions of other people],” said Valentina Podmazina, content lead at IO Technologies.

Louisa McGrath, content manager at Dublin-based Rebrandly, told us that customers tend to find social proof more reliable than a company advert. “If consumers see [that] your customers [are] happy with your service, [those consumers] will feel more comfortable buying from your brand. Their endorsement of your product is much more believable than an advert coming directly from your company,” she said.

Social proofing also provides customers the added reassurance and confidence to invest in a brand. “Social proof works as a way to reduce anxiety in the customer journey and influence their purchase decision,” said James Flory, an optimization strategist at Vancouver, British Columbia-based WiderFunnel. Flory also shares a social proofing strategy that is employed in the travel industry to reduce anxiety for their consumers. “Travel websites will often use social proof as both an anxiety-reducing element as well as an urgency-creating element. A statement like, '15 People have booked this hotel in the last 24 hours,' works as both a trust factor and an urgency factor.”

Related Article: 10 Social Media Tactics for B2B Marketers

The SEO Benefits of Social Proof

Social proof is also a great way to rise through search engine rankings, as customer reviews serve as fresh content for your site. Plus, this also means that more consumers will be searching for the name of the product plus the word "review", or related words such as "ratings". “Publishing social proof can do wonders for your SEO campaign. It serves as fresh content for the site, which is great if you can keep customer reviews and testimonials flowing. Plus, it also improves things like time spent on the site, reduces bounce rates, and so forth. All of that is part of on-site SEO” said Deepak Shukla, founder of London-based PearlLemon.

How To Collect and Present Social Proof

Regardless of whether you’re an enterprise, a marketer or even a start-up with a few clients on board, there are a number of avenues you can explore to collect social proof. “Collecting social proof could include hosting a pop-up asking for feedback, incentivizing clients with a deal, targeting customers who have high net promoter scores, or even just scanning through your email list [to seek out] any interesting domains, and then reaching out to them [to ask] if you can list their logo on your website,” said Jonathan Jeffrey, marketing manager at Indonesia-based 24Slides.

The way in which you present social proof to your customers is another important factor to consider, as pointed out by Yuval Ben-Itzhak, CEO of Prague-based SocialBakers. “Brands need to make sure they are presenting and sharing social proof in a way that feels authentic to their audience. Many brands opt to work with influencers to build social proof. The key to getting the most value from your influencer marketing is choosing the right influencer for your brand and this isn’t a simple task. You will also need to measure the performance of that influencer over time, including their historical performance. It’s also key to make sure the [influencer’s] profile is a real one and not one with fake followers," he said. 

Flory also concurred the importance of authenticity whilst presenting your social proof. “Authenticity is key when it comes to collecting and presenting social proof. According to VentureBeat, thirty percent of online shoppers turn to Amazon in their evaluation journey because of the reviews — a big component of which is the trust that the reviews are authentic. Users will be far more skeptical of a product with nothing but 5-star reviews and empty content, than a product with 4-star reviews, but detailed explanations.”