On Social Proof: What It’s Really About

Nobody is amazed anymore by simple promises about a product’s benefits. We need numbers, pictures, and living proofs right in our immediate society – social proofs. We listen to what people tweet about – “literally”, on Twitter and other social media, and figuratively, in conversations we hear around us or when people we know advise us to buy something. When it comes to making a choice, it has to be the right one. Often we don’t even know what it is we want, or we doubt ourselves. As a result, we take the decisions of others as our own. Why is that? Mainly because we, as social creatures, want to know that we belong with our crowd. We want to feel as one with others, especially with someone we love, admire or identify ourselves with. This urgency comes from our innate need for care and acceptance. And that is what lies in the basis of social proof, one of the essential marketing techniques.

The principle is simple: someone uses a product; you relate to that someone, who makes that product attractive to you, prompting you to buy it. Or, you need to use some service, but you don’t know what company is the best expert in it. Studies have shown, the way we respond to social proof is not as much about the things other people have but the things others want to have because we constantly strive for greater comfort and better life quality. Quality and quantity are always in some kind of rivalry. For instance, many people have read a book, most of them left negative reviews, and curiosity about why it’s so horrible makes you read it too. This could keep the question if no social proof is better than negative proof open, but extreme negative proof would probably be beneficial only for a work of art, not for vital products.

Before applying social proof, review the general concept in regard to specific audiences that are interested in a certain aspect of a product most: its popularity or effectiveness, originality or newness. That is specific to various factors, from age and lifestyle to individual preferences. Since your product was designed with a distinct clientele in mind, you know your customer. This is the key information to proceed with.

Most common ways of presenting social proof to make visitors convert on your website or app:

Share milestones. It’s primarily numbers: of orders delivered, of happy customers, of years you’ve been in your market niche – if only it was possible to count them all, there would be figures showing how many miles the tires you sell have covered, how many pounds have been lost in your gym or how many people have learnt “Hello” in Portuguese with your language course. These numbers simply prove to buyers that your product works and will serve them well.

Display feedback. Reviews and testimonials from actual customers seem more trustworthy than an enterprise’s picture of itself. Some create a space on their websites where potential clients can communicate directly with someone who’s already used their services. For that same purpose, our companies have Facebook or Instagram accounts – to enable communication, which unites the fans of our products and promotes the growth of their community through sharing and reposting.

Authority figures. A type of social proof with big impact is opinions of people we look up to. That’s why companies feature celebrities in their campaigns. An expert in the field your service relates to can also be a celebrity for your clients. This category also includes any awards your product has, a research that proves its effectiveness, and your connections with other likable brands or affiliates.

Fundera proves its effectiveness with numbers of businesses served

DesignByHumans shows pictures of customers in tees they bought on the platform

Babbel showcasing awarded title mentions in respectable periodicals, and feedback

 

Reviews on Etsy

Weleda tweets about actress Amanda Seyfried promoting its product

Wix evaluated by Website Builder Expert

Website Builder Expert, in its turn, displays years of experience and shows the numbers of shares and comments

Clients share their impressions of DrawPj

However, the voices most important for us belong to people we relate to, whether it’s a stranger who seems to be telling our own story that explains their choice of a product, or it’s a friend, a relative, a group of our social equals. That is why individual reports of people whose faces you see in pictures speak louder than simple statistics. In their turn, preferences of our friends are more valuable to us than those of strangers.
This is something that non-explicitly shows that the power behind social proof is not exactly  “herd mentality” but the power of unison, of connection with each other. That lies deeper than just susceptibility to being brainwashed by the mob, so you cannot rely on social proof as a way to force a product onto people. There will always be nonconformists who cannot be tempted by implications like “Everybody has it, you should too”, or “All the coolest kids use our service”. This is especially relevant now when the new young generation is evolving from the need to be like everybody else to aspirations of uniqueness and originality.

Your potential customer may be someone who wants to use the same brand of flour their mother used for baking pies; it may be someone who dreamt of Tamagotchi as a kid because all their peers had it and it was cool, or it may be someone who doesn’t fall for anybody else’s proof and feels compelled to try a product because it’s unexplored and new. As a corporate marketer Brian Massey put it, “It’s just different for every audience”. And Starbucks in its happy hour motto has probably explained the whole point of social proof, all its appeal for a customer to let them be a part of life around them: “It’s a party and you’re invited”.

Jenna Brandon

Jenna Brandon is a blogger, content creator, and digital marketer at Writology.com. When she’s not busy writing or studying the latest marketing trends, she cooks pizza or goes hiking with her friends. Jenna is also an avid traveler, and she is secretly Italian at heart.

13 thoughts on “On Social Proof: What It’s Really About

  1. Hi Jenna,
    Very good observation I must say. Social proofs are kind of symbols of acceptance by its users. By seeing social proofs, new users gain confidence before going ahead and trying it out themselves.

    Thank you for this lovely post. Have a good day. 🙂

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