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Using Social Proof To Increase Trust

Are you using social proof to increase trust on your website and social media outlets? If not, should you be? Those are both interesting questions, along with what is the best method of social proof to utilize, all of which we will discuss today.

After all, in marketing you need to use even the smallest edge to stay ahead of the competition.

What is Social Proof?

In a nutshell, social proof is a psychological instance where people copy what other people are doing in an attempt to “do the right thing” or what is considered correct behavior in a given instance. The concept is also known as social influence among marketing circles.

It is one of the few marketing methods that is effective online for almost any kind of business because it is a trust builder. Anything that can build trust online ultimately helps increases conversions which in turn increases revenue. Who doesn’t love more revenue?

The idea of social proof has been around for a long time and we can see how it influences people quite easily. If you drive by a restaurant and see a full parking lot, crowded tables and a line of people waiting to eat you naturally assume that it is a popular place and has good food. Similarly when you see news stories about Star Wars The Force Awakens being one of the biggest blockbuster movies of all time, you assume it is a good, if not great movie, based on the overwhelming number of people who have seen it.

Why does it work?

The world has become a bit of a jaded environment. While living in the Information Age has a lot of advantages, that has also created scenarios where consumers have become much savvier, which also leads to a great deal of skepticism over advertisements.

Studies have shown that on average about 75% of people think all ads are exaggerated to some degree or another. That is a huge percentage of potential customers. On the flipside, over 90% of consumers trust recommendations provided by family and friends. That number dips down to around 70% for random opinions posted online.

But, worth noting is that Generation Y, the largest consumer demographic, is highly influenced by user generated reviews and rankings with some studies showing that over 80% of Gen-Y consumers are influenced by other users content.

The bottom line here is that people are less trusting of advertising and more trusting of real people’s opinions, which is why the idea of social proof has become more powerful.

Effectively using Social Proof

Here are a few examples of social proof you should be using:

  • Ratings and Reviews – These are obviously key points because people explain what they like and don’t like about your product. A few notes about ratings and reviews do need to be made. Never use fake ratings and reviews; they are actually pretty easy to spot. However, filter your reviews properly so attack reviews do not make their way into a forum. Low ratings are acceptable and should be allowed because it is statistically impossible for everyone to love your products and services.
  • Customer Testimonials – These are very powerful with video testimonials being the best option as they show users real people. Handwritten testimonials, social media shared testimonials and other methods are also great ways to showcase social proof.
  • Awards or Rankings – These are important to show legitimacy in a particular niche or arena. Being named Best Restaurant 2015 by the local food reviewer for example is a very powerful award and testament.
  • Expert Mentions – By these we mean things like the Better Business Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, VeriSign Secured, etc. that help showcase trust from legitimate agencies.
  • Social Media Numbers – While this is listed last it is easily one of the most powerful items. Millions of likes, thousands of shares, pins and re-pins, tweets and re-tweets all show popularity which currently is a very powerful form of social proof, especially with Generation Y.

An important note to consider from a psychology standpoint; liking is more important than doing. A natural thought process would be to think that an action-based social proof, such as ‘over one million sold’ is more powerful than ‘over million likes’. However from a psychological standpoint it is actually more powerful to be desired than had.

Consumers like to follow what everyone else likes and those preferences are much more influential rather than actual behavior. For example, on YouTube people are much more likely to watch a video that has 1 million likes compared to 5 million views because the likes denote a preference.

Keep that important fact in mind when you are framing your social proof so that you are showcasing preferences more often than actual behavior.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that social proof is an important aspect in today’s marketing. Using social proof to increase trust is a must as consumers have learned not to trust what advertising says compared to what friends, family and other consumers are telling them when they are making a purchase.


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