Do you remember the last time you went to a movie, ate at a restaurant, or bought a new phone, without reading a review first? Me neither. Apparently, we’re not alone; it turns out 90% of customers say that buying decisions are influenced by online reviews.
For most of us, not doing any prior research – whether it’s asking a friend or checking a social network for recommendations – is unheard of. There are still a few spontaneous risk-takers among us who feel differently, but for the majority, social proof plays a major role in our decision making process.
The Psychology Behind Social Proof
Social proof is actually deeply rooted in psychology, and stems from the basic principle that if you feel uncertain about what to do, then you’ll most likely take a cue from others about how to behave. What others think is remarkably important to us, and strongly goes with our need to belong and conform to what others are doing.
In other words, if other people are doing it, I will trust their actions, and see them as a validation that I too should be doing it. In the context of marketing, third-party validation is one of the most powerful motivators for prospects.
7 Ways to Intensify Social Proof in Your Marketing Efforts
What: Not surprisingly, potential customers care much more about what other customers have to say than what you have to say. Basically, let your clients do the talking. Reading experiences from other people, especially ones from a company similar in size or industry, can make all the difference when it comes to persuasion.
Testimonials come in all different shapes and sizes, and range from a short quote, to a paragraph or two, or event a letter. Similar to logos, stay away from publishing testimonials from companies that are not well-known, and make sure to get the quote from the person in the most relevant position. Even if you’re the one who wrote the quote, and asked the customer to sign off on it – you don’t want your prospects to realize this.
Make sure not to publish generic statements (“This is the easiest, most user-friendly solution ever!”), avoid gobbledygook language, make sure it’s not overtly sales. The wording should sound real, and show how your product or service helped the client overcome hurdles or even better, highlight their achievements or results.
How: Testimonials most commonly appear on websites, and in many cases, are even given their own unique section. Quotes can be incorporated on your home page, on a separate “What Our Clients are Saying” type page, and especially on landing pages such as those for sign-ups, contact forms and gated content. One thing to keep in mind is that images are a great way to increase the trust factor of your testimonial.
Adding a photo alongside a quote can make a huge difference, and makes prospects trust the statement much more. Basecamp did an A/B test on a landing page, and improved their response by 102.5% by having a person in the picture. What’s interesting is that it whether it was a female or male didn’t matter; people responded much more favorably to pages that included a picture of a person, as compared to those with only text.
2. User Reviews
What: It’s nearly impossible to buy a product online without being exposed to reviews – regardless of whether you proactively seek them. Based on a 2013 study conducted by BrightLocal, 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations!
Reviews are probably the cream of the crop when it comes to social proof, especially because they usually involve more time and effort on behalf of the person writing them. In most cases, a review can either be open ended, or structured in terms of questions – satisfaction rating, pros v. cons, budget considerations, etc.
However, encouraging prospects or customers to spread the word isn’t always easy. The first route to try is reaching out to your general audience – on social channels, in e-mail newsletters or through in-app messages. The second, which will probably prove much more effective, is to review your customers and select the “brand ambassadors,” – people who are very familiar with your company, are long-time, happy clients and you have a good relationship with. Chances are that they’ll be much more willing to go the distance, and a personalized e-mail or a phone call is the way to go.
How: There’s no specific format for reviews, and they range from videos, to blog posts, survey results and more. It really depends on the specific channel that is being used, which is of course based on your industry. For example, Amazon is the leader in consumer reviews, while Yelp! is a great resource for local business reviews, and TrustRadius is great for technology reviews. For the sake of being obvious, YouTube is a top site for reviews as well. First, do your research and identify which websites are most relevant to what you’re selling.
Don’t just look at the big players, try to also find the niche sites that might be more popular with a target audience. If you have customers who write for a company blog, or even better – contribute guest posts to popular industry blogs, see if they’d like to review your product or service there. This can be easier if your company is just about to make a big announcement or expand its offering, therefore giving the person a great lead for the story.
Once you start generating reviews – it’s time to take charge! Promote these reviews in a testimonial section of your website, promote them on your social channels, include links to them in your e-mail signature or newsletters, and in landing pages.
3. Client Case Studies
What: What better way to show customer success than with hard data? For years, case studies have been an excellent indicator of the results that companies have helped clients achieve. Case studies are an excellent way to demonstrate the unique value proposition of one’s offering, and show concrete data to back up these claims. The Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs found that 73% of marketers use case studies, while 65% feel they are an effective tactic.
There are four basic steps to laying the groundwork for a case study.
Step 1: Choose the right client. Select a client that best represents the values and benefits of your brand, and can back up these claims with numbers.
Step 2: Choose the most relevant participant to interview. The person has to be knowledgeable, willing to provide extensive data, and have hands-on experience with your brand.
Step 3: Write a list of detailed questions. The questions should not limit the interviewee to “yes” or “no” answers – they should be open-ended to extract as much information as possible.
Step 4: Analyze the information. Extract the numbers that best represent how the product has helped the client, and identify pain points, challenges and the solutions implemented.
How: If possible, create a separate section of your website devoted entirely to case studies, and make it easily accessible from your homepage. Without a doubt, upload the case study to SlideShare, create a long-term social campaign to promote it, and include it in nurturing emails.
Also, if you’re in touch with a client for a certain industry, send them a case study that you’ve done with a similar company that they can relate to – in terms of sector or even size.
4. Co-Hosted Customer Webinars
What: If you have a client that’s a perfect example of a success story, why not partner with them to host a webinar? Put together a webinar with them, but let the client be the one to do the talking. Remember, even though we’re talking social proof, the webinar should not be completely promotional by any means.
As always, encourage the client to talk about best practices in the industry, actionable tips and trends. However, this doesn’t mean they can’t include a slide or two to show how your product or services helps them achieve certain objectives or incredible results. Similar to other types of social proof, it’s ideal to select a client you have an excellent relationship with, has expressed previous interest in collaboration, and has the numbers to back up claims.
Co-hosted webinars are great because they’re mutually beneficial, and can help both sides grow business. Set up a few brainstorming sessions to throw around ideas, provide valuable criticism and feedback on the slide deck, and always schedule a dry run the day before to go over the motions.
How: Design a dedicated landing page for the webinar on your website, and start promoting it across all of your channels. Remember that having a partner in crime is very helpful, since the promotion can be done on both sides.
The two top places to promote webinars are on social channels (though be aware that outright promotion of webinars is frowned upon in LinkedIn Groups, unless accompanied by a thought-provoking question) and e-mail campaigns.
After the webinar is over, you can leverage the full potential of the social proof by using setting up the recording as gated content, featuring it on your website, or even repurposing it and breaking it down into blog posts or a case study.
5. Socialize Employees
What: Having the marketing team post social updates is great – but fails to take advantage of the immense potential that lies in the staff’s social profiles. Having “social employees” that leverage their personal profiles – especially LinkedIn and Twitter, to promote company messages can exponentially widen a brand’s social reach. This strategy is extremely cost-effective for smaller companies with limited advertising and marketing resources.
In addition, this is an excellent way to spread the word about new job openings in the company; a brand can also incentivize employees who have shared posts that attracted new candidates that were hired. Employees who share company updates make it clear that they take pride in their place of work, and this is the most coveted kind of “social proof.”
Ultimately, this can serve to favorably boost a brand’s reputation – which is especially helpful for recruitment purposes. When it comes down to it, having employees further a brand organically, across multiple social networks, has major advantages. A company’s employees are its best ambassadors – particularly because they have the potential to comprise its most influential network of evangelists on social media.
How: The “how” for this part is a little tricky. How does a company encourage its employees to share socially? Certain software exists that makes it easy for staff to quickly see the newest social posts from a brand, and share it on their social profiles within seconds. In order to motivate employee engagement, consider using a tool that offers a leader board, so you can track and rewards those who share actively, and which lets you easy monitor analytics for these shares.
Another helpful idea is to have the marketing department send out an email, on either a daily or weekly basis, which includes links to recent company blog posts, job openings and exciting news, and encourage employees to share. In this context, team members can include a hashtag or certain keywords when reposting, making it easy to monitor employee engagement.
6. Embedded Tweets
What: Chances are, you’re monitoring mentions of your brand on Twitter (if not, stop reading this blog post, and do it right away!). Twitter has become one of the leading channels for customers to share their thoughts – both positive and negative, about products and services.
Bringing attention to prospects, existing customers and influencers who are tweeting wonderful things about your brand is an incredible way to build social proof for your company. Needless to say, in addition to featuring what others think about your brand, the interactive nature and functionality of embedded tweets makes them really engaging for readers.
How:Let’s start off with learning how to actually embed a tweet. Once you have this down, you can easily post them to your website, so you can share this activity with a larger audience.
Instead of just embedding all of your company mentions, make it a habit to monitor the mentions yourself, and then favorite the ones you feel highlight your brand in a positive light. Then, set it up so that only the tweets that you’ve favorited appear on your website. Not only is this an awesome way to show how much people love your brand it also lets visitors on your website retweet, reply or favorite the tweet in order to join the discussion.
Featuring tweets from satisfied customers, in real-time, is probably one of the most interactive types of social proof that exists. This kind of “custom testimonial” can be incorporated on your homepage, on landing pages associated with sign ups or contact forms, or on a “What Others are Saying About Us” part of your website.
Bonus tip – you can also use this method to create social proof for your blog posts. For example, search Twitter for the URL of one of your posts, change the filtering to All, and then click the settings icon to embed this search. Afterwards, you can embed these tweets in your blog post, and make much easier for readers to take part in the conversation that unfolds.
7. Client Logos
What: One of the easiest ways to show the world that your brand is credible and trustworthy is to incorporate client logos into your marketing collateral. Choose your logos carefully – it shouldn’t just be any client on the list. For example, in most cases you’ll want to feature the most recognizable, well-known logos that people will quickly identify and be impressed by. Keep in mind, to maintain a positive relationship with your clients, make sure to first ask permission before using their logo. This will show that you respect their brand, and will also make them feel like an important client of yours.
How: Logos are great because they don’t take up a lot of space, and are a great addition to almost any type of marketing material. For example, you can embed a moving logo banner on the home page or client section of your website, add them to nurturing emails, create a logo slide within a sales deck or even incorporate them on the back portion of a brochure.
Bonus Tip: Similar to client logos, you can consider creating a page to feature your official partners.