There are many restaurants on the main street, and you have yet to learn where the food is good. There are two burger joints close to each other; one is jam-packed, while the other’s foot traffic is visibly lower.
Which one would you choose?
It’s only logical to conclude that a crowded restaurant offers better food and customer service.
And this is an excellent example of social proof at work.
The same applies to online businesses. All the more so since customers can’t physically visit a store and ensure that the brand they want to purchase from is legit. That’s why other customers’ opinions provide valuable insight.
Social proof can help boost brand trust and convince your target audience that your company is credible and trustworthy.
Let’s see how to make the most of this concept.
What is social proof?
To a certain degree, many people are susceptible to social influence. In other words, they tend to rely on their peers when it comes to decision-making.
This mainly refers to taking cues from others when you find yourself in an unfamiliar situation. For example, when you’re attending a gala event for the first time and aren’t sure about etiquette, you’ll most probably look around yourself, see how others are behaving, and try to act like them.
That way, you’ll have some guidance as to how to best fit in — an idea that’s at the core of social proof.
In a similar vein, brands can take advantage of this mechanism to build trust with their audience. So, when customers want to buy something, the first thing they do is check the reviews, ratings, and other people’s recommendations.
If we bear in mind that almost 90% of consumers trust user reviews as much as personal recommendations, it’s obvious why focusing on social proof is a must.
Here are some tips for getting this tactic right, together with examples.
1. Show social proof early on
You don’t have much time to grab your website visitors’ attention.
Stats say this window of opportunity is only about 10 seconds, so make every single one of them count.
Since your website is usually one of the first touchpoints a potential customer has with your brand, it’s crucial to optimize this valuable piece of real estate and show them what you’re made of right off the bat.
So, if you’ve already made an effort to collect and list different types of social proof on your web pages, don’t bury them under layers of other content.
The trick is to make your reviews, testimonials, or ratings stand out from the rest of the web page copy so that prospects can notice them the moment they land on the page. If you force your visitors to look for social proof themselves, they can bounce back to the SERPs and go to one of your competitors.
Avoid this worst-case scenario by placing your social proof above the fold whenever possible. This way, you’ll gain your audience’s trust early on and get them to explore your site further.
Thankbox implemented the Trustpilot widget at the top of their homepage, right below the tagline section, to showcase their 5-star customer reviews. Visitors almost immediately notice that according to the general consensus, the company’s service is described as “Excellent.” Besides these verified reviews, Thankbox displays the logos of renowned brands that people trust — also their happy customers, thus piggybacking on their reputation.
Dress Forms USA takes social proof to the next level by using every opportunity to display customer reviews, both on their homepage and throughout the rest of the website:
- A flyout “Reviews” tab allows visitors to access customer reviews from any web page with just a click.
- Several CTAs right below the fold are also dedicated to reviews.
- At the bottom of the homepage, the brand quotes what their happy customers say about the products and overall customer experience.
- Finally, there’s a separate page showcasing reviews and photos that customers attach.
It’s obvious that this business focuses its marketing messaging on social proof, thus signaling to potential customers that the company delivers on its promises.
2. Add the element of FOMO by displaying real-time stats
Fear of missing out (FOMO) is another powerful psychological phenomenon you can benefit from.
People don’t want any great opportunity to slip through their fingers. You can tap into this anxiety by showing them that others don’t hesitate to grab the awesome deal you’re offering.
To play on this powerful effect, you can use pop-ups that show a notification every time there’s a positive user interaction on your website. So, whenever someone has subscribed to your service, purchased something, or is currently viewing a particular product, other website visitors will be notified.
This will prompt them to take action, too, especially if there’s an element of scarcity, such as a limited-time offer or a low-stock alert.
Casetify promotes a Holiday Sale on their homepage and urges customers to shop within the next four hours if they want to qualify for a 22% discount.
Booking.com capitalizes on FOMO and scarcity by letting customers know that certain accommodation is so popular that only a few rooms are available. The “Limited supply” notification is a clever trick that will push fence-sitters into clicking the “Reserve” button in a snap.
TrustPulse simultaneously showcases their social proof plugin and builds trust by displaying pop-ups across their website whenever a new customer signs up. This discreet yet visible approach vouches for the legitimacy of the brand and tells potential customers that others trust this tool.
Finally, the Ahrefs homepage resorts to the so-called wisdom of crowds, that is, the idea that larger groups of people make better decisions collectively. Numbers don’t lie, so the SEO software entices potential customers by telling them how many people signed up for their product in the last seven days.
3. Offer third-party certifications
Blowing your own horn isn’t the best way to establish customer trust.
96% of people are skeptical of ads, meaning that your claims about the effectiveness of your products or services need to be vetted by an impartial, third-party source for added credibility.
Such certifications make sure that a product or service is up to a universal standard, meaning that it meets predefined criteria established by an independent, expert association or body. By displaying them, you’re making your claims more believable and objective.
ATH features several third-party certifications and verifications on their homepage to corroborate their marketing messaging. This way, the brand puts customers’ minds at ease and dispels any potential doubts about the quality of their products.
4. Have your content validated by a relevant expert
Did you know that your content can also serve the purpose of social proof?
Educational blog posts can add tremendous value to your audience and lend some credibility to your brand. Instead of focusing on promoting your products or services, it’s much better and more effective to create content that will cover the topics your potential customers are interested in and address their pain points.
However, it’s not enough only to craft high-quality blog posts that resonate with your audience. Remember that they still don’t know you, and they can’t be sure you know what you’re talking about.
That’s why you need to show them that your content is a reliable source of information they can trust. If you’re in the tech, medical, or financial industry, you can greatly benefit from getting a relevant expert to validate your content and give it a seal of approval.
Apart from being great for building trust with your readers, this tactic will also have a positive impact on your search rankings since it’s in line with Google’s E-A-T principle used for determining how useful and effective search results are.
Standing for “expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness,” this principle is used by quality raters during the process. Based on the credentials of the content creator and expert reviewer, they evaluate whether a particular article is misleading or inaccurate.
This mattress guide from Eachnight is a perfect example of content that exudes authority since it has been medically reviewed by a physical therapist, while the brand also highlights that the writer is a certified sleep coach. So, readers can rest assured that they can trust everything stated in the blog post.
5. Take advantage of video testimonials
Customer testimonials are a social-proof staple.
But you can take them up a notch by adding the video into the mix.
73% of people would rather watch a short video to learn about a product or service than read a text-based article.
A survey has shown that two out of three people are more likely to purchase a product or service after watching a video testimonial demonstrating how it helped another customer.
Video is a highly engaging and compelling format, and it lends itself well to social proof. Its ability to convey the entire set of prosodic features, including intonation, stress, rhythm, and body language, makes testimonials more authentic and believable.
Menlo Coaching zeroes in on this tactic by having an entire web page dedicated to video testimonials in which their happy customers share their experiences and explain how they benefited from attending the brand’s courses and consulting services.
But there’s no need to limit your video testimonials to the homepage or product, or landing pages. They’re an equally effective email marketing tool since they can boost your open and click-through rates — adding the word “video” to your subject line will increase your open rates by 6%.
So, expand your reach by adding video testimonials to your emails and newsletters, as this is a win-win marketing combination.
6. Include user-generated content
When it comes to boosting brand trust, reviews, testimonials, and case studies go a long way, but user-generated content (UGC) provides some extra validation to your brand.
Seeing others use or wear your products is a super powerful trust signal, which makes it come across as more genuine than branded messaging — 2.4 times more, to be precise.
Plus, we’ve already mentioned that people subconsciously tend to copy the behaviors and actions of others in an attempt to conform to the accepted social norms. Hence, seeing others enjoying your products will trigger FOMO in your potential customers and prompt them to make a purchasing decision faster.
UGC can be used successfully across different marketing channels, but social media, especially Instagram, is an excellent vehicle for both collecting and presenting happy customers’ photos and videos.
Take a cue from Apple, whose Instagram account is a masterclass in UGC. The brand almost exclusively shares photos and videos created by iPhone users — there’s no branded content. By doing so, Apple demonstrates the spectacular shots their product is capable of and shines a spotlight on their community.
It’s worth mentioning that Apple has one of the most loyal and engaged communities, with 48% of the surveyed U.S. customers saying they don’t think about switching to another brand on their next purchase.
In their “Shop the Look” section on the homepage, CLUSE, a Dutch fashion brand, incorporated an infinite carousel of customer photos, linking directly to their Instagram profiles. The brand encourages customers to use the #cluse hashtag, thus involving them in marketing efforts and boosting engagement. All this results in strong brand positioning and enhanced brand trust.
7. Obtain media mentions
Roughly speaking, there are three types of media — paid, owned, and earned.
- Paid are product placements and ads.
- Owned is what you create yourself.
- Earned is the content created by a third party, where your brand is mentioned. The fact you haven’t paid for earned media and have no control over it makes this type of social proof highly trusted.
Earned media allows you to associate your brand with prestigious platforms and publications.
Let’s say someone from Forbes, CBS, or the Wall Street Journal reaches out to you and asks you for an interview about your latest product. You can later use this article or media coverage on your website to establish authority.
When a visitor who’s never heard of your brand before sees that you’ve been mentioned in a positive context by a reputable source, they will have no doubts that they can trust you.
This is one of the most difficult types of media to obtain. But, you can get in touch with journalists from your industry and share with them some valuable content, such as exclusive research, industry reports, or a new product announcement.
Evernote’s homepage lists logos of media outlets where the brand was featured, together with excerpts from these mentions.
Social proof can transform your marketing and give your brand a significant boost in terms of trust and credibility. By not leveraging this low-hanging fruit marketing tactic, you practically leave money on the table.
The thing is that social proof about your brand exists, whether you encourage it or not. Customers leave reviews or comments on social media and talk about your products or services. All you need to do is get strategic about it and enlist the help of your satisfied customers.