How to use social proof in your marketing campaign
From reviews to user-submitted content, contributor Timothy Carter explains how the various types of social proof can bolster your brand.
When most people try to develop a marketing campaign, they focus on making a sale to potential users. Sometimes, that sale is literal, such as getting a user to buy a product; other times, it’s figurative, such as persuading a user to fill out a contact form or merely convince them that your brand is an authority in your industry.
Today’s users are sharp, and naturally distrustful of brands — especially in traditional advertising messages. Accordingly, brands need an alternative way to persuade users, and one of the best modern tools for this is social proof.
What is ‘social proof?’
Social proof is a general term that refers to any piece of evidence from the peers of your intended audience that verifies some element of your argument. For example, it could be a word of praise from a past consumer that reinforces a claim you made about your products.
Why is social proof so important?
Social proof lends power to your marketing campaign in a number of ways:
- First and foremost, social proof is about inspiring trust. Up to 88 percent of online users trust reviews from strangers as much as personal recommendations from people they know. Offering a single piece of social proof can instantly make your claims seem more believable and make people trust you more as a brand.
- Social proof also can give you an edge over the competition. Assuming you’re neck and neck with a close competitor, with similar products and a similar history, social proof can serve as an ideal tiebreaker. Social proof is sometimes more important than product perfection, copywriting or other general marketing principles.
- Social proof is also pretty convenient to gather; it doesn’t require intensive creative brainstorming processes or large budgets the way some advertising tactics do. Instead, you’ll rely on your own customers to generate the core content to use.
With those advantages in mind, what specific types of social proof can assist your campaign?
Customer reviews are usually short snippets of descriptive text from customers describing a product or short-term service. Typically, there’s a rating involved, such as evaluating the product based on a 10-point scale or based on a certain number of stars.
You can ask for reviews on the product pages of your site or follow up with your customers via email to request their specific feedback. Either way, you’ll add content to your site, make your products seem more valuable, and if you include microformatting, you can even get those reviews featured in Google search results.
Testimonials are much like reviews, in that they’re created and submitted by your customers. The big difference is the scale; generally, reviews are short bits of text for products and services, while testimonials are more extended pieces written about a company overall.
To earn a testimonial, you’ll have to provide some breakout service or have a good enough relationship with one of your customers to ask for one directly. Because they’re more intensive, they’re more difficult to get, but they’re also more powerful for potential customers.
Affiliations are simpler forms of social proof, and you can usually get them without asking for them directly. This is a way of showcasing your company’s association with some other company, individual or organization.
For example, if you’ve had content published on an external publisher with a high authority, you can show off your presence there by featuring that publisher’s logo on your home page. You can also include trust badges on your website to make users feel more comfortable with your brand.
You can also generate a certain amount of social proof simply by having a strong, loyal and engaged audience on social media. For example, which company would you trust to be more authoritative — the one with 100 followers and no new posts since 2015, or the one with 10,000 followers and daily activity and conversations between the brand and its customers?
Post often, giving your customers more of what they want to see, and take efforts to grow your audience. Having more followers isn’t always better, but it can give you a boost in credibility.
Finally, you can host user-submitted content in a number of different forms. The most straightforward route is to encourage your users to guest post on your blog or contribute to a forum that you host. But you can also sponsor a competition, encouraging users to submit images or videos in conjunction with a given hashtag. This level of participation is an indication of your worth as a brand.
If you’re tactful, you can earn social proof without much additional effort and simply add it to your existing marketing materials, such as featuring a testimonial on your landing page. A simple request is usually more than enough to inspire submissions.
With so many ways to leverage social proof and the undeniable power of the strategy, there’s no excuse not to be integrating social proof into your marketing campaigns. Make the effort, and you’ll notice a difference in your conversions and engagement rates almost immediately.