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Social Proof - Why Is It So Important?

In the past, advertisements were the main way consumers received information about a brand. Indeed, it is an easy way to get a company’s message in front of the appropriate audience. But social proof is just as important if not more so in the age of social media.

It would be unwise for companies to rely on advertising alone for their marketing efforts. With the rise of social media platforms, businesses must see that they include social proof in their marketing messages.

Millennials' and Gen Zs' buying behaviors are not much different from the previous generations' buying behaviors. Making that final decision to buy takes time, and consumers often seek the advice of friends and family who have already tried the product they are considering buying. The difference now is that consumers of today look for social proof no matter whom it comes from. It helps businesses convert their leads into buying customers.

Such is the power of social proof. It utilizes psychology to make your target audience take action by showing them that other customers are happy with your products. It is easy to do, as long as you do it right.

What is social proof?

Social proof is a psychological effect that brings us to imitate other people's behavior. It has become a significant part of how organizations communicate because it encourages consumers to choose who and what to trust online. In an unpredictable climate, social proof gives consumers a way to make better choices.

It is human nature to imitate the actions of other people to become part of a group. Marketers worth their salt recognize that people trust individuals they perceive to be like them way more than any million-dollar ad campaign for a product.

People know social proof by its other names: informational social influence, herd behavior, mass conformity, and public acceptance. Whatever you call it, social proof is a marketing tactic worth considering.

How does social proof work?

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To give you an example, imagine you are inside a mall looking to buy an office chair for your home. You come across two furniture shops, one is teeming with customers, and the other has none. Your attention gets instantly fixed on the store with customers, which eventually is the one you approach. After all, there must be a compelling reason why these people chose Store A over Store B. Perhaps it is the better one. The proof is right before your eyes.

Social proof works under these four core principles.

  1. Similarity

As mentioned earlier, it is natural for humans to imitate people who are similar to them. It explains why fashion trends, no matter how outrageous, continue to happen.

  1. Uncertainty

Parting with your hard-earned money is always a risk. Even though most stores offer refunds, it takes up too much time, and consumers do not want to go through all the hassle. Consumers try to mitigate the risk by searching for reviews of the product by neutral people around them. That is why products coined as "best sellers" are, well, best sellers.

  1. Expertise

People believe experts, and they are drawn to social proof that involves them. For this reason, we see dentists in countless toothpaste commercials or dermatologists endorsing a brand of soap.

  1. Number

When a significant number of people buy a particular product, then perhaps it is a safe buy. You can see this principle at work when watching a movie. People want to watch movies that are box-office hits because they have heard about them from friends, relatives, or reviews.

Marketers are now scrambling to use social proof as a tool to influence consumer decisions.

Types of social proof

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  1. Testimonials

Getting testimonials is the most common type of social proof. These are either written or video endorsements from customers who have tried a product or service and are willing to share their experience.

Testimonials are probably the most compelling reasons to buy a product because potential buyers can learn from a recent customer who was happy with their purchase.

  1. Customer reviews and ratings

With information now readily available, consumers turn to reviews before buying a particular product. 

Nine out of ten people say that they read online reviews and these reviews influence their buying decisions, whether positive or negative. You can encourage and even reward your customers to review your products on Facebook, Trustpilot, Google, and your website.

  1. Endorsements

Time was when celebrities ruled endorsement deals. It was expensive, as stars demand millions of dollars in exchange for promoting a brand. Thus, only large corporations were able to afford endorsement deals.

These days, even small businesses can approach an influencer to endorse their products for free or at minimal costs. A study made by Google reveals that influencers are just as likely to bring in sales as celebrities. That is because these influencers already have thousands of followers who regularly watch their content and trust them completely.

  1. Social shares

Marketers covet social shares because it is one way to spread awareness for their brands for free. However, this can be challenging since you need to be creative in coming up with ways to get users to share your content.

  1. Certifications

Certifications are a great way to show the public that you are an expert in your field. These can come in many forms. For example, a digital marketing agency with certified staff will help boost trust. A management consulting firm should have a team of certified business consultants.

  1. Case studies

Companies often use case studies in the B2B space to show an in-depth account of how they handled client situations. It helps gain customer confidence.

Why social proof is important

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  1. Social proof can drive traffic

Most consumers report that they immediately visit websites after reading a positive review of those sites.

  1. It shows off your skills

Testimonials and case studies can exhibit your skills and expertise.

  1. Social proof helps gain trust

Millennials and Gen Zs trust reviews and read them before making a decision.

  1. Establishes credibility

Again, people trust people more than the companies themselves. If you have a million customers, your brand becomes worthy of trust.

Conclusion

Companies are all in the business of gaining the public's trust. The more people trust you, the better for your bottom line. Consumers reject brands that are unreliable.

Consumers also do not want to be sold. They do not want advertisements interfering with their daily lives. What they do seek is reliable information online about the product they wish to buy.  Social proof like testimonials, case studies, and reviews help them find that information.

Once you have earned the social proof you need, do not keep them to yourself. Promote your social proof, and make sure your prospects see them.