In this post, we’ll walk through several social proof examples so you can apply them to your own ecommerce efforts. (And recognize when brands are using them to influence you!)
Contemporary marketing strategies rely on psychology to figure out how to influence people to take a certain action. One of the most powerful tactics we have is social proof, which plays on the human tendency to look to other people’s behavior or advice to make a decision.
Social influence works so well because new customers or potential clients can’t look to themselves to make a choice about something they have no experience with. Cue the search for input from others – what the whole idea of social proof is based upon.
What Is Social Proof?
Social proof is a popular tactic in marketing to increase prospective customers’ trust in a product, service, or brand. Essentially it helps reduce buyer uncertainty by showing that other people have had success with the option in question – and are now satisfied customers.
Because others have done it, liked it, used it, or had success with it, people feel they will be able to as well. For example, when you purchase something on Amazon, it’s hard not to pay attention to the star rating and product reviews and let them affect your purchasing decision.
Likewise, if your friend recommends somewhere to eat over another place, you’d likely go with their suggestion. In fact, 82% of Americans say they look for recommendations from friends and family before making a purchase, and the average customer reads about 10 online reviews before making a purchase decision.
The fascinating phenomenon within social psychology coined by psychologist Dr. Robert Cialdini in his book, Influence, is used by marketers in a variety of ways to increase the likelihood of a prospective customer saying “yes” to an offer by removing a level of uncertainty around their decision.
When others have gone before us in doing something we are considering, it makes it easier to decide as we can take cues from them. This looking at the behavior and experience of another person helps our brains take a sort of shortcut to arrive at a conclusion.
9 Social Proof Examples You Can Use in Your Marketing
There are a variety of ways to show social proof of your brand or product today. From product ratings to influencer marketing, there are many approaches you could take to implement social proof. Below are 9 different types of social proof and examples of how they are used to build customer trust.
1. User Social Proof
User social proof is a powerful thing. It showscases happy customers so a prospective customer feels more confident in their decision by providing first-hand testimony of the experience of other users. This can be through customer reviews, testimonials, or star ratings.
94% of customers say that ratings and reviews are the biggest factors in their purchasing decision, which shows how integral this kind of social proof has become to most customers when deliberating a purchase.
Product Reviews: Reviews that include images of a product can help to give an even fuller picture of the experience than those with just words.
Star Ratings: Star ratings do in fact affect sales. They are powerful indicators of the success of a product and can greatly influence customers’ purchasing decisions.
Client Testimonials: The best kind of client testimonial is the one that goes beyond making vague claims and shares real results to prove why a particular product or service worked.
2. Wisdom of the Crowds
Wisdom of the crowds plays on a customers’ FOMO, or fear of missing out.
It’s an idea that large crowds are “smarter than individuals” when it comes to making decisions or giving suggestions. So, when a large group of people give their approval for something or behave in a certain way, it has influence over another’s decision-making or behavior.
For example, if one company has more social media followers than its competitor, the one that seems more popular will likely be more favorable to a potential customer.
But, how can you use this type of social proof for your business if you can’t necessarily control how many social media followers you have?
There are other ways to show that the crowds are in favor of something. On your website, you can display how many users, customers, subscribers, etc, use your company and even compare it to competitors.
3. Stats & Data
Statistics and data help inform the decisions we make every day, and they tend to hold a lot of weight. Think, “3 out of 4 doctors say…” We’ve been trained to rely on stats and data since they are closely related to science and research, and because of this, they bring a greater sense of certainty to the table.
They can help prove the legitimacy, effectiveness, or popularity of your product or service.
4. Expert Social Proof
This kind of social proof calls upon experts in your industry to weigh in as influencers and give their approval or support of a certain product or service based on their specific knowledge and experience.
It can look like quotes on a website, or endorsements from authors, doctors, athletes, or anyone who can speak to the legitimacy of your product or service.
If you make claims about the outcome of what you’re selling, an industry expert confirming those claims goes a long way in building customer trust.
5. Influencer Promotion
Influencers get their title because, well, they influence people. What they wear, eat, drink, and spend their time and money on gets viewed by thousands if not millions of people, and because they have a following (think wisdom of the crowds) what they do influences others.
People trust the influencers they follow after feeling like they know them due to what psychologists now call the parasocial relationship. Media users feel like they know and can trust influential people as their friends, though the relationship is one-sided.
A recommendation from a friend goes a long way, and when it’s someone who feels like a friend and is also followed and trusted by thousands of others, a recommendation can have all the more power — which could be the reason that 93% of marketers have used influencer marketing, and it certainly doesn’t seem like it’s going away anytime soon.
6. Celebrity Endorsements
Celebrity social proof works similarly to expert social proof, and it plays on the parasocial relationship a bit as well, but the unique appeal to customers is purely because a celebrity is well known and famous.
It helps if the celebrity is known for something within the industry, but it isn’t necessary.
Matthew McConaughey promoting Lincoln is a great example of celebrity endorsements for the sake of notoriety. However, if a celebrity is known for, say, being extremely fit and promotes athletic gear, you get a few different kinds of social proof types working in your favor.
For example, Dwayne the Rock Johnson endorses UnderArmor. He’s not only one of the most well-known celebrities, but he’s also ripped which makes this endorsement seem like both a celebrity one and an expert one.
7. Wisdom of Friends
Wisdom of friends is a little trickier to implement because it often takes place naturally.
If a friend or a peer recommends something, 92% of people are likely to trust it. When was the last time your friend suggested one product over another after using it and you didn’t go with their suggestion? We trust our friends, and their experiences help us figure out who or what we can trust.
Wisdom of friends is actually a key influencer for Generation Z.
One way to try to get friends to tell their friends about your product or service is to give discount codes to customers or clients for sharing and successfully getting their friends on board. These referral programs can help provide social proof naturally.
8. Credentials & Awards
Industry credentials or awards are a great way to prove that others trust your brand.
These can be displayed on your website, social media, or published in a press release to show that industry professionals put their stamp of approval on your organization or product. These more “official” forms of social proof can build trust with your audience quickly because they work to prove the legitimacy of a company or product.
Think of seeing an ad that reads “voted best oral surgeon in Canada.” It automatically instills a sense of trust that not only have many many people evaluated this particular surgeon, but they’ve concluded the surgeon is the best among their competitors.
9. Media Mentions or Recognition
This is most commonly used as “as seen in” sections that display different publications or media outlets that have either recognized or talked about your company, product, or services. The more notable the media outlet is, the more trustworthy and legitimate a product or service will seem
For example, “as seen in Forbes” will probably instill more trust in customers than “as seen in Milwaukee Magazine.” Noting these mentions or recognitions on your website or social media can garner quick attention and give a new or potential customer more confidence in their purchase, as long as they trust the source of the recognition.
A Few Last Words on Social Proof
If you look closely, you’ll likely notice social proof everywhere. Most marketers take advantage of at least one type of social proof, and oftentimes use multiple types in conjunction with one another to increase the sense of credibility and trustworthiness with potential customers.
Though we may not notice exactly when it’s happening, we all have made decisions based on social proof, and because it’s so powerful, most people have come to rely on it when making choices. (Even unconsciously!)
When you implement social proof marketing for your brand, it’s important to identify what social proof strategy works best for your particular offering. Many of them can play off of and compliment each other, but it’s important to be careful not to overdo the amount of social proof you implement. Too much of a good thing can begin to give off the impression that you’re trying too hard to convince someone to purchase, or worse, that social proof was faked.
The power behind social proof comes from the fact that it’s from customers, experts, celebrities, etc. and not the company simply making claims. So, the social proof you implement must always be genuine if it’s going to work to eliminate uncertainty for your potential customers or clients.
Show, don’t tell. Learn how Coveo can help you highlight the right products, at the right time.
Social proofing is just one potential tactic in your larger ecommerce strategy. Dig into a few more with our ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization for Ecommerce. In it, you’ll get insights on product discovery, merchandising, recommendations, and so much more.
Get your copy today.