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Five ways to use social proof to boost sales

By Alexandra Gavril - February 8, 2019

New visitors don’t just become customers the first time they come across your small business. Even when they’re impressed by your products and services, they almost always look at the actions and opinions of others to decide whether they can trust buying from you.

You most likely do that too. You book a hotel based on the reviews you read, you try a new restaurant based on how many people you see inside, and you sign up for a gym or buy a running app based on the testimonials you read.

That’s social proof and it plays a major role in every customer’s purchase decision.

So how do you take advantage of your happy customer’s experience with you in order to encourage others to give your business a chance? How do you turn those pleasant moments into compelling marketing messages?

In this post we’ll explain what social proof is, why it’s so valuable and five ways to use it to influence visitors and boost sales.

What is social proof and why your small business needs it in order to thrive?

People trust other people more than they trust marketers. So if a person sees that their friends, family members, co-workers or other people like and trust your business, they’re more likely to go ahead and buy your product.

For example, it’s social proof that makes people sign up for a personal development newsletter because it has thousands of subscribers. It’s also what compels them to buy a new product from an unknown brand because of the great things others are saying about it. It’s also the reason they try a crazy expensive type of coffee because everyone seems to be raving about it on Facebook.

Social proof validates a choice. It uses other people as proof to say that a specific product or service is worth your time, money or interest.

Here’s the thing: no matter how compelling your marketing copy is, your prospects will most likely believe your customers’ testimonials or reviews more than what you tell them about your offering.

You can tell them that your product works wonders, that it’s high-quality and that it’ll help meet their needs or solve their problem. The chances that they’ll take your word for it and buy it then and there are slim. That is unless you add some social proof and show other people who have taken the leap, bought your product and were happy with their purchase and their experience with you.

Let’s look at an example of social proof in action. Which of these two backpacks would you be more likely to buy?

You’d probably be more drawn to the first one which not only has more five star reviews but has also received awards from trusted organisations recognised in their industry, thus showing proof of quality and credibility.

That’s the difference social proof can make in your marketing.

Now that you understand the importance of social proof, let’s look at a few ways you can use it on your website and marketing to boost sales.

1. Customer testimonials and case studies

Customer testimonials and customer success stories (also known as case studies) are the most commonly used form of social proof. That’s because they’re effective.

How effective? According to one study, testimonials can increase sales by as much as 34%.

In other words, customer testimonials are social proof gold. They come in all shapes and sizes, from short text quotes to detailed case studies and even video testimonials.

So there are lots of ways to use customer testimonials in your marketing.

For example, you could sprinkle them throughout your site in the form of short quotes to address sales objections. Here are two examples of how you can do that:

You can also create a separate testimonials page to show off real people who love your products or services. To boost credibility, we’d recommend adding a name and a photo to each testimonial.

In this example below, they’ve chosen to do video testimonials while also adding an excerpt next to each video:

Another option to consider is writing detailed customer success stories where you demonstrate how your product or service has helped solve your customers’ problems.

If your customers are open to it, you could even turn them into video customer success stories, like in this example from FitBit:

Read this guide to learn how to write a customer success story and how to make it an effective weapon in your digital arsenal.

2. Ratings and reviews

Over 88% of online shoppers look at reviews before purchasing a new product from a brand they’re not familiar with. But even when purchasing a new product from a brand they already know, 67% of women consumers still consider online reviews very influential.

And here’s another stat to consider: 63% of consumers say that they are more likely to purchase from a site if it has product ratings and reviews.

What does that mean? It means that online reviews and ratings should be a critical part of your marketing strategy considering the impact they can have on your bottom line.

Think about it. Whether a prospect Googles your business, uses Google Maps to find your location or researches your products or services on Facebook, Yelp or TrustPilot, they’re going to see your customers’ reviews and ratings. And you can be sure that what they read will influence their purchasing decision.

Wouldn’t this?

Or this?

So, do your best to provide not only a great product or service but also a wow customer experience to anyone who buys from you. Then ask your happy customers to spread the word about your business and their experience with you on your website or on their favourite review sites or social media platforms.

This post explains more about why reviews and ratings are so important and how you can use reviews to entice more prospects to buy from you.

3. Statistics

Quantifiable signs of your brand’s popularity are another effective type of social proof. When you show prospects your existing customer or fan base, you’re actually telling them that your brand is worth paying attention to and that your products or services have met the needs of so many people, so they’ll most likely be good enough for them, too.

So what kind of stats can you display on your website?

For example, you could add stats of how many fans your Facebook or Twitter business page has, or how many people have signed up to your email newsletter or made a purchase on your site.

Here are a few examples:

Showing stats of real customers taking action has been proven to boost credibility and sales. So make sure you use it in your marketing as it’s a fantastic way to use your existing customers and fans as social proof and let them do the selling for you.

4. Media mentions

Have your products, services or business ever been mentioned in the media? If the answer is yes, then don’t be shy about letting your customers and prospects know about it.

Just like testimonials and reviews, positive media coverage shows your audience that your business is worthy of attention.

So if your business gets mentioned in a magazine, a TV show or a podcast, add those mentions on your site.

How? You can either display the logos of the media outlets you’ve been featured in or take excerpts from those mentions and add them on your website to establish authority.

Here are two examples from Markhor and FitBit on how you can do that:

5. Trust symbols, awards and associations

People buy from businesses they can trust. And trust isn’t built just with social proof coming from customers but also from trusted organisations and third-parties.

So here are the top trust symbols you should consider displaying on your site to increase credibility and sales:

  • Security badges or seals that let users know that your checkout process is secure and has been verified by a trusted third party.
  • Awards from trusted organisations recognised in your industry.
  • Certifications or accreditations relevant to your business demonstrating that you are a certified expert.
  • Membership badges from relevant industry associations.
  • Logos from partners or high-profile companies working with you, wherein credibility of the brands you work with brings credibility to your own brand through association.

Wrapping up

The question isn’t whether or not social proof will help you to boost sales but rather which social proof strategies will you choose to leverage? This starts with understanding your target audience and experimenting with all these social proof tactics to determine which ones are most effective for your business and prospects.