Social Proofing – also referred to as ‘Social Influence’ – describes the way in which individuals make decisions about a situation, product or brand based upon what they believe their peers (and wider society) think about that same situation, product or brand. It describes how we often ‘jump on the bandwagon’ when it comes to the judgements of our friends and family about a film or restaurant, etc., and take on those preconceptions without ever having seen the film or visited the restaurant, and highlights the fact that the widely accepted views of society sometimes outweigh the need for objective, first-hand experience.
In a digital world of online shopping and remote workers, we aren’t just dealing with local, long established family businesses that hold a monopoly over their specific industry. We may not have physical offices that customers can visit, or even be selling tangible goods that can be tried and tested. We need to convey to customers that our reputation is both positive and solid, and that we are the best business for them, regardless of the 340,000 Search Engine Entries that may appear alongside us in the Search Engine Results Pages!
How can we harness the power of Social Proofing to boost our business? Here are 6 ways:
we live in an era of Social Media Influencers; individuals who don’t appear in our newspapers, televisions or radios, but have amassed a large quantity of followers on Social Media platforms because of the interesting and informative content that they produce on a specific topic – from food to fashion, family life to business advice. With each of these ‘influencers’ having an audience of thousands of like-minded followers, ‘influencer marketing’ (using a Social Media influencer to promote your product to their followers) is becoming an increasingly popular, with one report suggesting that 57% of companies in the Fashion and Beauty Sectors already incorporate this kind of advertising into their marketing campaigns on YouTube[i].
Celebrity endorsements, like influencer marketing, appeal to our desires to be ‘more like’ the celebrities who grace stage and screen, with extensive research suggesting that this kind of advertising can positively influence brand credibility, improve a customer’s memory of the advertisements, and improve purchase intentions[ii].
We Brits love to leave a review, with evidence suggesting that almost half of us have reviewed a product online[iii], and 88% of consumers claiming that they trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations when making purchasing decisions[iv]. In research carried out by the Harvard Business School in 2011 (looking at the Star reviews on Yelp for restaurants), they found that star ratings positively correlated with revenue, and ‘each ratings star added on a Yelp review translated to anywhere from a 5 percent to 9 percent effect on revenues’[v]
Want to convey your business’s social approval quickly and simply? Clear and accurate statistics can highlight how many people have already worked with you or purchased your product, and may encourage customers to ‘follow the crowd’, just like Elvis Presley’s Gold Records (Volume 2) which was entitled ‘50,000,000 Million Elvis Fans can’t be Wrong’.
Recommendations from friends and family remain one of the most credible forms of advertising, with 83% of us trusting the buying decisions of people we know[vi]. A simple way you can harness this is to incorporate a Facebook ‘like’ button onto your website that shares with a potential customer the faces of friends and other individuals that they, and the business in question, have in common.
If your business or individual staff members have worked hard to gain industry specific qualifications, or have received awards, share these online! Badges that legitimise your skills and reputation can help to settle a customer’s potential unease when it comes to working with an unknown entity (your business) by conveying your knowledge and experience both simply and visually.
When it comes to businesses trying to reach out to potential customers, Social Proofing is invaluable; it allows a business to adopt tried-and-tested signals that convey trustworthiness, success and a positive work ethic to potential customers who have never heard of their business before, making it more likely that a customer will purchase a product or service from them, rather than a competitor.
[i] Burgess, E. ‘New reports show the struggles as well as the effective strategies for fashion and beauty brands on YouTube’ Influencer Orchestration Network https://www.ion.co/beauty-and-fashion-brands-need-influencers-to-succeed-on-youtube
[ii] Roozen, I., 2008. ‘The relative effectiveness of celebrity endorsement for beauty, high-and low involvement product print advertisements’. 7th International Congress, Marketing Trends.
[iii] Chowney, V. 2011 ‘47% of Britons have reviewed a product online’ Econsultancy https://econsultancy.com/blog/8346-47-of-britons-have-reviewed-a-product-online
[iv] Anderson, M 2014 ‘88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations’ Search Engine Land http://searchengineland.com/88-consumers-trust-online-reviews-much-personal-recommendations-195803
[v] Blanding, M, 2011 ‘The Yelp Factor: Are Consumer Reviews Good For Business?’ Harvard Business School http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/the-yelp-factor-are-consumer-reviews-good-for-business
[vi] McCaskill, A 2015 ‘Recommendations from friends remain most credible form of advertising among consumers’ http://www.nielsen.com/eu/en/press-room/2015/recommendations-from-friends-remain-most-credible-form-of-advertising.html Nielsen