Social Proof Is *The Most* Effective Way to Sell in 2021 [Tutorial]

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What is Social Proof? 

97% of people admit that reviews influencer their decisions. This effect is called Social Proof.

It is the most powerful motivator to get people to take action online.

It's powered billions of dollars in B2C ecommerce and it's still untapped.

In this Tutorial, we'll explore how businesses use Social Proof as part of their marketing strategy, examples, and action items to start implementing or improving the use of Social Proof at your startup. Let's start by defining this concept.

Social proof is a psychological phenomenon according to which one's behavior is affected by others in a certain situation. Making our own decisions makes us feel confident, successful, and happy. Though, often our decisions are influenced by people around us and the need of conforming to their ideas is vivid. For this reason, we often make decisions that will let us be accepted or be seen by society in a certain way.

In a marketing context, this phenomenon is even more emphasized, especially in the social media community. In the era where most of us post, share and write comments, our ideas can be shaped by the people around us. In particular, every feedback you receive from people you know or trust has the power to influence your opinions upon a specific product or service. As a result, our behavior as consumers, change and adapt subsequently.

Why is Social Proof So Important?

The reason why businesses should consider social proof as the main part of a marketing strategy is simply that social proof has the power to turn a post, a review, or a case study, into sales. In other words, social proof helps businesses boost their sales. 

In fact: 

  • Nearly 90% of consumers read the reviews before making a purchase decision.
  • 9 out of 10 people is more likely to buy a product if recommended by a friend
  • 97% of buyers admit that reviews influence their decisions
  • Consumers tend to read around 10 reviews before buying a product

How Does Social Proof Work?

Social proof can look different from a person to another. It can be manifested by a friend, sharing their thoughts on a specific product, or a public figure who endorses a service. For this reason, we can experience several and different types of social proof. A great example of social proof is represented by fast-growing influencer marketing. Many brands rely on influencers not only for the organic purpose of advertising but also because of the trust followers have in that specific influencer. That trust is what affects followers/consumers' behavior towards a brand. When we put our trust in someone, we believe their opinions matter. So for example, if your favorite influencer, who you enjoy following and admire their work, is sponsoring a new skincare product, you trust their opinions on it and, therefore, you are driven into buying it. Social proof is definitely a powerful marketing strategy.

What Does Social Proof Look Like When Into a Marketing Strategy?

So, we can now all agree on the importance of social proof in marketing. But let's get into more details.

When looking at digital marketing, we look at a ton of content, such as websites, blog posts, articles, social media, and so many more. How does social proof affect all of that, then? And, how do businesses/brands apply it to their incoming marketing strategy?

Social proof can take different forms. The most common one we encounter in our everyday lives is a review. We look at reviews in contexts where we face different choices that all look similar to us and we need real proof that helps us make the decision. Example - picking a restaurant on an app. Also, online shopping is abundantly shaped and affected by reviews. When we shop online, we often scroll down to the reviews and read a few, either positive and negative ones. This habit will implicitly affect our consuming choices.

Social proof can also be done by experts who have an accurate knowledge of the product, or service, and its features. Buyers tend in fact to trust experts, especially when it comes to services like insurance and bank service.

Another form of social proof can be social media. As previously mentioned, influencers, testimonials, or brand ambassadors are a marketing strategy that effectively works when building brand awareness and trust towards the brand.

A similar category of testimonials is celebrity endorsements. Especially fashion brands, magazines, and many more utilize this type of social proof that attracts consumers and increases brand visibility and awareness.

Statistics can be great social proof. Ads that include data or numbers will look more trustworthy and real than those ads that don't.

Social proof can also be in the form of:

  • Case studies
  • Certifications or badges
  • User-generated content (UGC)
  • Business credentials
  • Word of Mouth

Social proof can appear in different ways and sometimes can also be implicit or even hidden. That does not mean is less effective. It could surely work differently than a testimonial visibly sponsoring a product. But it's as effective as all the other ones.

Best Practices of Social Proof in the E-commerce

Today there are many (yet not all of them) businesses that apply the advantages of social proof into their marketing strategies.

For example, Uber Eats is one of them. In fact, this online food ordering platform made social proof one of their main marketing tools. When a user sends an invite to a friend, that's social proof happening there. A friend referral works as a social influence.

Social proof is largely used by companies like Amazon, Yelp, and Airbnb. In these platforms, the star rating plays the main role in consumers' behavior.

Nine out of ten buyers admit that online reviews affect their purchase decisions. Reviews are so important when shopping online. We, as consumers, enjoy reading other people's experiences with a product and what their thoughts are about it. Reviews, star-rating, and user experiences bring more personality to a brand. They make online shopping feel closer and more personal to consumers.

Another great example of social proof is done by Netflix. The categories "Popular on Netflix" or "Top 10 in the U.S." give us a sense of community. If a movie is in the top 10 in the country you live in, then you should probably watch that movie and eventually like it as well.

Social Proof and B2B Businesses

B2B businesses may seem skeptical towards social proof but they can benefit from it as much as B2Cs. The strategies for a B2B brand may differ from a company that sells directly to consumers. For example, reviews may not work as much for a B2B. Best practice would be choosing data, testimonials, or awards/certifications for social proof. When dealing with professionals, advertising your brand through a review is just not enough. B2B needs a more impactful strategy for social proof. Statistics is probably the best choice. In the B2B world, things are more analytical and logical. Numbers, data, graphs, would help a B2B company build social proof and gain trust and popularity.

How to incorporate Social Proof into your Sales & Marketing Strategy

If you haven't already, now it's time to include social proof into your agenda. There are many ways this can be done.

The traditional way is to include reviews on your products when displayed online. Reviews are so important and they influence consumers' perceptions in many ways. Even negative reviews are important for businesses. Why? Because, it gives companies another perspective of consumer experience, and also, the way brands handle negative reviews is crucial. When a brand responds politely and professionally to a negative comment on their product, it tells a lot about a company's ethics and sense of humanity. So, don't take for granted reviews, even the negative ones.

In order to incorporate reviews into your online platform, you have to create an optimal review submission process. Sending a review has to be easy, simple, and quick. Buyers won't compel into writing reviews if it's too complicated or takes too much time.

If reviews are not working for a specific business, then you could include brand testimonials or video tutorials that show how to use a product or a service. This will incredibly help consumers in their buying decisions.

Announcements like "Restock soon" or "Sold Out!" are great examples of social proof as well. They show people have enjoyed those products and they are selling fast. We all know that the fewer there are, the more people will want a product. It's economics 101.

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