Your simple guide to all things social proof in marketing.
What is social proof?
Social proof on websites is all about giving users the trust-building external validation derived from others’ actions and attitudes.
In other words, social proof in marketing refers to real evidence that others purchased and ultimately found value in your products and services. This has a positive impact on our actions as we get the assurance we need that others had no regrets—people were happy with what they bought. In short, social proof influences our own behavior.
Is social proof an effective marketing tactic?
All things being equal, which restaurant gives off the better impression? Or rather, where do you think you’ll get better food? The one known to have a line of customers out the door or the one with only a handful of diners? Chances are you chose the first option. Well, the same reasoning applies to the online realm.
Social proof is an effective marketing tactic because today’s consumers are cynical. They’re skeptical about brand promises and they’re allergic to sales talk. Frankly, they aren’t buying what businesses say at face value. But what their peers are saying? That’s another story.
This is particularly true of young shoppers who are intrinsically distrustful of corporations and just so happen to make up the largest cohort of consumers today!
That’s where social proof comes in and why it can be such a game changer.
Social proof has the power to supercharge conversions. We’re talking about a whopping 34% increase in sales page conversions just by including testimonials! Not to mention the willingness to spend up to 31% more if a business has rave reviews. These aren’t negligible numbers, especially for small businesses.
In other words, social proof is the great persuader—you need it on your website!
The psychology behind social proof
At its most basic, social proof persuasion works because, seeing others vouch for the brand, website, online store, product or service, reassures us that we’re in good company.
That aside, social proof is a must-have on websites because of the way we’re wired to think and process our decisions.
To be more precise:
When we feel uncertain, it’s human nature to turn to social proof for ‘guidance’ on what to think or do.
Let’s say you’re searching for the best 5* hotel in downtown Siem Reap. You’ve narrowed your options down to your top 3 but since all meet your criteria, it’s really hard to choose where you should stay.
At this point, you’re probably going to read previous guests’ reviews for each hotel before making your final booking. You want to know what others thought about each property and their locations, what guests loved, and what could have been better. After all, you want to be sure you pick the perfect hotel for the trip of a lifetime.
We are more likely to copy the behavior of people we can relate to, those we think are like us, and even those we aspire to be like.
Honestly, that’s why influencer marketing works so well. For instance, if you’re prone to pimple breakouts and your favorite beauty influencer posts about a revolutionary blemish control serum she swears by – it helped her beat makeup-induced acne and attain a clear and glowing complexion – chances are you now want to give that product a try yourself. If it worked for someone with a similar problem, it should work for you, right?
We tend to be swayed by individuals deemed to be particularly knowledgeable in their field.
Subconsciously, we’re drawn to “recommended by” or “X-approved” statements because we view these individuals as experts in their field. They can be trusted because they must know what they’re talking about.
So if a toothpaste is marketed as the #1 brand recommended by dentists for sensitive teeth, and your teeth ache whenever you eat ice cream or drink something hot, you’ll seek out that brand the next time you’re at the drugstore.
And if a line of puppy food is labelled vet-developed and approved, you’re going to feel better about buying that brand over the other options that may not be as healthy for your little fur baby.
The bandwagon effect and the fear of missing out kick in—that drives us to take action.
When something becomes trendy or appears really popular, we naturally want in on the action. After all, who wants to miss out on something potentially awesome?
For example: If everyone’s talking about a certain brand of unique-flavored, artisan donuts, posting about it online, and telling friends how awesome the flavors are, those donuts suddenly become so much more desirable than other donuts you could get your hands on.
Social proof statistics: Numbers you can’t ignore
Social proof and trust
- The average consumer reads an average of 10 reviews before they feel they can trust a certain business.
- 76% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
- 70% of shoppers will trust recommendations from someone they don’t even know.
- 92% of people will trust a recommendation from a peer.
- 91% of millennials trust reviews as much as recommendations from family and friends.
- 83% of consumers trust reviews more than advertising.
Social proof and purchase decisions
- 97% of consumers say that online reviews impact their purchasing decisions.
- 27% of consumers contact a business after reading positive reviews.
- 88% of shoppers’ purchase decisions are influenced by the reviews they read.
Social proof and conversions
- Online product reviews can increase conversion rates by a staggering 270%.
- Testimonials on sales pages can boost conversions by up to 34%.
- People are willing to spend up to 31% more for businesses with good reviews.
Types of social proof—with examples!
This is when an expert (or experts) in your industry recommends your product or service over the other alternatives on the market.
These are the star or scale ratings you see online for products and services. A small caveat: 73% of consumers actually prefer written reviews to star ratings.
This type of social proof is where current and previous customers write about their experience using your product, service, or establishment. Reviews tend to be found on e-commerce websites, booking portals and on product pages of online stores. They aren’t necessarily found on your own website although you can certainly integrate them.
This is when happy customers act as a reference for your business with an official positive statement that you publish on your website.
This type of social proof focuses on outlining a client’s real-life situation before and then after choosing your product or service.
Figures / Statistics
Here, you use real figures or statistics to show that you are trusted by a large number of individuals just like them.
Trust icons, awards, and media coverage
This is when you feature the logos or names of those already using your product or service.
Or feedback from those talking about your product such as positive media coverage.
Aside from that, you can highlight awards you’ve won.
While this isn’t a classic example of social proof, quality seals also signal trustworthiness and can basically be seen as receiving the endorsement of a reputable third-party. For example: EU-Bio Siegel, ISO certification, etc.
What if you don’t have social proof yet?
Social proof sounds great and all, and sure, who wouldn’t want to add that to their website? But what if your business is just getting started? What if you don’t have social proof just yet?
If this is your situation, don’t fret. It is truly not the end of the world.