5 Things You Need To Know About Social Proof

Nowadays, most people say that they look at social proof before making the decision to buy.

I can’t blame them. Consumers nowadays want to make sure that they don’t make uninformed decisions that might potentially backfire on them. And with the internet at their fingertips, they’re getting more and more informed all the time.

Okay, so just in case some people are a bit behind the rest of the class – what is social proof?

Let’s just say social proof is a type of conformity – it’s all about following the crowd.

It’s a way of thinking: “Hey, if everyone else is doing this, then it should definitely be the best course of action.”

If you’re still a bit confused, think stuff like product reviews, product ratings, celebrity endorsements, social media mentions and so on.

So that’s social proof.

And it plays a bigger role than most people realize, especially to marketers.

Did you know that 63% of consumers indicated that they won’t buy products from a site if it doesn’t have product ratings and reviews?

And 70% of Americans say that they look at product reviews before making a purchase.

So it’s pretty safe to say that if you’re a marketer, it’s in your best interests to utilize social proof.

But wait – not all social proof is created equal.

Here’s 5 things you need to understand about using social proof in your marketing efforts:

1. Say ‘no’ to negative social proof.

images Negative social proof is horrible for persuasion. 

And one big mistake most people often make, is trying to use negative social proof to increase the effectiveness of their call to action.

Some researchers tested three different kinds of signs in the Arizona Petrified Forest to prevent theft. Two of them used positive social proof, the third used negative social proof.

Their findings? The sign with negative social proof actually increased the likelihood that people would steal petrified wood from the forest.

So if your sales page warns people against missing out on the benefits of your product, but uses negative social proof to support your claims, you’re in for some trouble.

How to know if you’re using negative social proof? Well, here are some examples:

  • “4 years ago, over 22% of women did not vote.”
  • “This year Americans will produce more litter and pollution than ever before.”

Remember social proof is about following the crowd.

So if the social proof says that something is wrong or bad, but then says a lot of people are doing it…  Most people will become more confident that the wrong thing is actually the right course of action to take.

2. Positive social proof is really influential.

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Where negative social proof is bad, positive social proof is very, very influential.

Let’s take a look at another case study, again involving signs. This time, the signs were supposed to persuade people to use less energy in the summertime by using fans instead of air conditioning.

The first sign told people they could save money by saving energy. The second said it was better for the environment. The third appealed to people’s sense of social responsibility. And the fourth sign said that 77% of their neighbors were actively using fans to save energy.

The fourth sign won by a landslide.

So positive social proof can be more influential than saving money or the environment, in a way.

So when trying to reinforce your call to action, it’s better to use positive social proof.

3. People are more easily influenced by similarity.

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In other words, people are more easily influenced by people whom they consider to be similar to them in some way.

Ever seen banner ads proclaiming: “Join over 100,000 of your peers!”?

Those do very well, but of course if you can make your social proof as similar to your ideal target market as possible, it’ll be even more effective. 

Also, social proof is more effective when there are pictures or images. So try to find images of people who represent your ideal customers as accurately as possible.

4. Use storytelling to connect with your customers.

You might already have known that anecdotes or stories about other customers’ personal experiences using your product can be very persuasive, but most people tend to underestimate how effective they really are.

Stories are very powerful.

Research indicates that if you give someone a 5-star review with a ton of statistics and analytics, they’re less likely to remember or be persuaded by the review.

On the other hand, “customer stories” will really lodge in people’s minds, and help them feel more connected to you and your product.

When it comes to social proof, people tend to trust stories a whole lot more.

5. No proof is better than low proof.

results_3 Sometimes, social proof can actually lower the popularity of a page or website, if the numbers are low enough to make it seem unpopular.

If people come across a page that has really low Facebook likes, for example, they’re more likely to think of it as not very trustworthy, or just not good.

We live in a world where most sites have social media buttons all over the screen, and low share or like counts can deter people from buying from your site.

So in that case, it’s a good idea not to use social proof at all, at least not on the important pages of your site.

Having no social proof at all doesn’t help either, since people will assume your site or product isn’t trustworthy, or is new, or that it just plain sucks, because nobody seems to like it.

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