Social Proof is a key principle of persuasion and used everywhere in marketing, especially word-of-mouth marketing. In this, the third part of our ‘Persuasion In Marketing’ blog post series, we list examples of the Social Proof principle being used in marketing.
Ever walked past a restaurant with a long queue outside, and joined the queue because you figured that the food was probably pretty good? If everyone is buying it, it can’t possibly be all bad, right?
That’s social proof in action. We form evaluations about something based on the actions of other people.
I’m going to walk you through what social proof is, how to use social proof, and why it’s important. Then I’ll share with you 26 real-life social proof examples used in marketing.
What is Social Proof?
Social proof is the psychological and societal phenomenon that occurs because of the assumption of people that the actions of others are correct depending on the frequency of such actions, and that such actions reflect the right behavior for a particular situation.
Let’s see a scenario of such situations in real-life to elaborate on what social proof is:
“You’re out on a walk while visiting a new town and you see across the road a store about to put a new product on the shelf. And outside the closed doors of the store there’s a long line of people waiting for the doors to open so they can be the first to get their hands on the new release. Your go-to thought would be that the product must be good. Else, why would that many people spend hours on a line just to buy it?”
This simple scenario shows the use of social proof. You noticed other people engaging with a popular product, and right away the product became attractive.
You did not need a sales agent to tell you how good the product is – you just saw a popular opinion and assumed. That’s how social proof works.
How Social Proof Can Help You Boost Sales
Research reveals that showcasing positive social proof is more powerful than trying to persuade people to take any action (like making a purchase) with the promise that they’d be making a responsible decision, protecting the environment, or saving money.
With that in mind, here are 3 ways you can showcase social proof for your brand today to boost sales.
1. Make Getting Online Product Reviews a Priority and Use Them Properly
Online reviews are growing in importance as an avenue for converting prospects and leads into clients. 90% of consumers believe that referrals and reviews are more valuable than the information offered by salespersons. 74% of people also trust businesses with positive reviews/product ratings.
So it’s not a far leap to say that prospects use this type of social proof (reviews) as a factor in considering whether to purchase.
So what do you do? Ensure that your online and social presence is in great shape and that previous clients can easily write reviews about your service and offer.
Going beyond previous customers to get in on prospective clients’ conversations is an excellent way to convince prospects to make a purchase.
The most basic move to ensure this is to fill out your Google My Business Listing, Yelp, and social media pages.
Also, follow up with clients and strike while you have them in your grasp. 9 out of 10 customers who are satisfied with a service will give an online review when requested to do so.
This means after the sale is closed, consider asking the satisfied customer for a review, as most would be glad to leave one.
Most businesses don’t ask for reviews which presents an opportunity for your brand to take advantage of and show social proof.
The moment positive reviews start coming in, share them on your social media touchpoints. This doesn’t just give you shareable content, but user-generated social media posts that helps you ensure that you stay in the mind of your followers, helps your marketing efforts, and reinforces the aura of social proof around your brand.
Even if the reviews aren’t so nice, respond to them, and share how the issue was fixed and turned into a pleasant situation.
2. Use Visuals if Possible to Create a Feel of Social Proof
Including visuals to testimonials, reviews, or case studies makes them more convincing. A survey showed that adding a photo amplified trust in the participants of the research, even when the visual was meaningless.
3. Take Advantage of the Power of Stories
A good story keeps its audience trusting, empathetic, and open by the release of the neurochemical oxytocin. Plus, when you label a statement as factual, it naturally makes the audience question what you said the more.
With stories, you can also create conversations that allow for a better connection than with facts. Humans tell other people what they remember, and we recall stories more than we do facts.
Seth Godin, in his marketing classic “All Marketers Tell Stories,” makes the argument that it’s stories and not the benefits or features of an offer that spreads from individual to individual.
This, coupled with the fact that good social proof is more powerful in convincing people to make a purchase, makes stories about customer challenges, experience, and your solution to the situation, very effective.
Ensuring you get more reviews, and properly using them in your various marketing channels, including visuals, and telling your audience captivating customer stories via word of mouth creates a powerful feel of social proof. And social proof builds trust, which is the backbone of sales, which means more sales.
26 Examples of Social Proof Used in Marketing
Below are 26 examples, categorised into 5 different sources of social proof (inspired by TechCrunch):
- Experts – Approval from credible experts in the relevant field
- Celebrities – Approval or endorsements from celebrities (paid or unpaid)
- Users – Approval from current/past users (ratings, reviews and testimonials)
- ‘Wisdom of crowds’ – Approval from large groups of other people
- Peers – Approval from friends and people you know
A. Expert Social Proof
When we buy something that we’re unfamiliar with, we often defer to an expert’s opinion.
If a product has been reviewed and recommended by an expert in the relevant field, we are more likely to trust that review and think highly of that product.
The Ostrich Pillow sales page features testimonials by a sports psychologist and an expert in neurology and sleep, praising the pillow’s effectiveness in providing good quality naps.
Since they are the experts, they probably know better.
Put aside the superstitions and self-proclaimed, armchair experts. At Bettingexpert, you get an in-house team of data-driven analysts and writers to help you bet better.
The site is also available in multiple languages.
B. Celebrity Social Proof
Celebrities are walking advertisements, and the backbone of “influencer marketing” so any product or service that they recommend or are seen using are bound to get a lot more attention.
A Facebook post by Mark Zuckerberg about a grilling thermometer, iGrill, crashed the product website with 1000 visitors and potential customers entering the site every minute due to the social share!
According to an article by Mashable, the iGrill folks had no idea Zuckerberg was even a customer.
iGrill CEO Christopher Allen said their app downloads exploded after the mention, and it raised awareness about their brand a million-fold.
5. Stars drinking Starbucks
Not that Starbucks needs more advertising, but the fact that celebrities are often spotted with a latte in their hands reinforces the social impression marketing tactic that Starbucks equals cool.
During his nine-year tenure as the acerbic host of the Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert regularly gave the ‘Colbert Bump’ to unsuspecting guests and products, boosting their support and visibility.
The effects of the legendary ‘bump’ have been well documented. According to NBC News, politicians who received the ‘bump’ saw a surge in popularity.
When Colbert decided to undercut a book publishing feud between corporate giants Amazon and Hachette, he bestowed his ‘bump’ on books written by new authors and sold by an independent retailer. Said authors reported phenomenal increases in sales for their once obscure novels.
During her interview on the Ellen show, acclaimed actress Saoirse Ronan showered Tropical Popical, an Irish nail salon, with more fanfare and customers than it had ever received.
In an article by Phorest, the owner of Tropical Popical revealed how customers began to boast of their visits to the salon after Ronan’s endorsement.
Some of us are skeptical of paid endorsements, but Apple does a very good job with this ad. Samuel L. Jackson has played a lot of cool and bad-ass characters, so people are already inclined to find him endearing. Samuel L. Jackson cooking, however, takes endearing to a whole new level, in a manly-cute sort of way.
Like Samuel L. Jackson and Apple, popular mobile game Clash of Clans enlisted Liam Neeson, another actor of gravitas. The juxtaposition between Neeson’s strong-man persona and the game’s cartoonish animation proves surprisingly adorable.
Adorable enough to have you exterminate rival clans while commuting to work.
C. User Social Proof
In a consumer study conducted by the folks at BrightLocal, they found that 88% of consumers read online customer reviews to determine if a local business is good.
The study also mentioned that 85% of consumers read up to 10 reviews before they feel they can trust a certain business.
Because customers are unable to physically try out certain products and services on an online store, it makes sense that they would rely on people around them or previous customers who have bought and tried them out before they’re likely to purchase.
Building up your customers’ trust in your product will determine if they will buy it, and even manage their expectations when they eventually receive it.
That’s the power of social proof.
Cotopaxi customers can leave reviews on individual product pages, as well as give a rating of 1 to 5 stars.
Additionally, other users are able to give a thumbs up or down to reviews that they find useful.
This way, even the reviews have a social proof element to them!
However, don’t be afraid of negative reviews.
A Forbes article has mentioned that brands with polite but negative reviews can actually be perceived as being “more honest, down-to-earth, cheerful, and wholesome” than one without a sign of complaints.
In the same study by BrightLocal, they found that 30% of customers will “trust a customer review just as much as a personal recommendation if they believe it to be authentic”!
Think of Skytrax’s site as the Yelp of airlines and airports. The website is amongst the best review sites that allows users to review airlines and airports all around the world.
These reviews are also subjected to quality control by other users. In this way, you can optimize your flying experience.
Before you chill, you need to Netflix. And what contributes to the latter’s allure is its user reviews. Every movie in Netflix’s DVD section comes accompanied by a section filled with remarkably in-depth film reviews by the site’s subscribers.
Apart from the usual rating system, the Google Play Store actually lists the total number of people who have given that particular star rating.
Showing the number of people who have given it 5 stars accompanied by 5-star reviews suggests how awesome this app is, and how much people like it.
Of course, you don’t have to create your own rating and review system for your website.
IMDb, the premier online database for film and television, lists and breaks down the user ratings for every entry. For example, with Batman v Superman, you can see which particular audience demographic loved the movie, and which thought it was a bloated, dull-fest of oversaturated colours and migraine-inducing cinematography.
Testimonials are a great way to put your best foot forward on your landing pages or elsewhere.
You present the most positive reviews by your most prominent customers, so that it’ll command the most social proof and boost your conversion rates.
Providing some details about the customer giving the testimonial might be able to attract similar customers as well.
For instance, a Shopify store owner might find the testimonial by Wear Viral more valuable than the one by George Yury Revutsky.
Depending on who that client is, it could even work like an expert or celebrity social proof!
Considering that most users of Linkedin are skilled professionals, a good word from them can serve as live, real-time proof one may require to validate your skills and work ethic.
D. ‘Wisdom of the Crowds’ Social Proof
‘People who bought this also bought that’
Simple and effective.
Listing what other customers also bought apart from that product can be really useful.
I have personally found myself simply clicking on several suggested items because they are similar to what I’ve already chosen!
We tend to trust people who have similar interests and tastes, plus, take their word for what it is, so we probably trust that whatever else they bought would be something we might like as well.
Discover the books purchased by your fellow like-minded users. Most often, these books come with discounts as well.
“These are our best-sellers!”
Providing a ‘best selling’ category can be very useful, especially for customers who do not have a specific item in mind.
A best-seller category can sometimes serve to showcase what your brand does best, and first-time customers are usually comfortable with buying something that most people have bought.
Of course, it’s always an added bonus if you can provide their customer ratings and reviews!
Perhaps, one of the most well-known examples of this category is the New York Times’ Best Seller list, which already has a life of its own. Books featured on the list gain both prestige and sales. If it’s good enough to be on the list, it’s probably good enough for you to buy it.
‘Bought by X amount of people’
Every Kickstarter project listed on the site will show how much funding they have received, and how it is doing relative to their initial funding target.
For instance, The Micro 3D printer project hit 6803%, or 68 times their initial target!
We do not know if the project owners had unquoted their target, but we get a rough sense of how popular this project is, especially when compared with other projects.
Clicking on an individual project provides clearer social proof information by listing the total number of people who have backed that project.
All Kickstarter projects have a time-limit, so ongoing projects will list the amount of time left for customers to support that project.
This creates a sense of urgency, as most projects offer exclusive discounts and incentives during their crowdfunding window.
“Served X number customers so far!”
Telling people how many customers you served so far is perhaps the simplest form of social proof.
McDonald’s “Drive-Thru” displayed their number of customers served in millions, and later followed by the billions. Some signs simply stated, “billions and billions served”.
Would you buy a burger from a fast-food chain that has served billions of customers? Of course, you would!
“Join others just like you who’re benefitting from this!”
E. Peer Social Proof
We know that customers trust recommendations from people they know much more than strangers.
An experiment by Dr. Cialdini found that people were much more likely to participate in a door-to-door donation campaign if the donor list included their friends and neighbors.
“Your friends have tried/visited this!”
When customers log in to their Facebook account from TripAdvisor, it shows them the locations their friends have been to, and which ones they are willing to recommend.
This makes it easier for a customer to decide it it’s their first time visiting that particular destination.
Additionally, they can also read the reviews left by their friends before they make their decision.
When users browse Airbnb, they can check which homes are popular, affordable, and well-received.
A user can see the reviews and recommendations left by their friends or strangers. This ensures that your holidays and staycations won’t be ruined by misleading advertising and problematic homeowners.
Yelp does a thorough job of aggregating and sorting user reviews according to various, relevant criteria. Users can see which restaurants their friends have tried. Additional information on the restaurants (e.g. opening hours, price range) is also displayed.
Yelp’s user reviews are so detailed that they have been known to make or break a restaurant’s fortunes.
Pretty much everybody you know has used or heard about Foursquare. The ‘search-and-discovery’ site (and app) covers almost everything under the sun. Discover what your friends and other visitors have had to say about various locations. Best thing about Foursquare is that you’ll be able to find out (via your fellow users) all the secret Wifi passwords and travel destinations.
“Your friends have like/shared this!”
Similar to TripAdvisor, Bustle.com shows you which of your Facebook friends have liked their Facebook page.
While there probably isn’t much utility in liking their page, it does give the impression that their site is popular among your peers and strangers alike.
Power up your marketing with as many of these examples as possible.
One of the best things about this principle is that you can use multiple sources of social proof to amplify your brand’s perceived popularity and credibility.
Do note that customers who do not know much about a product and aren’t sure about which one to buy are very likely to rely on the opinion of others.
They might feel compelled to simply go with the popular choice.
This article was originally written by Samuel Hum, and was updated with more examples.