There’s a lot of data that small businesses can use to boost their conversions. From the optimal number of claims for selling a product to easy-to-follow SEO tips, there’s no shortage of actionable, science-backed advice. However, there’s one aspect of persuasion, which is often disregarded: social proof.
The term social proof was first used by Robert Cialdini in 1984. It denotes the phenomenon in which a person will follow other people’s advice in situations where they do not know the appropriate way to behave or lack the information to make an informed decision.
In ecommerce and marketing, the concept of social proof relates to the testimonials left by existing customers and influencers, which businesses can use to position their brand and boost sales.
Why Social Proof Matters
Although consumer behavior and psychological influence tend to be hard to measure, social proof has a wide array of studies backing up its effectiveness in increasing web conversions.
According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust earned media and recommendations from people they know. Moreover, 70% will also take product recommendations from people they’ve never met. A WVO study found that adding social proof to a page increased conversions by 34%. Finally, a 2016 research paper found that a single one-star increase in Yelp rating boosted revenue by 5 to 9%.
Now, combine these results with the knowledge that a great majority of consumers check online reviews. It quickly becomes clear that including social proof in your marketing strategies makes for a logical course of action.
Building Social Proof
The good thing about testimonials is that they’re relatively easy to acquire. All you have to do is set up a few working systems, and you’ll have a constant stream of reviews and user-generated content you can use on your website, in your advertisements, or on social media accounts.
Collect Customer Reviews
The first step towards using testimonials on your website is to collect customer reviews and adapt them for online publishing.
If you run an ecommerce business, you will definitely want to allow buyers to leave online reviews straight on the product pages. Another thing you can do is to set up email campaigns that will remind each customer to submit their feedback once they’ve had enough time to test out your products/services.
Additionally, consider creating a designated testimonials page on your website, like the one by Mannequin Mall shown below. You can collect customer feedback automatically thanks to a few handy tools. Popular options include the Trustbox Widget by TrustPilot, along with the embed function from Google My Business. Whether the page displays the latest reviews left by consumers or those hand-picked by you is entirely your choice.
image source: mannequinmall.com
Finally, don’t be wary of going the extra mile to find and share user feedback. Even a screenshot of a positive review from Facebook or Twitter can be a valuable asset for your social proof directory. Plus, it may even appear more genuine than most on-site feedback.
Display Testimonials in a Prime Spot
The second step to maximizing your conversions by including social proof on your website is to choose the spot where you display testimonials carefully.
Depending on your brand’s reputation and the effect you’re going for, select a position that works best for your brand. For example, a small SaaS startup whose ratings aren’t necessarily accompanied by user comments should display social proof in the homepage hero section.
image source: clickup.com
However, a more developed brand with a loyal following and numerous reviews can make the feedback they have and transform it into a prominent website feature. GILI Sports is a brand, which heavily relies on user-generated content for all their marketing strategies. They have many reviews and a social media approach that encourages customers to leave feedback. With this in mind, they can take their pick of testimonials. So, it’s no surprise that they chose to have a whole section of their homepage dedicated to social proof.
image source: gilisports.com
Show off Impressive Statistics
Do you have more than words testifying to the quality of your products and services? Why not make those a part of your marketing strategy?
Numbers can have a lot of persuasive power when they’re used in the right context. As a rule, people have a solid understanding of small and mid-scale figures or percentages. But, the bigger the numbers get, the easier they are to utilize.
For small businesses wanting to improve the way they use social proof, this can be crucial information.
For example, take a look at Zoom’s homepage. Right below the features section, there’s a social proof segment of the page, stating that the video communication platform is “#1 Ranked in Customer Reviews.” What the website doesn’t disclaim is that those ratings aren’t perfect 5-star reviews. Instead, Zoom made the conscious decision to focus on the fact that they’re doing better than the competition.
image source: zoom.us
Another good example of this comes from Somnifix. They list three key stats on their product sales page, all of which show that consumers rated their product highly. While the stats look great, it is also transparent that the scores aren’t perfect. Not everyone is going to love a product so highlighting the positive, but not sugarcoating things increases transparency and builds trust.
image source: somnifix.com
Of course, you don’t have to be #1 to use numbers as social proof. You can also display the number of customers you have, app downloads (see the example from Blinkist below), or even social media followers. Any of this information can help you communicate that your brand is worth supporting.
image source: blinkist.com
Collaborate with Influencers
Another excellent way to boost conversions, knowing that social proof is more effective than advertising? Have influencers, whom people trust 63% more than brands, speak about your offer.
What’s interesting about influencer marketing is that business owners tend to write it off, thinking that it has to cost a fortune. And, sure, having a celebrity recommend your product will come with a hefty price tag. However, research suggests that brands shouldn’t solely look at followers. Engagement and expertise make for significant considerations as well.
Sports drink brand Elemental Labs has got a great thing going with their influencer marketing strategy, seeing that they collaborate with large and small-scale fitness leaders equally.
Their website has a page dedicated to Kelly Starrett, a physical therapist, best-selling author, and CrossFit trainer. It’s a logical choice seeing that he is considered the authority in his field. He also has a large number of social media followers. But, the company also collaborates with micro-influencers like Kendra Alley.
The two different approaches allow Elemental Labs to reach more engaged and invested audiences over a wide array of niches in the fitness industry. As a result, their reliance on social proof as a marketing strategy becomes more effective since they’re covering more bases than most of their competition.
image source: instagram.com
Listen for Media Mentions
So far, all the strategies mentioned in this article have focused on generating and displaying reviews. But the thing is, once your brand starts becoming popular, conversations around it are inevitably going to occur organically. And these can be excellent marketing opportunities as long as you identify them on time.
Using social listening tools like Mention, you can keep an eye on discussions around your brand, relevant subjects, and competitors. You can also monitor user needs and receive insights into what consumers want in terms of products and services.
Someone tweeted a positive thing about your product but didn’t tag you? Social listening will notify you so you can engage with the user or share the tweet.
What if a customer has a problem but doesn’t know how to get directly in touch? You can reach out to them and solve their issue. This won’t just boost their satisfaction but will also act as a recommendation to their social circle.
Of course, don’t forget to set up Google Alerts for your brand and relevant topics. After all, if an influential publication mentions you in one of their articles, you’ll want to know about it. You might even want to display media mentions on your homepage, as you can see in the example from LastPass.
image source: lastpass.com
Have Your Website Speak for Itself
The final step towards building rock-solid social proof around your brand is to pay close attention to your web design. After all, a great-looking website can and will inspire conversions.
According to Nielsen, website trustworthiness depends on four factors, including design quality, transparency, relevant content, and omnichannel presence. And brands can do a lot to influence these aspects of their website.
In addition to staying true to your visual branding, make sure that your messaging is clear, understandable, direct, and informative. Place emphasis on delivering value, and don’t be afraid of taking the extra step to provide it. You can invest in research or conduct case studies and create a library of resources that your clients will find precious. For boosting conversions, you can even make some of these resources gated, which is sure to help you generate leads and reach new potential customers.
If it’s web conversions that you’re after, consider basing your entire online presence on the pillars of trust and value.
Social proof can be a great way to get closer to your audience and a means of communicating your values. Nurture testimonials, collect reviews, and treat feedback as a potential piece of user-generated content. This way, you’ll get the chance to build genuine, engaged relationships with your followers, as well as to show them measurable, evidence-based reasons why they should choose your business.