Let’s start with an old school social proof story you were involved in before you even knew what it was.
Do you remember having an argument with your parents where you were trying to convince them to let you do something? At some point in the conversation, you interjected, “Well, all the other kids are getting to do it!” The classic parental reply in return was something like, “If all the other kids were going to jump off a cliff, would you just go jump off a cliff?”
That pretty much ended the conversation. Answering yes would have proved you weren’t capable of thinking for yourself and ensured you wouldn’t be trusted to do anything later.
Forty years later, I finally came up with a comeback! “Well, it depends! If they jumped off a cliff and started flying, I might give it a shot! If that happened, I’ll bet you would jump off the cliff too.” Of course, the next parental response would be, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” They would, too, if they saw it.
That’s just how we work as humans. Whether we have a highly skeptical personality, or tend to be a little more trusting than the average person, having proof helps us make decisions. We are so efficient, we’ve even found a shortcut in how we discover proof.
Rather than having to apply a full blown scientific methodology to every decision we make, we simply look for what the outcome has been for others who have tried it. If it’s good enough for the people we trust, or a large number of people, we tend to trust it will be good enough for us.
A Fancy Word
The term that describes this phenomenon, social proof, was first coined by has been coined to describe this phenomenon, social proof, was first coined by Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book, “Influence.” CXL Institute describes the application of social proof in marketing as essentially borrowing third-party influence to sway potential customers.
In an increasingly digital world, displaying strong social proof makes a huge difference in conversion. If customers can’t feel, touch or test items they are buying, they want to be reassured it will solve whatever challenge they are trying to solve.
Beyond just having some of this good stuff, there are a number of ways in which you can maximize social proof to bring maximum clarity to your customer and increased conversions for your business!
Let’s break it down a bit.
There are really two common forms of social proof. The first comes in the form of testimonials, and thanks to companies like Google and Amazon, this form of social proof is almost muscle memory to businesses and consumers alike. Almost like clockwork, as consumers, we will check for ratings, then read the reviews for specific information that answers our questions.
If you and I are doing it, you can bet our customers are too. Allowing reviews is powerful, because as a rule, they are authentic, provide a range of opinions. Because they are not curated, they will include people over the moon about your product, as well as constructive criticism. Also known as negative social proof ,this authenticity builds trust with a potential customer.
It’s also important to gather testimonials from happy customers by having an interactive voice to voice conversation with them. Rather than a point by point interview with yes or no questions, have a conversation with open ended questions. Not every customer will want to take the time, so it’s important to ascertain their willingness.
In addition, make sure they reflect your target market and are willing to spend around 45 minutes to talk to you. Don’t fish for favorable answers, but do ask questions that require specificity. It’s really just a conversation about what led them to the product (Why), and their experience while purchasing the product. Finally, ask them how the product or service has brought change for them.
Don’t be afraid to ask the same question a different way. Often times, you’ll gather additional information that brings clarity.
The second common form of social proof is to write case studies. Case studies walk customers through the entire experience of someone like them. Rather than a 2 sentence testimonial, a case study will get into the details that answer questions in the order of the process.
This form of social proof can be written from the first person perspective of the client. It can also be written from your point of view, as the business. This is especially helpful when you provide a service that provides outcomes. In this context, the case study may need detailed breakdown of the process you used to help achieve the client’s desired out come.
Case studies help potential customers identify specific information that may apply to them, while also establishing your business as an accomplished expert.
Where Does It Go?
Now that you’ve got all this proof, please, and I mean please in the strongest sense. DO NOT, put it all in some 2nd level menu called testimonials and expect it to make a difference. If we had a dollar for every time we see this, we would have a lot of dollars. It would be like buying groceries and leaving them in the car and inviting company for a feast.
Guest: “I can’t wait to eat!”
You: “Oh, we don’t have anything for you to eat.”
Guest: “Do you not have any groceries?”
You: “I have tons of groceries, they are just all in the car, and not cooked, and probably stale.”
You get the picture!
Place social proof strategically, when customers need it most. Testimonials can increase motivation by immediately being visible on your home page. They can also help reduce friction by addressing pain points further down the funnel. Used sparingly, videos can be powerful in marketing emails, as well at point of purchase. No bombarding needed, just strategy.
As simple and as old as the concept of social proof is, it’s important to apply it correctly. It’s kind of like a magic spell. If you don’t apply the proper ingredients, it can have no impact, or go terribly wrong (Apparently, I’ve been watching too much Buffy The Vampire Slayer).
Avoid mistakes like:
- Not choosing the ideal customer
- Displaying the proof in a way that’s not credible
- Not using it to support specific claims
These mistakes can cause the proof to fall flat, or worse, make the viewer question whether it’s really true at all. They may even feel manipulated. Especially in the digital world, it’s important to avoid even the appearance of “pulling a fast one.”
Keep It Fresh!
Finally, keep it fresh! Just because someone 2 years ago raved about your product and customer service 2 years ago, doesn’t mean it’s enough. We suggest keeping it relevant by including it as a specific task to perform every 6 months. Keep a list of your favorite customer reviews, and reach out to them for a conversation.
By creating routine interaction with your clients, you can get two giggles with one tickle (Birds are feeling much safer right about now). You’ll get to stay top of mind through regular interaction, and let the potential customer know, “We’ve still got it!”