Whether we realize it or not, social proof affects all of us.
Think back to a time you were invited to a party. Before attending, you probably thought through the scenario in your mind. Recall the all-too-common questions that likely shot through your head…
“When should I show up?” “Who’s going to be there?” “What should I wear?”
It’s not so much that you don’t want to be too early or too late. You just didn’t want to be the first one there. By the punch bowl. Alone…
Although we might not admit it, most of us like to fit in and be a part of a group. In addition, we base decisions or perform actions based on other’s influences or commonly-accepted behavior.
This is a natural human condition, and it even applies to consumer behavior for purchasing decisions, too.
To put it simply: people are influenced by what others are buying.
As a marketer or business owner, you might be wondering: how can you harness this phenomenon to drive business growth and increase your revenues in 2019?
The answer: social proof. And it’s more effective now than ever. Why?
The marketing landscape drastically changed over the past few years. From new technologies to increased consumer skepticism, change is rampant. It is important to note effective marketing tactics and consumer buying habits are much different than they once were.
What is social proof?
Before we dive into recent marketing trends shaping the current landscape, we want to make sure you understand exactly what social proof is and how to effectively use it in your marketing strategy.
First off, let’s define social proof:
Social proof is the psychological and social phenomenom that our own behavior is impacted by the influence of the actions, attitudes, and beliefs of other people (online or in-person).”
Positive social proof can influence us to buy a new good or trust a business — while negative proof has quite the opposite effect.
Social proof examples are all around us:
The line wrapping around the nightclub makes us think, “Hmm…that place must be pretty cool. I should check it out.”
An empty restaurant at 7pm on a Friday makes us wonder, “Maybe the food isn’t so great?”
The number that is quickly increasing in the corner of your screen showing those who signed up for a newsletter might make you go, “Well, I should sign up too!”
Often, we don’t even realize how our decisions are affected by social proof. It’s something we seemingly gloss over. But that’s why it can be a powerful conversion tool in your marketing strategy.
The 5 main categories of social proof
Social proof, while on first-glance seems simple, can actually be narrowed into 5 distinct categories. You’ve likely seen examples of each category in both the online and offline world.
People value the opinions of thought-leaders and industry experts on their respective domain. Think about how certifications and badges on websites make you trust a retailer a little bit more.
Example: A trust badge on a checkout page (such as the Paypal, Better Business Bureau, or Norton logo) might make you more likely to make a purchase.
This type of social proof often correlates directly with the way we traditionally view “influencers.” People often have a stronger desire for a product if they see it worn or used by their favorite celebrity.
Example: Shaq’s endorsement of IcyHot. You might not initially want IcyHot over another pain relief patch, but if you trust Shaq, you might be inclined to buy it.
This type of social proof involves responses and reactions to products or services by those who have bought them. A common example would be user-generated content or reviews of a product or service hosted online.
Example: Reviews on Capterra or G2Crowd of software in a category.
4. Wisdom of Crowds
People don’t want to be left out or left behind! This type of social proof involves buyers making purchases because it seems like everyone else is doing it…
Example: Proof’s Recent Activity notification displaying the number of conversions in the last 24 hours.
5. Wisdom of Family & Friends
People trust the opinions of their friends, family, and loved ones. They are likely to make purchasing decisions based on their actions and input.
Example: Your dad tells you to buy the same car insurance plan that he uses.
How do you show social proof?
Brands can display social proof through a variety of forms. They can promote user reviews, showcase real-time customer activity notifications, feature testimonials from previous customers, display certifications, or include badges on their website. In short, there are many applications of social proof.
But what’s the big mistake companies are making? Omitting social proof altogether from their marketing and conversion optimization strategy!
It’s more important now than ever.
If you don’t use it, you’re leaving money on the table.
Why is social proof important in 2019?
Here are 5 trends emerging in 2019 that warrant the need for social proof to accelerate your sales:
1. Organic reach for brands on social media is diminishing and costs for paid ads are higher than ever
Facebook has been in the news a lot recently… and not for good reasons.
The company has been under fire due to its Cambridge Analytica data breach.
But before the recent negative press, Facebook announced plans to make the platform more “user-friendly.”
The plan involved changing their algorithm, which dramatically affected how users see content from brands and how much brands have to pay for ads.
According to Adam Mosseri, Head of Facebook’s News Feed team, this change focused on “showing less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses.”
This news makes it harder for brands and publishers to break through the clutter and get their messages in front of their consumers without having to pay to promote a post or run a Facebook ad campaign.
Brands must focus on creating highly engaging content and interacting with their current customers in a personalized way in order to get their organic message in front of the right eyes.
This can be costly and time-consuming for small businesses that don’t have a large budget or marketing department.
In addition, Facebook ad costs have spiked as a result of the new algorithm change.
As you can see, the cost per thousand impressions (CPM) spiked when the change to Facebook’s algorithm was announced at the beginning of 2018.
In fact, the price per ad increased by roughly 29%, compared to the average 5% yearly price increase in 2016.
This is another hit for brands and publishers, even after most experienced their Page engagement numbers steadily decline throughout most of 2017.
Why it calls for social proof
Brands will be looking for ways outside of social media and paid ad campaigns to showcase their products and services. They’ll find that activating user-generated campaigns through their own customers and highlighting buyers through social proof on their website will have a higher ROI than retargeting ads through social media.
2. Consumer trust in media is steadily declining
After the 2016 election cycle and the numerous reports of fake news spread via social media, it is no surprise that people have lost a great deal of trust in the media.
However, it is surprising that they have lost trust in all major institutions, including government, media, business, and NGOs.
You heard that right! Businesses, too.
In addition, a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center asked scholars and experts in the technology industry to respond to the following question:
“In the next 10 years, will trusted methods emerge to block false narratives and allow the most accurate information to prevail in the overall information ecosystem?” 51% said no.
In other words, more than half of the respondents did not believe the information environment will improve over the next 10 years.
This shows the skepticism and dim look on our fight against false advertising, fake news, and fraudulent narratives. It will only continue to get worse in the coming years.
Why it calls for social proof
Marketers have to be crisp with their copy and refine their brand messaging. Consumers know that false narratives are increasing so they might be more wary of your marketing messages. Brands will need to find a way to verify and add credibility to their messages and marketing efforts, and social proof is a great way to do it!
3. More consumers are seeking user-generated content (UGC) prior to making a purchase
It’s normal to seek advice from a friend before making a large purchase. But what if they don’t know anything about the product? You’d likely search for someone who does.
That’s when customer reviews become so valuable.
We’ve seen the rise of reviews in recent years, so we know their monumental importance in moving customers towards their purchasing decision. Afterall, 91% of people read online reviews. See the example we use on our site below 👇👇
There’s no denying it. User-generated reviews are an impactful form of social proof.
And they’re only getting more important.
A recent study shows that “85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, up from 84% in 2016.”
While younger generations typically read reviews more often, every generation extracts value from them.
In a 2018 survey, a total of 0% of the 18-29 age demographic said they “never checked reviews prior to making a purchase.” It isn’t surprising that all respondents in that age range used a review prior to making a purchase.
But as Millenials grow older, reviews will continue to be a key factor in how people perceive your business.
Why it calls for social proof
Well, technically, reviews are a form of social proof that many sites leverage to increase sales. Your users are posting social proof reviews anyways, so why not play a role in the narrative? Reviews are an important part of your marketing strategy. Even though a user writes it, brands need to be proactive in responding to each review and engaging with their customers.
4. Ad blockers are on the rise
Let’s face it.
Consumers are looking for an online user experience that doesn’t involve advertisements. Enter the adblocker:
This is making it more challenging for brands to share their message with their target audience.
A rising trend leading up to the start of 2018 is an increase in ad blocking app downloads by consumers. A total of 80% of mobile users “could have the capability of blocking mobile ads by late 2017.”
In addition, the reasoning behind why people are downloading ad blockers is interesting.
Out of the top ten reasons US Ad-Blocker users provided for why they use ad-blockers, the top seven reasons were centered around the general idea of ads negatively impacting the user experience. Reasons eight and nine focused on the user’s privacy and security, and the tenth reason focused on the device itself.
Why it calls for social proof
Consumers are telling brands, “We don’t want to see your ads.” Brands must find non-intrusive ways to reach and convince their prospects to become customers. Relying on social proof can help businesses convert customers in a non-invasive way and powerful way.
5. Influencer marketing continues to soar
Influencer marketing continues to be a viable marketing tactic that is getting only more popular.
In 2018, more companies planned to invest in their influencer marketing strategy than ever before.
Influencer marketing is effective because influencers are often considered “tastemakers” with their own wide networks and influence. They have control over your customer.
A lot of control. And it’s only becoming more powerful.
That’s roughly 1 in every 2 people.
If that’s not enough, people are even starting to trust influencers nearly as much as they trust their friends.
Why it calls for social proof
Influencers are a type of “celebrity social proof.” As people see others they look up to and adore using products and services, they too might be compelled to buy.
Takeaways for your business
Social proof has been around for centuries, and it isn’t going anywhere.
In 2019, it proves to be a necessary part of your marketing strategy.
With social media organic reach decreasing, ad prices increasing, a lack of trust in media messaging, and ad blockers on the rise, marketers need to be savvier and more convincing than ever before.
On the flip side, social proof research continues to prove its effectiveness through influencer marketing and online reviews. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
There are so many other ways to use it.
Let us show you how.
I’ll promise you one thing: you won’t be the first one at this party. We already 15,431+ businesses using Proof, and we’re just getting started. What are you waiting for?
What type of social proof do you think is the most powerful? Leave a comment and let us know!