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How To Leverage Social Proof

In making purchasing decisions, confidence is key. If you’re like us, you’ve experienced a scenario or two where you just didn’t have 100% confidence when making an online purchase. Something about the product or service being offered has you thinking, “is this a good idea?” Maybe the offer seems just a little too good to be true, or you’re unsure about the price point relative to the perceived value you’d gain in return. One way or another, you’d feel better about your decision if you could read a review from someone like you.

Sure, the company selling the product or service is telling you their offer is great, but they wouldn’t tell you not to buy into what they’re selling. So how can we trust them if it’s a brand we’re unfamiliar with? That’s exactly why, as consumers, we look for social proof when we’re on the fence about a product/service. 

What Is Social Proof?

Social proof is a social psychological concept that explains why, when faced with uncertainty, consumers look to the decisions other people have made for guidance. This concept can be linked to the bandwagon effect, which refers to an individual’s tendency to do something simply because others are doing it. If everybody’s doing it then it must be the right thing to do, right? Deferring to behavior exhibited by the crowd and following their lead acts as a mental shortcut to navigate the world.

In a real-life example of the bandwagon effect, National Geographic conducted a social experiment where they asked a crowd of people to match an image of a line to one of its same size, and were able to choose between A, B, and C. Even though C was clearly the first line's match, with A being significantly shorter, and B being significantly longer, some study participants were instructed to choose A, and in response, even when not instructed to do so, subjects felt compelled to choose A as well, even when they knew C was the correct answer. Check out the experiment here.

In marketing, having a form of social proof attached to your brand means showing your audience that other people have already found value in the product or service you offer, and could convince them to do the same. It’s one way of giving them that mental shortcut to buying into what you’re selling.

Forms of Social Proof

There are several forms of social proof you could use in your online marketing strategies. It’s up to you to determine which are the most relevant for your brand, and we’d recommend trying to include at least one to bolster your brand’s reputability. Here’s a few of our favorites:

  • Customer Reviews and Testimonials

Having positive customer reviews or testimonials is one of the most common forms of social proof. User generated content is another avenue you could explore. Posting photos, videos or stories from your customers about their experiences with your product or brand can showcase the real-world application of your brand to those who are unsure of how it might fit into their daily routines.

  • Trust Symbols and Certifications

Displaying trust symbols such as affiliate logos, security badges, awards, or certifications relevant to your business is an easy way to show, at a glance, that you’re a reputable, trustworthy, and professional company. It helps if the trust symbols you display are widely recognized. This can bring a sense of familiarity to a brand, product or service that may not be as well known. This is an especially great strategy for small startup companies and those with products that might be a bit of a tougher sell.

  • Social Media Metrics and Influencer Endorsements

Social media is hugely influential, good or bad, and is a major part of the way society functions today. If you’re able to pull larger numbers of likes, shares, comments, etc. on any platform, that popularity can potentially influence people to stop and take a look at what you’re saying. Since large social media followings can take years to build, and going viral isn’t always easy, or planned, a quicker option would be to go the way of an influencer endorsement. Having a popular social media influencer use your product or service will get it shown to a large audience from a different perspective. Their followers may be influenced to try it as well.

Whether you’re an established business or just starting up, social proof can help you solidify your place in the market. Providing evidence that your products and services can be trusted and add value to your consumers will go a long way to building trust with your customers, even if your brand hasn’t been around very long! So follow our lead and start leveraging the power of social influence to enhance your online marketing strategies.


Ben Ferguson
About the Author
Ben’s passion for creativity blossomed at a young age when he got absorbed by the world of video games. The colourful characters and unique art styles that varied from game-to-game not only helped shape his childhood, but also formed the path ahead into adulthood where he pursued a career as a designer. Ben is a proud alumni of Georgian College where he graduated with an Advanced Diploma in Graphic Design. Since graduating, he’s worked in the field for the past 3 years collaborating with a wide variety of businesses elevating their brands to the next level. When he’s not behind the screen, you can find Ben spending his time in competitive ball hockey leagues, listening to podcasts, hiking with his camera, or hanging out with his friends. Work skills: Web Design, Print Design, Branding, Project Management, Client Communication
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