If you’re familiar with the concept of social proof, you’ll know it is a marketing and PR tool used to gain credibility with prospective customers, expand your audience, and improve your conversion rates.

Still, understanding what that all means in terms of bottom line benefits might not be clear! Social proof is not a new concept, using reviews, testimonials and endorsements to back up advertising, and add a third-party recommendation into the mix.

Let’s look at the core advantages, how they relate to real-world businesses, and the impact that social proof can have on your sales.

Core Benefits of Social Proof for Growing Brands

Incorporating social proof into your PR, campaigns and promotions has three aims – all of which help your company achieve greater popularity and ultimately higher revenue.

    • Build trust: customers buy from businesses they believe are authentic and will deliver on their promises. If thousands of buyers before you have raved about how amazing a product is, you’re more likely to trust the information given.
    • Validate buying choices: customers want to be assured that they are making the right decisions. Social proof validates a purchase by showing that millions of others made the same call, simplifying the choice between two competing options.
    • Improving brand credibility: the more respected your brand, the more customers will make a straightforward buying decision. Believable brands with high search engine rankings, a strong social media presence and good quality outreach customer services are more attractive than unheard-of companies.

Adding a social proof feature, such as a checkout button that says how many others have bought an item, how many are left, or how many stars it has been awarded, can improve conversions by around 15%.

How Does Social Proof Work in Practice?

The theory and statistics are compelling – but how do you actually go about using social proof to drive up sales, conversions and profitability? There are countless ways to jump on the social proof bandwagon, and the right options will depend on your company, the product or service you sell, and how your target customer engages with your brand.

Examples might include:

    • Third-party reviews, comments, news features or press release publications with backlinks to your site. Being featured on an authoritative news platform associates your business with a brand your customers know, further improving your credibility.
    • User-generated content is an excellent form of social proof because it increases visibility to all their friends and followers and endorses your product as something a customer is happy to promote. User-gen content can be shared on social media, although you can add testimonials or video reviews to any platform.
    • Ratings and reviews given by verified buyers, either on your website or through a third-party review platform. We’ll talk about the difference between these shortly, but the crux is that any positive comment about your product, brand or service can act as social proof.

Customers are increasingly savvy and aren’t swayed by cute marketing, smart ads or other conventional promotions. Rather, they rely on the opinions of their peers to decide which products or services to buy. Traditional advertising and claims made on company-issued content are often treated with scepticism, so social proof adds weight to your messaging. It is regarded as independent and reliable since it comes from external sources.

Why Is Social Proof So Essential to Online Retail?

These days we can buy nearly any product or service online, through our mobiles, while we’re on a lunch break, or by using one-click social media promotions – so brand marketing needs to be as agile and fast-moving as the customers it hopes to target.

Social proof is a great way to engage with consumers and boost their belief in the brand right at the start of a sales funnel, using trust signals to assure each visitor that the company is a reputable business and will deliver good quality services. However, as we have intimated, there is a contrast between the native reviews you collect on your own website and those posted on other sites or channels.

Reviews are a key decision-maker for any online seller since:

    • 57% of shoppers visit a business website because they have read good reviews.
    • A shopper will spend 31% more with a company that is rated excellent.
    • Higher-ticket items convert by 380% more when they have publicly available customer reviews.
    • Testimonials help companies achieve 62% higher spending for every customer and every website visit.
    • 63% of consumers say they will buy a product based on reviews and ratings.

There is a place for both onsite reviews and third-party platforms.

Customers enjoy being asked to give feedback or voice their opinion – and are likelier to do so if there is a perk, such as a discount code on their next order. That scepticism we mentioned earlier is a stumbling block because a certain proportion of shoppers will assume that at least some native reviews have been fabricated by the brand and negative reviews deleted to skew the outcome of star ratings.

Using third-party social proof is the gold standard because it reflects an openness to any review – good or bad – and cannot be tinkered with. Reviews published on external sites such as TrustPilot can make a quantifiable impact on sales volumes, conversion rates, return visits and bounce rates, all because they go a long way to making new customers confident in the brand.

Does Influencer Marketing Act as Social Proof?

Indeed it does – influencers can be people with large social media followers or experts in their industries whose opinion is respected by a buying audience. An influencer doesn’t necessarily need to be a celebrity. They can be anybody who can publish a review of a product that encourages their readers or followers to do the same.

The data shows that influencer social proof is just as powerful as user-generated content and third-party product reviews:

    • 67% of online companies use influencer marketing into their Instagram campaigns.
    • 51% of female shoppers use social media to help them make purchasing decisions.
    • Around 40% of Twitter users say they bought something due to an influencer Tweet.

The key with social proof is to use it to enhance and expand your PR campaigns and promotions, and allow your customers to make informed, independent opinions – swayed by the positive press surrounding your business.