Unless you provide your potential customers a great reason to buy your product, they won’t. They have a million other things to do and a lot of alternatives to what you’re offering.
So you need to convince them, in the few seconds that they’ll be reading your website, that your product or service is the right choice.
That’s a lot of pressure.
But there’s a simple way to ease that pressure while still converting visitors.
It’s an idea rooted in psychology. It’s called social proof.
And we’re going to show you how to use it to turn more visitors into customers.
What Is Social Proof?
Even if you’ve never heard the phrase “social proof,” you’ve come across the idea.
When people talk about the bandwagon effect, snowball effect, or crowd psychology, they’re referencing ideas that are related to social proof.
In short, social proof is the idea that people take cues from others when they’re deciding what to do.
One of the most common places you see social proof is in reviews. If you’re not sure whether to buy a particular product, you might see that it has a 4.8-star average review and think, “Well, a lot of people like this, so it must be good!”
When you know what it is, you’ll start seeing social proof all over the place. Restaurants posting their Yelp reviews. Websites showing how many times their articles have been shared. Billboards with customer testimonials.
These tactics are everywhere. Why?
Because they work.
Why Social Proof Is Important in Marketing
Before we talk about why social proof works as a marketing tactic, let’s talk about why it’s important in the first place.
Social proof is a cognitive bias or heuristic—a quick way of making a decision. People need to make thousands of decisions every day, from which socks to wear to whether they should change career paths.
And if people took the time to analyze every decision, they’d be completely overwhelmed. No one has the time (or mental energy) to do that. So they use shortcuts.
For example, people are more likely to judge things that they’re familiar with as more favorable than things they’re not. In most cases, there’s no objective evidence that this is a good decision.
But it helps people decide between two options quickly.
Social proof is used similarly. If people see that many other people have opted for a particular decision, they’re likely to think that it’s useful or valuable.
Even if the only place they’ve seen that decision is on Instagram.
This judgment is often made unconsciously and very quickly, which is one of the reasons it’s so effective in marketing.
Whether conscious or unconscious, the effect of social proof has a significant effect on people’s behavior.
Does Social Proof Actually Work?
The research says yes. Social cues do affect behavior.
The Asch conformity experiment is a classic example. Participants in a study were given a question in which the answer was obvious. But when other participants (who were part of the experimental team) gave the wrong answer, 75% of participants agreed with them.
They gave the wrong answer to fit in with the crowd.
The same principles apply in marketing. For example, Revoo found that the number of product reviews affected how likely people were to make a purchase:
If a product were to jump from 25 to 50 reviews, the company would see an 18% increase in conversions, on average.
That’s a big effect.
Walker Sands saw an almost 100% increase in conversions when people read reviews and testimonials. Wikijob increased their sales by 34% by moving their testimonials higher on their homepage.
And case studies are among the most effective digital marketing tools in B2B marketing.
All you need to do is look at the leaders in online sales. Amazon, Google, Walmart, and every other big player in the online marketplace puts a strong emphasis on social proof. They include reviews and testimonials and rank things by popularity.
These companies have put thousands of hours (and millions of dollars) into seeing which marketing tactics make the biggest difference to their conversions. If they’re still using social proof, there’s a good reason.
So social proof is a good way to increase your potential customers’ trust in your product.
But how do you actually use social proof on your website? Let’s take a look at some options.
How to Show Social Proof on Your Website
There are many different ways you put social proof to work for you. But these are some of the most common.
It’s hard to find a website that doesn’t have reviews posted somewhere. Stores post the average star ratings of their products:
Marketplaces show extended reviews left by customers:
Search engines show reviews of local businesses:
People review everything online, and all of those reviews are valuable to people trying to make a purchase decision.
BrightLocal’s 2017 consumer review survey highlights some of the reasons reviews are so important:
- 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
- 49% of consumers need at least a 4-star rating to choose a business
- Consumers read an average of 7 reviews before trusting a business
As you can see from these examples, it’s not just individual products that benefit from reviews.
Businesses themselves can also have reviews. No matter how your customers interact with you or what you’re selling, you can display reviews on your website.
If you do good business, you’ll have good reviews. Display those reviews where visitors can see them, and they’ll be more likely to buy your product. It’s that simple.
While they’re similar to reviews, testimonials are often longer and often focus on a more personal side of a customer experience. Service providers often display testimonials from their users:
Video testimonials are also becoming quite popular.
No matter how you present your testimonials, it’s a great idea to have some to show your visitors. A good testimonial gets at the emotions behind your relationship with your customer.
What problems were they having before they found your company or product? What were their frustrations? How did you help them? How do they feel now?
All of these questions help form an emotional connection between your brand and your visitors. And that’s what testimonials are for.
You don’t need to go all out and hire a film crew to make professional-level testimonials (at least not yet). You can start with simple quotes, even just a few sentences long, and a picture of your customer.
All you have to do is email or call your customers and ask for a quick testimonial. You might be surprised at how many of them will say yes.
Some brands have good luck putting reviews and testimonials on a single page. You can distribute them throughout your site. Or try both and see which one works better.
No matter how you decide to display them, make sure that you have customers saying good things about you on your website.
If testimonials are a step above reviews in complexity and comprehensiveness, case studies are one step further.
They’re usually longer pieces, even article-length.
They go into detail on the customer and their problems. They also walk potential customers through the process of working with you.
For example, a testimonial might say something like “This agency worked closely with us to design a new website that resulted in 35% more conversions and lowered our bounce rate by 19%. I can’t recommend them enough!”
A case study for this same job might include information on the research you did to see what your client’s customers wanted on the website, the process of drafting your initial wireframes, and A/B testing the final result.
It gives potential customers a clear idea of what it’s like to work with you.
Like the other methods of social proof, this shows visitors to your website that other people have found great success with you. (It also has other benefits, like reducing the number of unknown factors in choosing your product or service.)
Customer Behavior Signals
Have you ever noticed those “Customers who bought this also bought” or “Customers who viewed this ended up buying” displays on Amazon? Or noticed that retailers tell you which products are most popular?
Those are customer behavior signals. They show people browsing the site what other people have done.
Again, it’s social proof. If customers see that other people—presumably people like them, which is important—looked at a specific set of other products, they’re likely to check them out too.
You’ll see a similar tactic on other sites that tell you when someone buys their product:
If people are buying it right now, then you should be buying it too, right?
That’s the thought behind these types of tactics.
On news sites, blogs, and other content-heavy websites, you’ll often see like and share counts for different social media platforms.
Social media is a huge source of social proof. That’s one of the reasons why you see brands striving so hard to get likes on their page. If a lot of people like the page, it must be good—or so the thinking goes.
You can also embed reviews from social websites directly on your page:
Again, it shows people that others like your product, service, or company. And using social media reviews adds a sense of “people like me” to the review. If one of the reviewers is a friend or connection of your visitor, even better!
These reviews can have a big impact on your customers’ decision-making process.
Use Social Proof to Sell Your Product or Service
If you’re not taking advantage of social proof on your website, you’re missing out. It’s a strong psychological motivator that increases trust and helps people make decisions.
And it’s really not that difficult. We looked at five different ways that you can show social proof on your website:
- Case studies
- Customer behavior signals
- Social statistics
All of these are relatively easy to get up and running on your site. With the right widget or plugin, you’ll be displaying reviews, behavior signals, and social stats in no time. And you can put up testimonials and case studies with almost no technological know-how.
So what are you waiting for? Start gathering the great things people have said about your business and show them off!