What is Social Proof Marketing? Why You Need it in 2021
Social proof marketing is one of the most powerful ways of convincing prospective customers to purchase from your website and helping them feel confident in their decision to do business with you. Virtually all businesses that operate online leverage some kind of social proof marketing to build trust with audiences and demonstrate customer satisfaction with their products and services.
To help you get started with social proof marketing, we’ve created this essential guide with all of the information you’ll need in 2021. We’ll explain what social proof marketing is and why it’s most important than ever for the success of your business, highlight 10 ways you can leverage social proof marketing to promote your brand right now and mention three of our favorite social proof marketing tools that can help drive sales and conversions for your digital business.
What is Social Proof Marketing?
The concept of social proof was first articulated in a 1984 book called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, written by Robert Cialdini, who is currently the Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology & Marketing at Arizona State University.
In researching for the book, Cialdini spent three years training and working in entry-level sales roles at telemarketing firms, car dealerships, and fund-raising organizations. In doing so, Roberts identified six powerful principles of persuasion that every marketer should know:
- Commitment & Consistency
- Social Proof
Cialdini described social proof as a psychological phenomenon where individuals in ambiguous social situations with unclear behavioral expectations were more likely to conform to the actions of others, based on the assumption that if lots of other people are doing something, it must be correct.
In Cialdini’s world of car dealerships and telemarketing firms, customers were in ambiguous situations every day where they needed to choose between purchasing one car, purchasing a different car, or purchasing no car at all.
Sales agents could guide these customers towards the sale by sharing customer success stories and testimonials, or mentioning awards that vehicles or the dealership had won – all forms of social proof.
For businesses marketing products or services online, social proof marketing is a way of demonstrating to prospective customers that others have already purchased the product and had a positive experience. As a result, prospective customers see a reduced risk of disappointment and feel more confident in their decision to purchase.
Why is Social Proof Marketing Important in 2021?
Because of the Internet and social media, the world in 2021 is more tightly connected than ever before. Social proof marketing is also more powerful than ever before, simply because of how easy it is for prospective customers to find reliable reviews about products and services online.
There have been countless studies that highlight the importance of social proof marketing, but we’ll highlight just three of the most important statistics that demonstrate its value in 2021:
- Celebrity endorsements have been shown to influence purchasing decisions for most demographics. In one study, 14% of adult consumers said that celebrity endorsements had an effect on their buying decisions.
- Testimonials can have a strong effect on conversion rates. One study found that featuring testimonials on a product sales page increased conversions by as much as 34%.
- Consumers are increasingly relying on online customer reviews to inform their purchasing decisions. In one study, 97% of respondents said that their purchasing decisions online were heavily impacted by online reviews and star ratings.
As you can see, social proof is more than just a psychological phenomenon, it’s a concrete marketing tactic that some of the world’s biggest brands are using to persuade more customers into purchasing their products and services – and it works!
Now let’s take a look at some of the top social proof marketing examples in 2021.
Top 10 Social Proof Marketing Examples
Customer testimonials are one of the most valuable types of social proof marketing. A testimonial is a review or recommendation for a company, brand, or product that highlights key features or benefits and expresses customer satisfaction. Businesses collect, manage, and publish testimonials to help convince their prospective customers that the service provided is valuable and desirable.
Image: Customer Testimonials featured on OptinMonster.com
Customer Success Stories/Case Studies
While a testimonial usually consists of a few short sentences or paragraphs, a case study or customer success story takes a much deeper look at the products or services that a vendor provided and their overall impact on customer success.
Case studies describe in more detail how a vendor was able to work with a customer to understand their needs and expectations, come up with a solution, and deliver value through implementing that solution.
Case studies provide prospective customers with strong evidence that your brand can deliver on its promises.
Partnership & Customer Logos
Successful organizations with high-profile customers love to highlight their partnerships with major brands as a social proof marketing technique. Fortune 500 companies and high-profile niche organizations are recognized across the world, and a prestigious partnership can be enough to convince your prospective customers that your product or service is the real deal.
Image: Customer Logos featured on directiveconsulting.com
If your business has performed well in a competition, or won awards for performance or innovation, showcasing that success to your prospective customers can be a powerful form of social proof.
An award badge is a graphic on your website that represents some award or accolade that your brand has won. Award badges can be displayed prominently on your website to highlight your past achievements and demonstrate recognition of your business by industry peers.
Customer Reviews & Ratings
Customer reviews and ratings have been shown to significantly impact purchasing behaviors. One study conducted by BrightLocal found that 94% of consumers would consider using a business with a four-star rating, while just 57% would consider using a business with a three-star rating, and only 13% would use a business with a two-star rating.
Image: Customer Reviews featured on Amazon.com
There are two types of endorsements that really matter when it comes to social proof: expert endorsements and celebrity endorsements.
An expert endorsement requires someone with specialized knowledge or expertise in your industry to co-sign or recommend your product.
A celebrity endorsement requires someone who is famous to recommend your product – even if they don’t have any specialized knowledge in your industry or niche.
Either way, endorsements are a powerful social media mechanism that digital marketers should leverage when possible.
Statistics & Raw Data
Simply presenting raw data or a statistic can act as a powerful social proof mechanism. One of the most common techniques here is to highlight the total number of users or customers or your brand.
Image: Raw data used as social proof marketing on Monday.com
Social Media Followers/Engagement
Social media marketing is one of the most significant sources of social proof. Brands with a large following on social media, healthy engagement with their followers, and a track record of responding to social media complaints and comments in a timely fashion can significantly influence prospective customers to choose their brand over a competitor.
Website Activity Updates
Website activity updates are a fairly new form of social proof marketing. Marketers can use software tools to deliver a pop-up notification to their visitors whenever a user completes a purchase or fills out a lead generation form. This acts as a form of real-time social proof that can trigger the fear of missing out (FOMO) and encourage prospective customers to convert.
Image: Pop-ups featuring website activity updates on Trustpulse.com
Influence marketing is a fast-growing and profitable form of marketing. Similar to celebrity endorsements, influence marketers create and nurture their audience by delivering targeted content in their niche. This enables them to market relevant products effectively to their viewers on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, or other social platforms.
When audiences see their favorite social media personality using a new product or service, social proof means that they’re more likely to purchase it themselves.
Three Social Proof Marketing Tools You Should Know
Software companies have created specialized tools that help digital marketers take advantage of the social proof phenomenon, build trust with their website visitors, and drive more clicks and conversions. Check out these three social proof marketing tools that some of the top online businesses are using to persuade and influence their prospective customers.
Trustpulse is a social proof marketing tool that helps marketers build trust with prospective customers. Here’s how it works:
- Trustpulse monitors on-site goal conversions like free trial sign-ups, product purchases, or email opt-ins.
- Digital marketers can use Trustpulse to customize pop-up notifications that will display recent goal conversion events to website visitors as they browse.
- Digital marketers can also decide where and when these notifications will appear to maximize their impact on downstream conversions.
- Website visitors receive a pop-up notification that reports on a recent purchase, they’re more likely to trust the website and feel confident in their decision to buy because of social proof.
FOMO is another marketing tool that uses website activity updates and pop-up notifications to show social proof and build trust with prospective customers.
FOMO and Trustpulse operate in similar ways, but FOMO’s high-tech solution uses a machine-learning algorithm to automate the set-up process and maximize conversions.
Pitchbox is another great way to get started with social proof marketing. This outreach tool helps digital marketers connect with bloggers and influence marketers, whose publications or social media posts can act as a valuable source of social proof.
The real power of social proof marketing is in the nature of the human mind itself.
Humans are social creatures, and when we’re not sure where to eat for lunch, which car to buy, or which project management software subscription we should purchase, we look to those around us for cues on how to behave.
Humans are social creatures and our ingrained desires to act in harmony with those around us and conform to behavioral expectations are what make social proof marketing so convincing.
We hope this guide inspires you to leverage the principles of social proof marketing to enhance your marketing results in 2021.