Advise on monetization

Social proof in Internet marketing


Almost any purchase decision we take is influenced by social proof. How often do you choose a restaurant thinking of how many people may fit in? Do you take into account positive reviews when choosing a product? These are the examples of social proof.

When we can’t take decision alone, we look what others do, supposing that their actions are correct in exact situation. You may use this to convince your clients to buy exactly your products or services. That’s what we are going to discuss in this article.

Social proof in Internet marketing

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Let’s examine in details what is social proof. In sociology this term describes how public opinion affects the opinion of a single person. There are lots of examples of social proof on the Internet. Many websites tell information about the number of clients who actually bought and rated their products. Online shops support review and rating system for each sale product. Software developers may show the number of active users of their products. If you want to sign up for a newsletter, you may see how many people have already signed up. All these numbers are Internet marketing tools. They have one and only purpose – to convince you of the highest value of the product or service and stimulate you to buy it.

No matter how special we are, and which tastes and interests each of us has – we are all subjected to opinions, preferences and actions taken by other people. Lots of social experiments have been conducted to prove that. Here’s one example. One person should have stayed around the corner of the street, and look up to the sky during one minute. Not many people have stopped to see what have this person been looking at. When they placed five people instead of one, four times more people passing by have stopped. When there were 15 persons, almost half of the strangers stopped to find out what these 15 people look at, while 80% of all the people in the street have been observing all those people.

Every one of us thinks that if someone else did or bought something, there should have been a good reason for that. That’s why we somehow trust this and try to adapt.

Why does your business need to use social proof?

Let’s consider a specific example. One famous street artist Banksy organized outside shop without any promotion. The thing is that his name haven’t been mentioned anywhere. Each work cost $60, and only three items have been sold. Their estimated value is believed to be equal to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now imagine what would have been if organizers had used social proof.

This may be used in any type of business. You may speak of the benefits of your product as much as you want, but until you make other people believe that it’s your offer they should accept, that it’s the most favorable and popular one, all your efforts will have no sense. Here are the main reasons to use social proof in marketing.

  1. It inspires trust

People believe other people, not the marketers.

  1. It increases persuasion

When you launch a new product or company, it’s rather hard to convince people to buy anything without the exact evidence that these products helped someone. Reviews, testimonials and sales volume work just fine in this regard.

  1. It allows justifying a purchase decision

Remember when we talked about adapting? Normative conformity is typical for some people; society inculcates into people’s mind that a certain product will allow them to be accepted.

  1. It simplifies the process of decision making

Very often we just don’t want to make decisions, and this is used by a social proof. We save a lot of trouble, pretending that we make this decision by ourselves.

The examples of social proof efficiency

The level of towel reusing in one of the hotels increased by 33% right after the hotel management decided to prepare info cards with “75% visitors of this room reused a towel” sign on them and left these cards in every room.

According to a restaurant study conducted in Beijing in 2006, a dish will be ordered 13% more often if it is marked as the most popular one.

BazzarVoice conducted its own investigation of one of the companies, namely influence of change in its rating (from 3.5 to 4.5) and number of reviews (from 1 to 15) on sales. The results were fascinating. There was a certain increase of demand for products – up to 56%.

Types of social proof

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Different types of social proof are intended for different purposes. Depending on situation, one may use one or another type.

  1. Expert proof.

Secure source is generally used for this type of social proof: a famous actor, politician or just recognizable person. It may also be an expert in the area. As practice shows, it greatly increases the sales level.

AddThis has undertaken a study and defined the effect of celebrity presence on the number of people who shared and clicked an ad.  As it turned out, these metrics increased three and a half times.

Such proof type works best when promoting a product for massive audience. It is used in online ads, social networks, on TV, etc.

  1. User proof.

When we found out everything we need to know about the service or product, we want to be certain that this product is worth buying. This type of proof includes reviews, testimonials, case studies and many more.

According to research by TripAdvisor, about 77% of people that set off on a journey always read hotel reviews before making reservation. Reevo platform conducted its own investigation, in which it claims that positive reviews may increase sales level by 18%. They may be placed in ads and in Google search results (try using schema.org).

Testimonials will help your prospect clients see that someone has already used your services, and was satisfied. This is especially useful for new companies. Testimonials let you develop trusting relationships between you and your buyers. They may be placed both on website and in ads.

Many companies use so called case studies. By placing them on the website, a company proves itself as a team of professionals that understands client’s challenges and is able to solve similar tasks.

Real user generated content looks more convincing than the standard commercial one. In such content – especially video – one may see how ordinary people use company’s products. One of the cool examples is GoPro. They used lots of promo videos created by users. In 2013 company’s net income increased by $28 mln. They spent only $41 thousand more for marketing.

Company logos are yet another persuasive factor for clients. If you will place the logos of the companies you have been working with, it will make you look serious and will be favorable for you.

  1. Public wisdom

When one sees that someone else uses some services, he wants to use them too, especially when these services are very popular. This is because of so-called fear to lose an opportunity. Marketing specialists know about this, so they use it to attract target customers. The example of this social proof is a subscription form that indicates how many people have already been subscribed to a mailing list. This category also includes product reviews, sale statistics, rating, number of retweets, shares and likes.

  1. Wisdom of friends

Other people’s opinion, especially the one of your potential clients’ friends, on benefits of your product is a very valuable tool. Recommendations, news feed and shares in social networks influence greatly on personal preference. That is the reason why many companies offer discounts for those who recommend their services or products to friends.

Dropbox may be mentioned as an example. It was offering up to 16 GB to its users as a gift if they invited their friends to use this service.

It’s no secret that that a friend’s opinion is more trustworthy than a stranger’s one. This is also confirmed by many researches.

In order to use this type of proof, you may add social Share buttons to a page that appears upon purchasing and in email that confirms purchase. You may also offer discount for uploading photos of a product in social networks.

Where should social proof be located?

As it turns out, everywhere: landing page, emails, email signature, website pages, ads, advertizing materials, social networks and search lists.

You use social proof to convert client into purchaser. That’s why you should put it in a place where it underlines your commercial message and allows getting positive reaction from your customers.

How to ask for a social proof?

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If you are not a beginner, then you probably have lots of social proof items. This may be sales stats and number of subscribers. But if you want to use friends’ recommendations, then you need a technical tool, not just some data. For example, to provide sharing, forwarding and viewing the number of reviews. If you need users’ opinion, then you need to ask for that. We will give you several methods on how to do it.

  1. Ask them to leave a review during invoicing or upon receiving product. You may also encourage them to leave a review in return for a special coupon code they may use for their next purchase.
  2. Use email services like MailChimp to send emails to those who have purchased something asking to leave a review.
  3. Send a recommendation request on Linkedin to your client. Many users trust this resource, and they will likely wish to leave their review there.
  4. Emphasize your popularity by indicating availability of your services. In this way you will show that your services are in demand.

What to do if you are a beginner?

  1. Don’t worry if you don’t have any social proof. Of course, reviews, testimonials and high rating will help to persuade target customers to buy product exactly from you. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything without it. Everything will come with time.
  2. When you launch a new product, try to distribute it for free among people who can give you a feedback.
  3. Offer discount in exchange for a review.
  4. Use quotes of famous people, in which they mention and underline the benefits of your products and services.
  5. Ask famous bloggers and media resources to review your services and express their opinion.

That’s all, I guess. All you need to do is apply this knowledge in your marketing campaign. Good luck with that!

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