What is Social Proof – And Why is it Important for Your Business?

Dec 2013
social media, social proof
Photo: @iareally

The dictionary defines social proof as “A psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others reflect correct behavior.” It’s human nature that when we enter a new situation, we look to those around us to show us how to react.

Social proof is driven by the assumption that other people possess more knowledge than you. And in the simplest terms, it means that if lots of people like something, you are more likely to like it, too.

It’s the reason that when you find a Facebook page with thousands of fans, you instinctually believe it to be an interesting page. But when you come across a page with just a dozen fans, you are less likely to hit the ‘like’ button yourself.

Social proof matters to your business because harnessing it is the fastest way to amplify your marketing efforts. Ever heard of ‘word-of-mouth’ advertising? Well, social proof is word-of-mouth on steroids.

These days, we know that 60% of research about a product or service takes place before a consumer ever interacts with a sales person. When we want to know more about something, what do we do? We Google it. Gone are the days when we relied on a company to tell us about what they have to offer. Now we can find the information ourselves – and better yet, we can hear from others who have already tried the product or service. That’s social proof.

As humans, we care what other people think. 37% of evaluations about a company stem from conversations on social media. Yelp reviews, Facebook comments, LinkedIn recommendations – when others talk about your business, we listen. That’s why when we come to your business through social media (after we’ve finished our research, and waded through feedback from others), the sales cycle is 40% shorter. We’re already warm leads. Social proof did the selling for you – and you just have to show us where to buy.

Making Social Proof work for you

So, how do you capture all the benefits of social proof for your business? By being  proactive. Customer feedback is important – for you as a business owner, and for all those future customers who are asking each other for the information instead of coming straight to you. The more positive feedback that exists about your company, the easier it is to make the sale.

LinkedIn Company page recommendations

You know that people can recommend you on your personal LinkedIn profile, but did you know that they can also write recommendations for each individual service you list on your Company page? There’s even a button that you can use to easily solicit those recommendations from your connections. So make it a point to connect with all your happy customers – and ask them for help.

Facebook ratings

These days, when fans visit your Facebook company page, they will find a star rating for your business directly under the title of the page. On the right-hand side of the timeline, visitors can offer ‘reviews’, and click on the number of stars they feel you deserve. It has never been more obvious that sentiment matters. You don’t just need a large number of ‘likes,’ you need them to actually like you.

Yelp reviews

Even if you haven’t put your business on Yelp, it doesn’t mean that someone else hasn’t done it for you. It is possible to write a review about a business, even if the business hasn’t officially claimed their listing. That means there could be social proof out there about you that you’re not even aware of. But you better believe that your customers are finding it when they search for your business. Make sure you claim all your local listings (on Yelp, and other review sites, too). If people are talking about you, you want to be part of the conversation.

What if the ‘Proof’ is negative?

You know how word-of-mouth works. If a customer is happy, they tell someone. If they are unhappy, they tell ten people. And ten people saying negative things about your business is still social proof. It will absolutely influence your future customers – but perhaps not in the direction you were hoping.

If you have what we call an ‘online reputation’ problem, do not ignore it. In this case, turning the other cheek could make things worse. You need to become a problem-solver. Reach out to unhappy customers and ask them to be specific about what went wrong. Then fix it. Quickly and unemotionally- don’t argue or fight back. It may be hard to make amends if you feel the negativity is unjustified, but don’t do it just for that one customer. Do it for all the others who are researching you online and may not give you a chance to explain yourself.

Social proof is powerful. It can be the quickest way to increase your credibility and build your fan base. It can also be the reason you lost the sale. As you think through your company’s marketing plan, make sure to set up systems to help you solicit feedback. Then use your social media channels to amplify it. Nothing feels as good as having happy customers spread the word for you.


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