Social Proof: What It Is and Why It’s Great for Marketing

social proof marketing

Make no mistake, humans are pack animals.

It doesn’t matter which corner of the globe you look at, people are looking for the same thing — social acceptance. We have a desire to fit in with the rest of the crowd which affects our lives in a variety of ways, including our purchasing behavior.

Ask yourself, have you ever purchased a product after a recommendation from somebody else? If you have, you’ve been influenced by social proof, and you’ve shown why it can be an excellent marketing tactic for businesses. It was the positive social proof review that you received which persuaded you to make a sale, not some promotional copy from that brand.

It was a real person who recommended that product to you, and that is why it’s so persuasive — it’s genuine.

Clever brands and entrepreneurs have realized that social proof offers a huge potential for growth, so they use various tactics to influence purchasing behavior with positive social proof, and ultimately generate more sales.

We’ve created this article to explain social proof as a concept, and to provide you with actionable advice so you can begin using social proof for marketing and grow your own business. At the end of this article, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge you need to nail social proof marketing.

Let’s get started.

What is Social Proof?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of using social proof to grow your business, it’s essential that we first explain social proof as a concept.

Social proof, also known as informational social influence, refers to people (in your case, potential customers) assuming that the actions of others are correct, based on the frequency that they see said actions.

Let’s cover a real-life situation to demonstrate how social proof works:

You’re walking down a street in a new city and you stumble across a restaurant that is filled with people who are all enjoying a meal. You’ll likely think that the restaurant serves high-quality food — why else would so many people be eating there?

This scenario demonstrates social proof in action. You saw other consumers who were engaging with a product which is popular, so you too saw that product as attractive.

Principles Of Social Proof

As we mentioned above social proof is looking to others to figure out the right way to interact in an unknown situation. If you are in a new city look for somewhere to eat, you are more likely to walk into a busy restaurant with happy people, rather than a quiet place with no signals that the place serves good food. With this in mind, it is interesting to know that there are 4 principles of social proof that can affect the way we act.

  • Uncertainty: This principle highlights how we refer to how other people are reacting to a situation when we are uncertain about it.
  • Similarity: If you are experiencing something unfamiliar with a large group of people, you are more inclined to follow the reaction of those who you consider similar to you.
  • Expertise: Students are more likely to look to their teachers for signals of how to react in uncertain circumstances. This is the expertise principle in social proof where those with more knowledge about a situation can lead the reaction of the rest.
  • Number: The herd mentality summarizes the number principle best. Where a group of people experience something uncertain together, the actions of the majority will be seen as correct and valid.

Social Proof Statistics to Care About

  1. 61% of customers read online reviews before choosing to buy a product or service
  2. Consumerist found that nearly 70 percent of online consumers look at a product review before making a purchase
  3. 91% of 18-34-year-olds trust online social proof reviews as much as recommendations from someone close to them
  4. 100% of those aged between 18-29 said they “checked reviews prior to making a purchase” in a 2018 eMarketer survey
  5. 82% of Americans say they value endorsements from friends and family before buying a product
  6. 70% of Americans seek out opinions from independent review sites before making purchases.
  7. 63% of consumers indicated they are more likely to purchase from a website with product ratings and reviews

How to Use Social Proof for Your Business

Above, we demonstrated how social proof can be used to positively influence the purchasing behavior of potential customers. Now, it’s time to explain how you can use social proof to grow your own business and generate more sales.

Whilst we’re covering some tactics you can use to add social proof to your business, you’ll notice one common theme — customer feedback is critical for building social proof.

Use Happy Customer’s Reviews

According to Business.com, 77% of all online customers read reviews before they make a purchase. This statistic demonstrates the necessity for visible customer feedback for your products on two counts; business legitimacy, and service quality.

Customer reviews, regardless of their sentiment, will indicate to potential customers that you’ve not only made sales in the past but that you’re also a legitimate business. Sometimes, especially if it’s a new business, you may need this social proof to help you secure sales.

The sentiment of your reviews will help potential customers to gain an understanding about the quality of your products, the timeliness of your shipping, the likeness to your product photos, and a host of other useful information.

As an entrepreneur who is looking to build social proof for their business, customer reviews are a simple solution which can generate long-term benefits for your brand. Thankfully, there are various tools which you can use to leverage customer reviews, and build the social proof for your ecommerce store.

If you’re running your ecommerce store on Shopify, we highly recommend that you install the Yotpo Reviews app. It’s a free product review tool which you can integrate directly into your existing ecommerce store, and it will enable your customers to easily leave reviews about your products.

If a customer made a purchase from your store and enjoyed their shopping experience, they will likely want to tell others about it. So, if you can provide high-quality products to your customers at an affordable price point, your product review count will gradually begin to build, and you’ll increase the social proof of your business organically.

To increase the product review count for your store, you can send emails to your customers once they’ve received their order and ask them to leave a review. If they’re totally satisfied with their product it’s likely that they’ll leave a review. You can also incentivize reviews from your customers by creating an exclusive Shopify discount code.

To take your customer reviews to the next level, you can ask your customers to post a picture of their product, or a picture of them using the product. These reviews will resonate with your audience, show legitimacy for your products, and provide you with great user-generated content that you can use for other social proof marketing material.

Creating a Blog to Gain Social Proof

Another great tactic for gaining social proof for your brand is to establish yourself as a thought leader in the niche specific to your business. Content marketing, and blogging, in particular, is a great tool that is used by businesses to provide potential customers with insightful, actionable content which ties in with their products. The end goal of creating a blog for your ecommerce business is to draw high volumes of qualified traffic to your store which will lead to more sales.

It’s important to note that thought leadership from blogging will also help you to increase the social proof of your brand. For example, if you’re running a cooking utensils store, you can create blog content for your audience that includes recipes, cooking tips, or product reviews, which will help to build the authority of your brand.

Blog content will indicate to your customers that you’re a brand which actually cares about the development of its customers, instead of one which only cares about selling products. Having a positive brand image like this will help you to secure repeat customers, increase traffic to your store, and ultimately increase your brand’s social proof.

If you want to start using blogging and social proof marketing to grow your ecommerce business, you can follow this simple Shopify guide to adding a blog to your online store.

Optimizing Your Blog For Social Proof

When creating a blog for your ecommerce business, it’s important to note that there are various ways you can optimize it to ensure that you gain the maximum social proof.

One of the main ways you can optimize your blog for social proof is by adding social share buttons and counters to your blog. This will help you not only to encourage your blog audience to share your content, but it’ll also indicate that numerous other people have enjoyed the content, and shared it.

If you want to add social media buttons to your ecommerce blog, we recommend that you install an app like Social Sharing Buttons from the app store. As you’ll be trying to establish your brand as a thought leader in your niche, adding this small feature can go a long way.

It’s also a great idea to add a mailing list button onto your blog. This will allow you to grow the audience of your blog whilst obtaining the email addresses of engaged users. You can create weekly newsletters which will help you to retain your users, and provide them with even more content related to your niche.

Leverage Influencer Prestige

social media influencersInfluencers, by nature, hold the power to positively influence the opinions of their audience. For entrepreneurs, influencers can be used to grow your brand’s reach, increase your business’ social proof, and ultimately help you to generate more sales.

You can use social proof marketing tactics, like Instagram influencer marketing, to utilize influencers for your brand. To succeed with influencer marketing, you’ll first need to use platforms like Traackr to locate and contact influencers who are relevant to your brand’s niche.

Once you’ve found relevant influencers for your campaigns, you’ll need to pitch your deal to them. There are two main types of deals which influencers work with — paid promotions, and affiliate promotions. If you decide to offer a paid promotion deal, you’ll simply pay for a post (or multiple posts) on the influencers given platform, which will promote your brand and products. If you offer an affiliate promotion deal, you’ll pay the influencer a set percentage of all the revenue which they bring to your store.

To measure the success of your influencer marketing campaigns, we recommend that you create a unique Shopify discount code for each influencer. If you offer this code to the influencer, they can provide it to their followers, which will also help them to convert their followers into paying customers. At the end of the campaign, you’ll be able to see the number of purchases which were linked to that discount code and pay the influencers based on the number of sales which they helped you to generate.

Engage with Mentions Online

Customers who love your products like to talk about them online. They are vocal about their love for your business and sometimes they will mention your handle in their posts about you on social media. This love for your brand speaks volumes and adds some serious positive social proof for those looking to buy from you. Replicate the language your customers use in their mentions to make the interaction more personal and always thank them for their kind words.

Social Media mentions are not always positive. Sometimes a loyal fan will post publicly about something that makes them unhappy about your product. It is important to engage with these followers also as they can give you valuable insight into the work that needs to be done with your product. Engaging with them obviously helps your social proof also as prospective customers will be happy with the after sales support.

Onboard Brand Ambassadors

Influencer Marketing Brand AmbassadorsBrand ambassadors can humanize your products and brand for prospective customers. These ambassadors can spread social proof on social media, their own websites and within their circle of friends. The awareness that comes from brand ambassadors has helped many brands move the needle with their audience. Brand ambassadors have rebuilt products that failed in the months before, making them twice as popular.

Red Bull and Maybelline brand ambassadors have traveled the world creating unique experiences and including the brand in their social media posts and other content. These interactions with the brands have meant that the brands are seen as global leaders in their niches. You can do it too. Create a brand ambassador project and onboard people who are loyal to your brand to spread positive social proof to more people worldwide.

Produce User Generated Content

User generated content (UGC) is any form of content that has been produced separate to a company but contains a product from that company. This type of content is a great resource for curious buyers as they can get unbiased information about a product before they buy.

Coke UGC Social Proof Campaign

Coke’s UGC campaign took off across the world with customers leading the charge. With their help, Coke amassed hundreds of thousands of social mentions and millions of images of the brand in the hands of happy customers. This screams social proof to anyone thinking of buying Coke related products!

Place Testimonials on Your Website

Testimonials are a great way to showcase how happy your current customers are with your product or service. Promote your customer leaving social proof reviews on your website or on a social review site. When a new one shows up display it on your website homepage or somewhere central to your users so they can see what a great job you are doing.

Zendesk reported in 2013 that 88% of shoppers are influenced by an online testimonial and this has only grown in popularity. Shopify stated in 2018 that 90% of users who read online testimonials said that positive social proof reviews influence their buying decisions. Social proof is getting more important every day. This is due to the fact that more and more companies are selling similar things. With this influx of competitors, customers are bombarded with choices and need some proof of the quality of a product before they invest money.

Examples of Social Proof

Now that we’ve covered some of the social proof marketing tactics that you can use, let’s go over some real-life examples of ecommerce businesses which have incorporated them into their stores.

Social Proof Reviews – Amazon

Amazon, one of the most prominent ecommerce businesses in the world, made the choice to utilize social proof as a tool to generate more sales, and they do so expertly. Amazon has incorporated product reviews into every listing on their website, which allows users to provide honest feedback about the suppliers and the products which are being sold. As we mentioned earlier, these reviews are from real people, so they can prove to be very persuasive for customers who are undecided about making a purchase.

Social proof Instagram – Daniel Wellington

If you’re looking for an example of a brand that has successfully run Instagram influencer campaigns to grow their brands social proof, Daniel Wellington is up there with the best. They often reach out to various influencers across a wide range of niches, send them a free product, and in return ask them to post a photo and their unique discount code. As they reach out to a wide variety of influencers, they’re opening their brand up to a whole new bank of potential customers, which in turn increases their social proof.

Social Proof Advertising – Coffee Joulies

Coffee Joulies alert their visitors about prominent publications which have featured their products, which is a clever tactic for demonstrating the legitimacy of their brand. As these are well-known publications, it will help to build the social proof of their brand, which can help the business to land more sales.


Start Utilizing Social Proof for Your Brand

That’s it — now you know everything you need to start skyrocketing your store’s sales with social proof marketing.

Test out different tactics when you’re trying to grow your social proof, and we’re sure that you’ll be seeing results in no time.


Want to learn more?


If you have any further questions regarding social proof, or ecommerce in general, let us know in the comments section — we’re happy to help you in your entrepreneurial journey.

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