Social Proof – Best Strategies to Boost Your Brand

by Chris Lake November 25, 2015
November 25, 2015

Having a wealth of positive reviews on independent websites is the holy grail for many business owners. In fact, good social proof is fast becoming a necessity for any serious marketer.

The benefits are multiple. Here are three huge advantages :

  • increased sales
  • improved brand perception
  • an invaluable marketing tool

This power of online reviews often encourages companies to ‘review build’, hoping to level the playing field with their larger competitors, as well as boosting their profits.

Yet it is far from certain that this eagerness is justified.

In fact, can rushing to enhance your reputation actually harm your bottom line, and potentially bankrupt your company?

Universally positive customer opinions may not be a good thing for your businesses future.

Researchers at the University of Nevada certainly back the idea that online reviews have massive influence. Their study indicated that social influence has a strong effect on consumer buying decisions, much more than pricing factors.
Other academics go further. Ann Schlosser argues that having a highly positive review, is more effective than a review containing both pros and cons.

Of course, there are other variables at play too. The type of products sold are bound to have an impact on the significance paid to reviews.
It’s hard to imagine many people searching for customer opinions on long established products such as bleach, and washing powders.

Target audience is also likely to be a reason why there are conflicting results from different research studies.

An analysis in 2013 showed that a two sided review with pros and cons is looked on favourably by the reader. The same study also found that product perceptions were significantly affected by the credibility of the reviewer.

Those people with intelligent arguments and a history of reviewing products were the most influential.

Herein lies the danger of companies rushing to build reviews. Whether this is through a ‘fake’ strategy or encouraging happy customers to leave a review ,the results can be disastrous.
With reviewing history being so important, a number of profiles with single reviews that sing your praises may have the opposite effect. The evidence points to these opinions being easily dismissed and the profiles (and your companies) credibility being questioned.

This is further backed up by Chinese researchers. Their study showed contextual comments were given more focus by the reader than the product rating. Thus, having a host of positive reviews with very little depth or value for the reader is counter productive.

So what strategy should your company use?

The answer, as ever, lies in knowing your customers and providing great customer service to them.
This approach takes time, but will be rewarded with organic reviews.

It will also protect your company from Google ranking penalties, if you are found to have falsified ratings.

Of course, it never hurts to give your customers a friendly nudge.

A tactic we often employ, is included in the follow up purchase email.
Advise customers of the review platforms your company is listed on and that it would be helpful if they shared their satisfaction. By doing this they are more likely to leave a review on their most used platform, increasing the chance they are already established on the network.

This article was originally published at digitaldock and has been republished with permission.

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