The Importance of Social Proof: Leveraging the Most Impactful Sales Tool

  • — January 4, 2017

    Before buying a product, going to a new restaurant, or visiting a destination, what’s the first thing we do?

    Read reviews.

    We scour the Internet, talk to friends and read articles before we make any decisions. This is the power of social proof.

    Before we do almost anything, we look to other people for feedback – positive or negative – to decide if we are making the correct decision. Even though we might not know the people writing these reviews, just by reading them we are empowered and justified in our actions. That is social proof and it’s clear why it is important and vital in today’s marketing world.

    Social proof is the idea that people will be more apt to commit to doing something that they consider to be the “correct behavior” because others have previously taken the same action. People essentially follow the trend and do what others are doing if the results appear to be favorable. It is noted that 70% of consumers look at reviews before making a purchasing decision. Having proper social proof can be deemed as one of the most powerful marketing tools for companies. It’s so important because individuals will make decisions purely based on the recommendations of their peers, and understanding such is crucial for any company who truly wants to succeed. Because everyone is so prone to allowing feedback to steer their decisions to buy a product, it is necessary that companies develop ways to express why consumers need their products. Strategies that companies can use to help their social proof would be testimonials on their website, before-and-after snapshots of the product being highly effective and even a highly engaged social media following. Once a potential consumer browses testimonials, the psychology of social proof will kick in and the customer will believe the feedback that they are reading.

    Let’s use a diet pill as an example. If a customer goes to a website to read about a diet pill they will research cost, shipping, time it will take for the pounds to start to shed and any other information related to the true value of the product. While all of that information is important, what will be the most important?

    Testimonials. What are other people saying about the product?

    Here’s why: For a diet pill, most websites will show a before and after picture to show the positive effect the pills will have. If this company is smart, below the pictures there will be a quote from the person who had a successful experience and explains the wonders of the pill, how this helped them and why everyone else should try it. A potential customer is more likely to identify with that quote than anything else. The potential customer is now receiving feedback from someone who has theoretically used this product and is being told “from a peer” how great it is.

    That is the power of social proof.

    Product reviews are a great example of social proof. Amazon has product reviews listed that are measured with stars and written reviews. As a consumer, that will probably be the first place that I would look before deciding if I want a product. Regardless of knowing any of these reviewers, I would be more apt to purchase a product with positive reviews because I have psychologically been told that it is worthwhile. Also, since other people who have purchased it have had a positive experience, I assume the same would hold true for me. That shows the power of social proof between an old customer and a potential customer. It also explains why reviews are so vital to the success of a product in today’s market.

    A strong social media presence is another factor in building social proof. Have you ever seen those social media posts that have the “liked by x amount of people”? If you see that a product page or informational post has been liked by hundreds, or even thousands of people (including your peers), the likelihood of you checking it out increases astronomically. This is why the most successful brands use social media as a form of social proof that their brand is popular rather than a communication tool. There are even companies who are committed specifically to increasing your social media presence – the value simply cannot be overstated.

    Bloggers are another source that can help promote products or Do-It-Yourself projects that can help legitimize companies’ products. Because of social proof, we place a blind trust in people and believe what they say to be true. If I am an avid follower of a blog that holds a giveaway of a product, what happens? I would immediately enter the contest, trust the product, and invest in wanting it for myself. I have trust in the blogger and therefore I have trust in the product that they are promoting, regardless of knowing much about it outside of that platform. To reinforce my trust in the product I could go to other sources and read reviews (company websites, Amazon, etc.) and that would also play into me trusting the product.

    Today we have even created platforms that are purely to review companies, restaurants, products and experiences. Anyone can go onto Yelp and get feedback about restaurants, nail salons, or stores. Yelp is customer run and all you’d need to do is create an account to write a review. However, you do not need an account to read reviews. That is a powerful tool for customers today, which plays into social proof.

    Glassdoor is a review platform created to discuss companies. You can look up salaries, positive aspects of companies, company size and anything else that employees are willing to disclose. Employees can review the company as a former employee or as a current employee and keep their identity anonymous. Glassdoor is extremely powerful for potential employees. That feedback is crucial and this example of social proof can really make or break a company. Continuous bad reviews will certainly be a deterrent for potential employees. No review should be taken lightly today.

    Last year Forbes wrote an article disclosing that 88% of consumers trust online reviews. As consumers, we instinctively trust our peers, despite if we know them personally. That feeds into social proof and should affect how companies market products today.

    It remains clear that whether people know one another, or not no longer matters. Communication, marketing, and advertising have changed drastically as we have more and more instant access to information. Because of these factors, social proof holds so much weight today. We believe our peers and trust others who have made a purchase that we are interested in. The moral of the story: social proof is extremely important and has the ability drive or deter company’s sales at a rapid rate. Today things are constantly going ‘viral’ due to social media and instant communication, so it’s more vital than ever to showcase positive reviews, testimonials, and case studies wherever possible.

    Digital & Social Articles on Business 2 Community

    Author: Wesley Cherisien

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