We recently wrote an article called “5 Types of Social Proof that Brands can Leverage.” If you missed it, check it out first to read about what social proof is and the different forms it takes.
Social proof is a particularly powerful tool for the branding and marketing toolbox. But, as with any tool, you have to know how to use it to get the best results with it. Misused, it can have the opposite effects of those intended, turning potential customers or clients off rather than convincing them to buy from you.
Take a look at the following dos and don’ts of using social proof to build consumer confidence in your brand.
Tips for Using Social Proof
- Positive social proof can be the most compelling marketing strategy. Showing potential buyers that a large or important group of people have made a particular choice is powerful. In consumer research, it often achieves better results than telling people that they’ll save money, experience some other relevant benefit, or contribute to a greater good.
- Don’t use negative social proof. Basically, this refers to creating the impression that lots of people don’t take advantage of the opportunity you’re presenting. If you essentially advertise that plenty of people get by while missing out on something you’re offering as a smart choice, you’re implying that it’s just not that important. If you want to portray something as the “wrong” choice, don’t highlight that many people make it.
- Prove your social proof is real. On the web, and in using trust signals on your website, it’s important to overcome people’s healthy skepticism. Testimonials, for example, are a highly effective form of social proof, but there are lots of fake ones out there. Attribute them to real names (and real businesses if you’re a B2B brand). It’s even better with the visual support of a real profile picture of the person giving the testimonial.
- Harness social proof from your buyer persona. People are far more likely to be influenced by others who they perceive to be like them. So, consumers who fit your buyer persona respond best to others who fit it. This is a big factor in why celebrity endorsements can work so well or flop so badly; if your audience doesn’t relate to the famous face, they won’t respond to the endorsement.
- Tell stories with your social proof. Sure, a bunch of 4 and 5-star reviews looks good. But they don’t make nearly the impression of a detailed user review that tells the story of why the product or service earned those stars. An expert endorsing with a smile and a few statistics is nice, but an expert who elaborates in an emotionally resonant way about the benefits of your brand is far better. People are moved by stories.
- Consider the reputation of individuals speaking on your behalf. Expert, influencer, and celebrity endorsements can make for effective social proof, but it’s about more than just their credentials or a big name. People give more credence to those they perceive positively. Choose your spokespeople carefully, mindful of the reputation that precedes them and the overall sense of how likable and trustworthy they are.
- No social proof is often better than a little social proof. Consumers are wary of brands with a tiny social media following, an obvious lack of engagement, only a few user reviews, etc. These things can create the impression that the brand is unpopular, untrustworthy, too new, or not invested in customer relations. Obviously, building these types of social proof take time and consistent efforts, so there’s a period when new brands or new marketing campaigns have little to show. But if you’re not actively pursuing a strategy or particular channel to build up the social proof, it’s probably better to do away with it than to let it languish publicly.