September 25, 2019

What is Social Proof (and Why Should You Care?)

Everyone wants to be liked.

It goes back to childhood. You have the “in” group and the “out” group. And, while as adults life isn’t as cut and dried in that regard as it was on the playground (thankfully), every one of us remains part of the larger society and innately wants to reinforce our place in that group through the activities we participate in, the things we talk about and the things we buy.

I’m not making this up. This is science.

To describe this phenomenon, psychologist Robert Cialdini coined the term “social proof” in his 1984 book, “Influence.” It “describes a psychological and social phenomenon wherein people copy the actions of others in an attempt to undertake behavior in a given situation.”

It works because there is so much ambiguity in our lives. We can’t e sure what other people consider appropriate, so we copy them based on the the assumption that other people know more about the current situation than we do.

And marketers have been tapping into this basic fact of human nature for generations.

According to TrustPilot: “Social proof — reviews, social likes, online mentions, and testimonials for products, services, or brands — has a powerful psychological effect on customers. Because the feedback comes from other consumers, not the brand itself, the positive messaging surrounding a product or service can be perceived as more authentic and trustworthy. Consumers see social proof as an endorsement from their peers saying that the company, service, or product is great, and that the overall customer journey has satisfied previous shoppers.

“So when customers see trust signals — visual representations of social proof such as badges, ratings, reviews, and logos — it understandably elicits a strong influence on shopping behaviour.”

What does that look like in action?

It Drives Purchase Decisions: According to TrustPilot’s research, an average of 66% of customers said “the presence of social proof increased their likelihood to purchase a product.” Think about it. Keeping up with the Joneses is real, and we all want what others have.

We Look for it in Reviews: We can complain all we want about Yelp and the negative impact of taking someone else’s word for whether or not a business is worth our time and money, but “positive star ratings and reviews were the most important trust symbol.” A full 82% said it made them more likely to make a purchase.

It Matters Where we See it: Oddly enough, positive ratings and reviews on a company’s homepage are the most likely to result in a purchase (86%), while those same reviews on a product page were second-most likely, influencing 85% of customers. Why? The buying journey starts as soon as someone hits the site and only continues once they get to something they actually want to buy. Brands that do well drive home the social proof message as soon as possible.

It Comes in Many Forms: Per TrustPilot: “Customers prefer different trust signals throughout the buying journey. Media mentions (52%) and endorsements from public figures (50%) were effective when customers performed initial online research, while testimonials (60%) and star ratings and reviews (50%) were effective when customers compared different retailers.” That’s why we call it social proof. It’s everything external to the buyer, and maintaining it is an ongoing process, not a one-off.

Layup Content exists to help companies develop their own social proof in today’s crowded, impersonal digital marketplace. Ask us how at hello@wearelayup.com.

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