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Consumers are more likely to make a purchase if it has ratings and reviews. Online shoppers also trust strangers’ reviews just as much as personal recommendations from friends. With that being said, it’s a seriously smart move for marketers and business owners alike to leverage the power of social proof in their overarching strategy.

Social proof is all about people within a society. It describes the concept of us conforming to the actions and opinions of others, because we assume that these actions are correct. And just like our behaviours and decisions are influenced by those around us in ‘real’ life, social proof also exists online.

This psychological phenomenon is as old as society itself, though it’s only been acknowledged over the past 70 years or so. The recent rise of social media contributed to a more sudden, sweeping recognition, as people and their opinions have become even more accessible. So how can you harness the power of social proof to benefit your business? We discuss the four main points for consideration in our quick fire guide:

1. Reviews

As we’ve mentioned, shoppers are more likely to purchase from a site if a review is displayed – 63% more likely, in fact. We trust customer reviews up to twelve times more than a manufacturer’s own descriptions, which makes them a seriously valuable marketing method.

Reviews are social proof at its most basic, yet nonetheless powerful. Informing potential customers of your product’s benefits in a fair and honest manner, they are much more trustworthy, and ultimately convincing. What’s more, since search engines love sites that are regularly updated with fresh content, reviews can also help boost your authority.

Display reviews in easily accessible places throughout the customer journey, reminding them of your quality at every touchpoint. It’s also worth remembering that not all reviews will be positive, so be sure to keep on top of them by moderating, fishing out the spam, and responding professionally as and when.

2. Testimonials

Testimonials are a step further. Placed strategically throughout your site on relevant pages, they can help to build trust and customer confidence. Testimonials are one of the most persuasive types of social proof, especially when they come from an authoritative figure, such as a celebrity or industry influencer.

Well written, detailed and genuine testimonials can boost your brand credibility tenfold, assuring customers that you’re trustworthy and well worth investing in. Along with authentic names, job titles and places of work, they can be complemented by photos, which further enhance their ‘truth’.

Testimonials can be further developed into case studies, which are much more comprehensive. Both should be featured in easily accessible places onsite; there’s no point in owning this valuable social proof if it’s undiscoverable.

3. User generated content

While all forms of social proof are generated via users, user generated content refers mainly to photos, blogs, videos etc. These customer stories are a fantastic vehicle to selling your product or service, allowing you to capitalize on positive reactions.

Some businesses find it useful to actively encourage user generated content from their customers, while others spend time collating the content that mentions them on social channels, and repurposing as authentic feedback. More and more brands are realising the power of reaching out to influencers and offering up their product/service in exchange for content, as well as offering existing customers incentives for completing surveys.

4. Social media activity

Finally, the power of social media for social proof. It goes without saying that channels with many followers are considered more authoritative and reliable – one million people are following this person for a reason, surely? These influencers have an established reputation, which means they’re automatically seen as trustworthy. This demonstrates the importance of growing your own brand’s social channels, and engaging with visitors on a regular basis.

Potential customers may also head over to Twitter or Facebook to search out further information about your company. Use this to your advantage by encouraging happy customers to detail their feedback on either channel, while ensuring you keep up to date with any negative comments, dealing with them accordingly. If a potential customer sees that you are being praised on social media, engaging with people and responding to questions and comments in a professional manner, they’re more than likely to convert.

A social media presence is essential for all businesses, humanising your brand and assuring potential customers that you’re not going to swindle them. These channels also offer people platforms to sing your praises – make the most of this!

Just like we long for the trainers our friends have all purchased, walk past the quiet pub and head into the busy one next door, and order the burger that every else seems to be eating, our online habits are reflective of the behaviour of others. Social proof is a powerful technique, and every smart marketer should learn how to leverage it.