Why Social Proof Is The Key To Your Site's Success

In an online context, social proof can influence product choices, reassure people that their decision to make a purchase is the right one, and persuade them to act more quickly. Here are some examples of social proof in action on e-commerce sites. Online collaboration tool Basecamp uses social proof effectively on its homepage. Because social proof is such a powerful psychological factor, it is a great item to test across your site and on your landing pages in order to increase conversions. Consider incorporating elements of social proof on your key landing pages as part of the value proposition of your product or service. If I had to choose a single factor that is crucial to an online store’s success, it would be social proof. The term is often misunderstood. It doesn’t have much to do with a company’s presence and reputation on social media networks — though that plays a role. Hot Pockets kept a customer for life that day. By responding publicly to my concern, they demonstrated a commitment to their customer in a way that others would see – making me happy, and generating positive social proof. The Value of Social Proof. Social proof is a dynamic tool that increases conversions while enhancing trust in your brand. Use social proof on your ad copy. Another way to use social proof in your ads is to include it in the copy of your ad. You could choose among the various types of social proof: Expert social proof: Feature an expert recommending your product; Celebrity social proof: Feature a celebrity or micro-influencer endorsing your product.

What was the last thing you bought?

Whether it was the latest-and-greatest tech toy, a must-have beauty product, or a mouthwatering burger at a new restaurant, you probably bought it because you got a great recommendation from a friend — or you meticulously scoured internet reviews for the scoop on a particular product or service.

When it comes to purchasing decisions, consumers religiously follow word-of-mouth recs — virtual or IRL — from peers and unbiased others.

Product reviews are 12 times more trusted than product description or copy coming directly from brands, and a near 70% of online consumers check reviews before buying. Other data reveals that 82% of Americans seek recommendations from friends and family before making a purchase. What’s more, 88% of consumers trust user reviews as much as personal recommendations.

These numbers represent a profound insight for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

When it comes to handing over their hard-earned $$$, consumers are more likely swayed by endorsements from trusted peers and unbiased others during the decision-making process, not the companies peddling the products. Word of mouth matters.

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What Is Social Proof?

Social proof = sway. Essentially, it’s a fancy term for the truism that people follow the crowd. Social proof manifests itself in different ways, but companies who want to boost their bottom line will employ elements of social proof on their website to build trust with customers, increase your conversion rate, and establish a powerful brand image.

So what does social proof look like online? Examples of social proof include:

  • Instagram post likes
  • customer testimonials
  • online rating systems
  • influencer and celebrity endorsements
  • proudly-displayed certification or credentials badges
  • social media shares
  • media mentions
  • user or subscriber counts
  • awards
  • client icons

The most successful companies utilize one (or more) of these tools on their sites.

Long story short: there’s immense power in social proof. And more often than not, the presence or absence of social proof on your e-commerce site will be the make-it-or-break-it factor in your business earning five-star online reviews, loyal customers, and abundant sales.

Not convinced yet? Let’s explore nine reasons why your website needs social proof. Plus, we’ll share some of the IRL websites of businesses who are nailing social proof.

Related: 10 Easy Social Media Tips for Your Hard-Working Small Business

9 Reasons to Use Social Proof on Your Website

1. Social Proof Creates — and Sustains — Customer Trust

It’s great that your product can do XYZ and has a list of gold-star features. But unless you’ve got an army of brand ambassadors, potential customers aren’t going to buy it — literally or figuratively.

Employing social proof assures prospective customers that your sales pitch echoes the actual experience of people who have done business with you and isn’t just a marketing tactic. Consumers need multiple unbiased opinions that your product or service is going to do what you say it will.

Social proof elements help shoppers trust that your business is legitimate, persuading them that there are real fans of your product or service. Validation through social proof adds credibility and authenticity to your business.

2. Social Proof Utilizes the Influencing Power of Your Customers

Why Social Proof Is The Key To Your Site

Your customers aren’t merely sales numbers; they’re powerful tools of persuasion that can help you grow your business. Social proof allows you to utilize an authentic marketing strategy that can effectively sway customers disillusioned by modern clickbait, sponsored ads, and false claims.

Whether you’re sharing five-star ratings, video testimonials, or a list of your high-profile clients, social proof allows you to take advantage of the substantial selling power of your customers.

3. Social Proof Shows Customers You Care

Social proof isn’t just about proving to consumers that they should get on your business bandwagon (because #FOMO). It’s also about demonstrating that you care about the customer experience and that you value the opinions of your customers enough to share them with others.

What’s more — when you display badges, certifications, and awards, you show that you care about safety, quality, knowledge, and growth. It makes it apparent that your company fosters engagement, sustainability, and customer loyalty.

4. Social Proof Distinguishes Your Business From Competitors

It’s likely that the competition in your industry is fierce. You need to set yourself apart to build a business with staying power and a bottomless bottom line. By using elements of social proof on your website, you separate yourself from other marketers and show consumers what makes your brand different. Why should they choose you over another brand? Let your customers do the talking.

5. Social Proof Identifies Your Target Customers

Just like shoppers are looking for something specific, so is your business. Finding your target audience assures that you make more high-quality sales, establish long-lasting customer relationships, and grow a sustainable business.

Use social proof to help consumers know who your ideal customer is, and how your product or service will benefit them specifically. As they identify with relatable qualities, they’ll more effectively envision themselves as satisfied using your product, and you’ll enjoy higher conversion rates.

This benefit of social proof also validates current and past customers, helping followers connect more strongly with your business as they line up with target audiences. Plus, by appealing to your target customers through social proof, you’ll demonstrate you’re in-tune with your market, proving you understand them and their needs.

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6. Social Proof Highlights Selling Points

Losing things, forgetting an appointment, smelling bad — there are a lot of things that trouble people. For every pain point, there’s a business looking to alleviate that consumer concern. What about your product or service meets a glaring customer need?

Social proof on your website allows you to highlight the key selling points and features of your product and identify how it can relieve consumers’ most troubling problems. Without boring or exhausting them with repetitive, overly-confident, and schmoozy digital marketing, keep things fresh by illustrating the many attractive features of your product or service through customer proof. You’ll help customers make a decision and give your business dimension.

7. Social Proof Follows Consumer Purchasing Patterns

Let’s turn that old parental adage on its head: “If all your friends were buying the latest gadget, would you do it too?” Well, science says yes, it’s likely.

When deciding where to divvy their dollars, consumers aren’t taking your word for it — they need social validation from their peers (including virtual ones) to confidently make purchases. Reviews rule in the e-commerce biz.

Social proof aligns with how consumers shop, meaning your efforts to outfit your site with social evidence and customer proof have the potential to yield a massive ROI. Because consumers adapt their purchasing patterns to follow the trends and behaviors of the crowds, your business needs to utilize the enormous marketing power of previous buyers to influence those on-the-fence shoppers, effectively converting consumers into customers.

Related: How Your Online Business Can Nail Customer Service

Soliciting feedback, highlighting glowing reviews, showcasing testimonials, sharing the feedback of happy customers — these and other tactics appeal to the proven ways that audiences buy. Think like your customers: if loads of satisfied customers put forth the effort to leave a review of your product, it must be good. And let’s face it — these days, customers aren’t buying anything without even glancing at some of those reviews.

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By employing social proof, you’re working with the psychology of sales and proving your business’ virtual street-smarts.

8. Social Proof Builds Your Brand Image

It’s good to have a successful, growing business. But you want more; namely, a strong, positive brand image. Social proof can elevate your influence by spreading that all-important virtual word-of-mouth and increasing your visibility. Be a well-respected, well-known, and high-sales leader in your field by establishing your business as an authority through social validation.

9. Social Proof Creates User-Generated Content

Every website owner knows content is king. As a business owner, you need content to incentivize consumers to come to you and care about your brand and offerings.

With social proof, your customers supply valuable content that you can promote on your site to grow traffic and increase engagement. Doing the work to solicit reviews, customer stories, and press coverage provides you with useful content that can fill company blog posts, draw eyes, and give you fodder for your sales funnels.

Your Mission: Increase Conversions with Positive Reviews

Now that you’re convinced of the importance of social proof, you’re going to need a website to display those five-star reviews proudly. We’d recommend starting with DreamHost’s Shared Hosting — the easiest way to get everything you need to thrive on the web. And with plans starting at just $2.59 per month, building social proof for your brand won’t break the bank. Need a second (or third) opinion? Read what our customers have to say.

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Learn how to collect the right testimonials and get your business the social proof it needs to earn more customers.

Why Social Proof Is The Key To Your Sites Successful

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It’s a question that confounds many new and young startups, and even big, established businesses these days: “With all the competition and noise out there, how can I gain the attention of new, potential buyers?

You have a great product. You’ve developed a stellar website. Even your packaging looks sexy. But new clients these days are also looking for one more thing before making a commitment to spend money on you -- what other people are saying about you or your product.

It’s no secret that online retailers and brands like Amazon are increasingly pushing reviews for the products on their site. People need to see that others also enjoy that product. It’s what we call social proof: the idea that buyers are influenced by the decisions and actions of others around them.

Why is social proof so important?

Through my marketing agency, I find a lot of small business websites that aren’t leveraging the power of testimonials on their site, and that’s a missed opportunity for them. One of the first things I advise all my new clients on is gathering social proof to place on their web page. Here are some of the reasons why they’re so important on your site:

  • Testimonials add credibility for the products and services you offer.
  • People tend to trust online reviews when making purchases.
  • Social proof earns better SEO: Adds more favorable language surrounding your brand online.
  • When sourcing opinions from your client base, you show that you care about their experience with your brand, thus strengthening the relationship you have with your clients.

What types of testimonials should I collect?

Why Social Proof Is The Key To Your Sites Successfully

There are a variety of ways you can gather testimonials and a variety of ways to display them on your site. You don’t have to rely on simple one-liners from clients (although they are still helpful). Here are some ideas for getting the social proof you need:

  • Send a survey to new clients: After your customer receives the product, give them some time to try it out and reach back out to them later (via email or direct mail) and ask them to provide with their feedback. To encourage more responses, offer to send them back a coupon or a free gift for their efforts.
  • Encourage them to post on social media: Use a hashtag to track customers’ responses to your products so you can find and respond to them easily. You should definitely consider Instagram a big part of this strategy, so you can use their post on your site as social proof. Testimonials with images are better than text alone. Note: Before using someone’s social post on your site, you’ll need to reach out to them to get permission.
  • Send your products for free to people with large followings: Whether you want to call them social media influencers, bloggers, or local celebrities, consider getting “meatier” testimonials from people who have already gained some amount of trust online. Some may ask for a small fee to review your product, but the return you get from their article, video post, Instagram picture, or even just their words and name listed on your site will likely be tremendous. Note: This is a very similar strategy to getting media and publishers to review your products, but having a testimonial from an actual human being is far more effective.
  • Get them while they’re fresh out of the oven: If you host events, then you have the prime opportunity to gather testimonials from attendees right on the spot. For one of my clients, we set up a camera right outside the event space and asked participants to provide their opinions on the spot. You can check out an example here.
  • Feature reviews from other sites on your site: If you have a Yelp listing or distribute your products through a site like eBay, then you can embed or feature those reviews on your site as well. Some sites may have rules on how you can use testimonials that they’ve collected, so be sure to check those terms and conditions before moving forward.

The main thing to keep in mind here is that if you don’t ask, you won’t get them. Many people are more than willing to give you their opinion on your products and services. Many won’t be amazing, but at least they will be insightful, and you can use that feedback to generate better business later.