What is social proof and why is it essential to marketing?


According to Wikipedia , social proof is a sociological principle that an individual not knowing what to do or what to think, will tend to adopt the behavior or point of view of other people.

Social proof is a concept as old as marketing (think of testimonials in old ads), but the advent of social networks has accentuated the accessibility, importance, and effectiveness of social proof. Social networks allow businesses to always be “in the know” and also makes customer testimonials more accessible than ever before.

This old advertisement below is an excellent example of how social proof is used. The testimonials are scattered on the poster, which boosts the confidence of the customers at the earliest in the purchase journey and consequently pushes the new buyers to order this product.

social proof old ad

Old ad utilising social proof

What is the impact of social proof on you?

Any comments about you, your company or even your products are considered “social proof”. Social proof is an endorsement that states that this person, company or product is of quality, and that the entire customer journey has satisfied previous customers. The very presence of social proof makes a company more reliable because social proof, by definition, comes from customers, not the company. Social proof allows companies to benefit from external validation to influence potential buyers.

Another example of social proof is this customer testimonial:

customer testimonial social proof

Example of social proof

Testimonials, among other things, are a form of social proof because they allow clients to tell your story. And when the story tells that your customers are happy and satisfied, you become pretty irresistible.

Social proof in a nutshell …

Big Commerce defines social proof as a “demonstration that other people have made the decision to choose a product or service, and in that they encourage others to do the same thing.”

Social proof tends to boost the trust of other consumers when they shop online. Buyers feel more confident buying from an e-commerce site if they know that other customers have come before them and have had a positive experience.

Today companies have many opportunities when it comes to integrating social proof into their customer journey. For example :

  • Customer Reviews
  • I like them and share them on social networks
  • Trusted labels
  • The testimonials
  • Customer cases
  • The approval of celebrities or influencers
  • The presence in the media

Now let’s move on to the important part … Why do businesses need social proof nowadays?

Why is social proof essential?

We believe (and we have the data to support it) that social proof is one of the most powerful marketing tools to reassure customers and build trust earlier in the buying journey. Social proof helps consumers buy a product or subscribe to a service they will most likely enjoy based on “the wisdom of the crowd”.

The degree to which social evidence influences clients will depend on the number of people talking about your business or products. The more there is, the better.

eBay uses social proof on all of its product pages. This screenshot of the purchase page displays:

  • The number of views this product has had in the last 24 hours
  • How often has this product been sold
  • How many people are watching this product at the same time as you
  • The number of reviews on the merchant
  • The merchant’s rating, based on customer reviews
social proof ebay

Ebay page with lots of social proof indicators

Why do so much effort to put forward so much social proof?

With 84% of consumers no longer trusting ads, we can safely say that increased competition and lack of trust in ads have a profound influence on the buying process and decision making. And it’s a tall challenge for e-merchants.

Buyers can compare brands by price, quality, and customer experience in just a few clicks, making it difficult for merchant sites to stand out from the competition.

Social proof allows businesses to capture “the voice of consumers” by using existing brand ambassadors to acquire new customers. It’s also a great way to discover ways to improve to satisfy new customers as well as existing customers.

By using social proof at every step of the customer journey with customer testimonials, positive reviews, likes or shares, brands can build trust, reassure and encourage new customers to buy based on past customer satisfaction .

Harnessing opinions as social proof

Today, 92% of consumers read reviews online, and 80% trust reviews as well as personal recommendations.

This statement should be enough to convince companies to put more effort into exploiting customer reviews as social proof. Social proof and customer testimonials are becoming a necessity for e-commerce companies seeking to stand out from the competition and win the trust of their customers at various points in the buying process.

Most people will read up to 10 reviews before making a purchase decision, and 54% of those surveyed will visit a website after reading positive reviews. The recommendations and opinion engines are based on the testimonials of others to help companies generate sales. In the same way, the brands presented to consumers will reflect the purchasing decisions of people with similar profiles.

Social proof can also be used to improve search performance. ConversionXL has discovered that rich snippet stars that appear in natural search results have increased clickthrough rates by up to 35% . One of our customers, LensDirect, has seen a 45% increase in clickthrough rates after starting to display search-supported stars rich snippets in search results

example-of-google-rich-snippets

Consumers recognize and trust third-party advisor platforms like SocialSign.io because the opinion of other consumers can not be changed or suppressed by companies, making each review completely authentic, and thus more reliable and credible.

It is important to note the importance of these third party and independent opinions. Giving companies notice control could allow them to tamper with or remove unpleasant comments, and that would put their reputation in a biased manner. Choosing a more transparent process, where none of the companies or opinion platforms are able to alter the nature of the advisories or their content, will be more likely to return a reliable corporate image to consumers.

With third-party platforms, companies are forced to listen to their customers’ feedback and make the necessary efforts to improve their customer experience and service, in order to receive positive feedback in the future. It also ensures consumers looking for products or services online that they can trust reviews as social proof.

Are you ready to integrate social proof into your business?

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