You’re probably familiar with the concept of social proof. At its most basic level, social proof is the notion that people look to other people to determine how to behave. It’s the idea behind the “9 out of 10 dentists prefer . . .” marketing device. It’s what’s at work when people decide what is appropriate for them to do in a situation by examining what others are doing — consensus. By learning what triggers consensus in the minds of your customers, you can put it to work in your marketing strategy.
One way to discover these triggers is by listening. Monitor your mentions on Twitter, for example. Respond not only to positive mentions, but to negative ones, as well. Track keywords and look for people who need suggestions about a product or a solution and think about ways to get them, and those like them, to consider your brand.
Ask your customers to write online reviews. Research shows that over 70% of consumers refer to online reviews before making a purchase, and trust those reviews as much as they would a personal recommendation from an acquaintance. It’s importance to be proactive about asking happy customers to share their experience online.
Similarly, ask your customers for testimonials. Include photos — or better yet, make a video. The next best thing to a personal recommendation is a video of a person with whom your customer can relate — someone the same age, similarly situated — telling them why your brand is the best choice. BGS, a digital marketing and consulting company, describes video testimonials as the Holy Grail of marketing. They advise brands to collect as many as possible and dedicate a page on their website so customers can easily find them.
Storytelling is key. A good story should address a customer’s pain points, be something to which they can relate, and explain how pain points were resolved. When people read a story, they imagine themselves as the storyteller and it creates a relationship that fosters a positive association.
Keep your message positive. Scarcity and urgency are recognized consensus triggers, but make sure you use positive words to influence a positive reaction. “Hurry in for best selection” works better than “Others have missed out. Don’t be one of them!” “77% of your neighbors are already saving money” is a positive message, while “You’re paying too much!” is a negative one.
Brands use share counts on their websites as a type of social proof. If your article has 10,000 shares, people are impressed. There is credibility in numbers. But if you only have, say, 4 shares, people will view that negatively. It’s best to hide the counter on your share buttons if your shares are low.
It’s a good idea to get started by setting up your brand on several social networking sites to get a feel for where your product best fits in. Then you can focus your efforts on one or two sites. Don’t confuse “likes” with recommendations. If there are a lot of competitors in your industry and they all have thousands of “likes,” it becomes irrelevant. A good testimonial, however, is always relevant.
These days, social proof is far too important to ignore. With information overload comes the tendency to tune out. Social proof is a way to break through the noise.