Imagine you wake up in a foreign town in some exotic country with no idea where you are or how you got there (If you’ve been watching movies, this shouldn’t be too hard to imagine).
Your stomach is rumbling and you feel hungry... but it's dirty and you seem to be stranded in the poorest region of the city. You walk outside the dingy hotel room you woke up in, and look around. Across the street are two run down-looking restaurants, except that one is full of people, and the other one doesn't have a soul inside.
Which one do you go try to get a meal at?
This is an extreme example, but it's an example chosen to highlight one concept: social proof.
Wikipedia defines social proof thus:
“Social proof... is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others reflect correct behavior for a given situation.”
It goes on to note that this effect is most pronounced in uncertain situations where the correct course is not easy to determine, and therefore is determined by looking at what other people do.
Thus, our restaurant example above. You're in an unfamiliar situation, with an unfamiliar place, with unknown safety of the food, but you're hungry and you want to eat. Which place do you eat at? The place with all the people of course! After all, there's got to be a good reason they're all there and nobody's at the other place, right?
This is the logic driving social proof.
So much for the “what”. Now for the “How”
Getting social proof
If you’ve had at least one customer, then you can start using testimonials. The power of testimonials lies in their objectivity. That is, someone outside of the brand does the talking, so in theory, the credibility is higher.
Start collecting testimonials from day one. Sprinkle them throughout your website on the pages you know will be seen often. For example, if you sell groceries online, a plug from saying how easy it was to get their groceries delivered or the speed of delivery or the awesome customer service, (or all three if you’re that awesome) can help persuade a visitor who’s not sure whether or not to try out your service.
For even greater credibility, include real attributions and photos, when possible. Double bonus points for video testimonials.
2. Ratings and Reviews
Customer reviews can be immensely powerful. When’s the last time you made a meaningful purchase on an eCommerce site without glancing at the reviews?
While ratings and reviews often go hand-in-hand with testimonials, it’s the scoring systems we’re endorsing here—usually a 5-star system—as a source of social proof. Product and service reviews become particularly powerful when the opinions of larger populations are accounted for.
3. Influencer Endorsements
The more relevant and influential the endorser, the more powerful the social proof - Andy Crestodina
If your business has ever received a compliment from a well-known person who is respected by your audience, go find it, and add it to your home page. Influencer endorsements are seen on the covers, jackets and opening pages of nearly every book. Even Chimamanda Adichie still gets book blurbs from other popular and successful writers.
Such is the power of endorsements.
4. Media Logos
The “as seen in” media showcase is a classic example of social proof. Manufacturers often cite and/or show the news media that has featured, reviewed or mentioned their products. Emerging entertainers do the same.
Writers, photographers and all types of artists look for opportunities to show you the coverage they’ve earned from the media.
5. Social Media/Subscriber Counts
As said earlier, people feel comfortable joining the crowd. When you can make numbers play, go for it! Putting social proof to work when asking for a subscription via some form of opt-in, is highly recommended. If you have a sizable list, don’t miss the opportunity to tell people about it.