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An E-Commerce Marketer’s Guide to Social Proof (+ Examples)

  • Conversion Rate Optimization
  • Growth Marketing

Consumers are hardwired to be skeptical this day and age. And why wouldn’t they be? With charlatans, swindlers and 21st-century snake oil salesmen abound, gaining their trust is often a tall order.

So how do you slash through their doubt and prove that your brand is in fact reputable?

That your products/services are the real deal?

That spending their hard earned money on said products/services is a good investment?

Social proof is perhaps your best bet pound-for-pound.

Let me to explain why.

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What Is Social Proof? (The Underlying Psychology)

As humans, we’re constantly looking to others to determine what’s considered correct behavior and what’s not.

If the overall group agrees that behavior A is correct and acceptable, then that’s usually the behavior we’ll mimic.

But if the group agrees that behavior B is incorrect and not acceptable, then we tend to avoid that behavior.

This phenomenon taps into our primal and tribal roots where failure to comply with group behavior would often result in exclusion and even exile.

Neither of which are beneficial to our well-being and longevity.

Or at the very least you would be labeled a misfit.

Why do you think that peer pressure is such a big issue among adolescents?

Ensuring that our behavior aligns with the group’s really just boils down to self-preservation.

Social proof is essentially a measuring stick that tells us what the collective attitude of the group is regarding a particular product, service or brand.

As TechTarget points out, “If other people are doing it (or saying it), it must be correct.”

And this is incredibly powerful from a marketing standpoint.

Effectively leveraging social proof is one of the best ways to get consumers to “buy in” to your brand and establish critical trust and credibility. Heck, it’s why many marketers use in their email subject lines:

Social proof is often the first step for getting consumers to take you seriously, which inevitably paves the way for you to make a sale and in some cases generate repeat sales.

The Six Types of Social Proof

According to Buffer, there are six general types of social proof, which are as follows:

  1. Expert. Expert social proof is when an expert in your industry recommends your products or services or is associated with your brand.
  2. Celebrity. Celebrity social proof is when a celebrity endorses your product.
  3. User. User social proof is when your current users recommend your products and services based on their experiences with your brand.
  4. Wisdom of the crowd. This is when a large group of people is seen endorsing your brand.
  5. Wisdom of your friends. This is when people see their friends approve your product.
  6. Certification. This is when you are given a stamp of approval by an authoritative figure in your industry.

For the rest of this post, let’s examine each of these six types of social proof in detail as well as provide specific examples so that you can fully grasp each one.

The idea is that these examples will get your own creative juices flowing and spark some inspiration.

In turn, you’ll be able to incorporate some highly potent social proof examples into your own marketing.

Let’s get right down to it.

Expert Social Proof

Example #1

Kristi Hines is a fairly well-known freelance writer and blogger.

On her website, she offers multiple forms of social proof to validate herself and prove that she’s got the chops.

Toward the bottom of her homepage, you’ll find this section:

Boom! You see three high-powered recommendations from respected industry experts singing her praise.

All three are vouching for her skill set and provide specific details as to why she’s someone worth hiring.

Example #2

Motiv Ring is a smart ring designed for monitoring heart rate, fitness goals, and sleep.

This brand leveraged expert social proof seamlessly on their site’s press page.

Check it out:

All three are huge brands that validate the legitimacy of their product.

And you can bet that this will be a deciding factor many of their prospects.

Example #3

Ahrefs does something similar and includes input from a couple of top SEO experts.

Example #4

You may also be familiar with the notorious trust icons that so many brands are incorporating these days.

Known to some as “logo porn,” these give visitors a rundown of who you’ve worked with, where your brand has been featured and so on.

For instance, subscription box service, ArtSnacks, lists some of the top publications that they’ve been featured on.

This is the equivalent of selectively name-dropping the brands/people you’re associated with.

The aim, of course, is to siphon off some of their brand equity in order to bolster your image.

Celebrity Social Proof

This is one of the oldest forms of social proof and has pretty much existed ever since the dawn of modern marketing as we know it.

Just look at this vintage ad featuring Ronald Reagan back in his acting days promoting Chesterfield cigarettes.

Source: Pinterest

Using a celebrity is tried and true and has made a lot of brands a lot of money.

Here are some examples of this strategy still being used today:

Example #1

Here’s dancer, singer, and actress Julianne Hough endorsing Proactiv Skin Care.

Example #2

Here’s basketball superstar Lebron James being featured in one of Sprite’s recent marketing campaigns.

Example #3

Or how about singer and rapper Nicki Minaj getting on board with detox tea MateFit?

Example #4

Celebrity endorsements are have also become really big on Instagram as of late.

Here’s a good example of singer and actress Hilary Duff promoting Sparkling Ice.

The list goes on and on, but you get the idea.

Celebrity social proof can definitely elevate a brand to unseen heights virtually overnight provided the celebrity is the right fit.

However, it’s also one of the most expensive routes to take and often comes with a hefty price tag, especially if you’re targeting a big name celebrity.

But there are now platforms available like Mediakix that allow brands and celebrities/influencers to connect with one another in a way that’s mutually beneficial for both parties.

Therefore, this may be something you may want to check out if you’re interested in giving celebrity social proof a go.

User Social Proof

Having actual customers discuss the benefits of using your product or service can be persuasive as well.

After all, they have firsthand experience and can directly verify your claims.

Example #1

This is actually a technique that we use at Sleeknote.

Notice how these users speak to specific aspects of our product so that leads have a better understanding of which of their pain points will be resolved.

This is critical.

You don’t want a user to merely say, “Hey, it’s a great product.”

Instead, you want them to dive in a bit deeper to fill in the gaps for new prospects.

Example #2

SEMrush does something similar in this section of their homepage.

Getting praise from users, in general, is helpful.

But when you can get praise from authoritative influencers like these, the impact will be even bigger.

Example #3

Again, this approach is used by content analysis platform BuzzSumo.

Example #4

User social proof is also commonly used by restaurants in the form of customer reviews.

By checking out these reviews of Frankel’s Delicatessen & Appetizing in Brooklyn, you may be persuaded to stop by and try it for yourself.

And this is huge considering, “88 percent of consumers say that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.”

Example #5

And let’s not forget about Amazon.

This is one of the top places where brands can boost their reputation through the power of positive reviews.

Here are just a couple of comments about the ParaOne Paracord Survival Bracelet.

Wisdom of the Crowd Social Proof

This revolves around the concept of a large number of people collectively endorsing your brand.

Example #1

SEMRush leverages this as well in their copy.

It’s hard to argue with more than a million users, so this can easily persuade prospects to take action and make a purchase.

Example #2

Here’s blogger, speaker, consultant and founder of ProBlogger Darren Rowse urging visitors to be part of his community and sign up for ProBlogger Plus.

Given the fact that 300k plus bloggers have already joined, this should get many individuals over the hump and motivate them to take action.

Example #3

Or what about The Tim Ferriss Show?

This is the podcast of author, entrepreneur, and investor Tim Ferriss.

On his site, it explicitly states that his podcast has received over 200 million downloads.

That’s pretty legit.

So if you were hesitant to give it a listen, this form of wisdom of the crowd social proof should quell that opposition.

Example #4

Let’s say that a particular brand piqued your interest.

One metric you might take into account is the size of their social media following.

If they only had a few hundred Instagram followers, that could easily dissuade you from doing business with them.

But if they’ve got 185,000 then you would be far more likely to take them seriously.

Wisdom of Your Friends Social Proof

Perhaps the most common example of this is when Facebook tells you that a certain number of your friends like a particular page.

Example #1

After landing on the Netflix Facebook page, I can see that 13 of my friends approve of it.

Example #2

Another option is to put some perspective on how big your customer base is and how many people trust your product.

Moz does a great job of this on their homepage with these stats.

Example #3

Or you can always highlight the number of social shares a particular post receives in order to get prospects to think highly of it.

Entrepreneur, blogger, and podcast Pat Flynn uses this technique to promote one of his books on Twitter.

This one actually kills two birds with one stone because 1) he casually mentions his book is a The Wall Street Journal bestseller and 2) Twitter users can see that this post has received a lot of engagement.

It’s a win-win.

Certification Social Proof

This simply involves displaying a stamp or certification that’s given out by an authoritative figure to lend credibility to your brand.

You may know this best from the classic Better Business Bureau logo, which indicates that a company adheres to their practices and in turn, can be trusted.

Example #1

Here’s the homepage of human resources outsourcing firm RMI displaying badges of notable organizations that it’s part of.

Example #2

Honest Tea takes a similar approach to their mission page.

Here they highlight the fact that they’re Fair Trade Certified and their products are USDA Organic.

Both of which are selling points for many of their prospects and should help make their products more appealing.

Example #3

Finally, here’s the homepage of GreerWalker CPAs & Advisors, an accounting firm in Charlotte, NC.

At the very bottom of their homepage, they weave in logos from relevant industry authorities to lend additional credibility to their firm.

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Many modern brands are part of incredibly competitive industries where they’re scratching and clawing in order to grab the attention of their target audience.

And this isn’t easy to do.

The Internet is a loud, busy and congested place where gaining exposure is becoming increasingly difficult.

But one technique that helps brands rise above is social proof.

When used correctly, it can help you quickly build rapport with your demographic and establish a genuine connection.

This is what helps you get your foot in the door so that you can nurture your leads and ultimately make conversions.

As you can tell from the examples listed here, social proof comes in a lot of different shapes and sizes.

There is no one size fits all solution that works 100 percent of time.

Your best bet for finding success is to perform some A/B testing so that you can work out the kinks and identify what’s best for bridging the gap between you and your audience.

Can you think of any other forms of social proof that are highly persuasive?

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