Social Proof 101
What is social proof? In marketing and advertising, social proof is the idea that what consumers say online is more trustworthy than what brands say to consumers.
But psychologically speaking, social proof is “where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.”
Consider #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt, a hashtag on TikTok that has over 9 billion views and counting. This is a real and lucrative example of how consumers are more likely to purchase something recommended by someone they trust – even if they don’t know them personally.
As the social proof concept and influencer marketing become increasingly needed to build trust with consumers, we’re diving into the definition of social proof, why it’s important, and how it should be incorporated into your marketing strategy.
The Principle Of Good Social Proof
Social proof boils down to trust. Can consumers count on your brand to provide a product or service to meet their needs?
Your brand may be able to definitively say that you can. You can provide every statistic, every certification, every compelling product description claiming that your product is the one they’ve been looking for – but social proof challenges all of these things. Why?
The main principle of social proof says that human beings are heavily influenced by the actions of others.
When social proof hinges on the opinions of other shoppers, the concept becomes about perception. That perception is made up of a consumer’s network of experiences, recommendations, and reviews from their network of friends, like-minded strangers, and – you guessed it – influencers.
Why Does Social Proof Work?
Social proof works because it is the embodiment of persuasive psychology. According to Dr. Robert B. Cialdini, the father of social proof, the concept works because humans find safety in numbers – even online. The more we see people talking (positively or negatively) about a brand, purchasing decisions are impacted.
Dr. Cialdini’s book, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” teaches about how social proof and herd behavior often overlap. Trust is a method more powerful than any traditional advertising. Even more, the need to belong influences purchasing behavior because a crowd’s approval constitutes “the correct behavior.”
How Social Proof Is Used In Advertising & Influencer Marketing
Social media is a proven marketing principle that enables businesses to integrate social proof into their strategies. Furthermore, influencer marketing is a social proof strategy that builds trust throughout the entire customer journey.
Therefore, when social media and influencer marketing come together, social proof is at the heart of that connection.
By identifying areas within your marketing strategy to incorporate influencers, brands and marketers can gain a better foothold in their social proof standing.
We already know that influencer marketing works. 49% of consumers depend on influencer recommendations, and 70% of teens say that they trust influencers more than traditional celebrities. Furthermore, 70% of people say that they trust recommendations from people they don’t know.
So, when fine-tuning your marketing strategy, don’t leave influencers out. Having a brand social media presence is important – but so is generating social proof with the help of influencers.
Men’s Wearhouse is an excellent social proof use case. Its goal was to drive awareness about its prom rental process on Instagram, so it partnered with Mavrck to source a group of high school influencers to promote their fashions and in-store rental process.
Creators generated 40 pieces of authentic, honest Instagram content, which drove over 88,000 impressions and 6,500 engagements across Instagram.
Why Is Social Proof Important?
Social proof’s significance stems from its ability to dictate a customer’s journey and purchase decisions by validating goods and services.
Consider the classic customer journey and touchpoints for your marketing strategy: awareness, consideration, purchase, loyalty, and advocacy. Social proof is the injection of influence at each of those stages.
Consumers are looking at Pinterest Pins, Instagram posts and Stories, YouTube tutorials and reviews, blog posts, and other pieces of content before deciding to purchase. They are looking at their feeds to see if your brand is mentioned (and in what context), which impacts if they’re going to join the conversation and ultimately buy from you.
Your organization must be thinking about how social proof impacts your consumer’s customer journey, knowing that impact will help with customer acquisition, retention, and long-term loyalty.
Now more than ever, consumers need the input and validation of other people to complete their purchase and move into the loyalty and advocacy stages of the journey.
The Five Types of Social Proof
There are several social proof strategies that you can use to leverage content creators in your influencer marketing program. Whether they are experts in their field, have a loyal audience, or are inherently trustworthy, employing influencers in your marketing campaigns can help you achieve one or more of these social proof methods.
Subject Matter Expert Social Proof
The subject matter expert (SME) social proof technique is the idea that people inherently trust someone who is a proven expert in a particular area. For example, a TikTok dermatologist making skincare regimen recommendations likely possesses more social proof than a skincare brand making claims about their products.
Celebrity Social Proof
Celebrity social proof is when a product or brand earns a celebrity’s endorsement. Celebrities inherently possess a lot of influence and their fanbase finds trust in their opinions, especially when they offer recommendations organically.
Buyer Social Proof
Buyer social proof occurs when a real consumer presents an honest, authentic opinion on a product or service. This can occur in the form of ratings & reviews, blog posts, public social media posts, and more.
Crowd Wisdom Social Proof
Crowd wisdom social proof is successful because of herd mentality’s inherent trustworthiness. When a big group of people unanimously agree on a product or service’s usefulness, it positively impacts potential consumers and their purchasing journey.
Friend or Family Recommendations
Perhaps one of the most powerful forms of social proof is the recommendations from friends and family. A consumer’s close circle knows their likes, dislikes, and what they like – so they are more likely to make recommendations that a consumer would value without question.
How Can I Make Social Proof Work For Me?
Social proof powers consumer decisions. There’s no denying that.
Consumer conversations need to be top of mind when evaluating your marketing strategy.
Through influencer-generated content (IGC), reviews, customer referrals, and more, your brand can make social proof work for you. You must assess where and how social proof impacts your business and amplify it to meet your business goals.
Want to dive deeper into social proof and influencer marketing? One strategic move is to amplify social proof with micro-influencers. Learn more about what micro-influencers can do and how you can begin working with one.
Learn More About Social Proof and Influencer Marketing