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. 

What is Social Proof?

Psychologically speaking, social proof is “where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation”. However, in a marketing and business context,  social proof is the idea that what consumers say online is more trustworthy than what brands say to consumers. That perception is made up of a consumer’s network of experiences, recommendations, and reviews from their network of friends, like-minded strangers, and influencers. Therefore, influencer marketing is a social proof strategy that builds trust throughout the entire customer journey.

Why Does Social Proof Work?

According to Dr. Robert B. Cialdini who literally wrote the book on social proof, the concept works because as inherently social creatures, we find safety in numbers. Meaning, the more we see people talking (positively or negatively) about a brand, our decision to purchase from the brand is impacted. 

Take reviews, for example. It’s not only the ratio of good to bad reviews that influence a purchasing decision, it’s the actual number of reviews on a brand’s product page that has a larger impact. If there are ten reviews for a pair of shoes and eight are positive and two are negative, that consumer may purchase the shoes, but they’re more likely to do so if there are 1,000 reviews total and 800 are positive. Social proof at scale is an important factor to consider when talking about this concept. 

Why is Social Proof Important?

Social proof’s significance stems from its ability to dictate a customer’s journey and purchase decisions by becoming a necessary validator for the consumption of a good or service. 

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 making a decision 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. 

According to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, experts and peers are the most trusted sources for information. Additionally, trust in institutions (businesses, NGOs, government, and media) is stagnant for the third year in a row. 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. 

How Can I Make Social Proof Work For Me?

By identifying areas within your marketing strategy to incorporate social proof, brands and marketers can have a better understanding of where, how, and why consumers find, consider, and purchase your product or service. Before you do that, however, you’ll need to figure out where your audience is already talking about you, in what context, and on which platform.

For example, f’real foods discovered that its brand was experiencing organic engagement on TikTok. They then leaned into it by running a campaign on the up-and-coming platform that earned them a place as a Shorty Awards finalist. By focusing on where their audience already was and amplifying their strategy around that discovery, f’real saw great results including 21.4 million impressions and 7.8 million engagements on creator videos

Activating on social platforms such as TikTok is an important influencer marketing tactic, with syndication and implementation of social proof touchpoints happening throughout your customer journey:

  • Influencer Generated Content: Once your brand has content flowing in from influencer marketing campaigns, you can repurpose that on your product pages, newsletters, and other brand communications. Further, you should credit the sources of that content by putting the creator’s name or handle on the photo. By doing this, customers can easily go to that influencer’s page and see that they’re an authentic consumer of your product, increasing the positive impact of social proof for your brand. 
  • Ratings and Reviews: By the time consumers reach the point of purchase, 90 percent have been influenced by an online review. While most product pages nowadays have ratings and reviews, taking an active step to aggregate reviews for all of your products and services can spread that initial consumer validation to your entire business catalog. Remember, the scale is an important factor in effective social proof. Additionally, 43 percent of consumers note that, if an influencer is the one generating the rating or review, it would add credibility. Working in conjunction with repurposed influencer generated content, ratings and reviews can compound the social proof around your product or brand. 
  • Customer Referrals: Don’t be shy! Ask your customers who are already boasting about your product or service on social to tell their friends and family, like and share your posts, or post their opinion on their personal feeds!

Social proof powers consumer decisions. There’s no denying that. Consumer conversations need to be top of mind when evaluating your marketing strategy. Through IGC, reviews, customer referrals, and more, your brand can make social review work for you. You must assess where and how social proof impacts your business and amplify it to meet your business goals.

Speak with one of our specialists about how you can use social proof to power your marketing strategy at scale.