June 21, 2017  |  by Allison Williams

Understanding Social Proof

Social proof – the process by which individuals look to their peers, role models, or other important figures to make decisions about how to act or respond to a situation – is a common human behavior, and a very powerful marketing tool. People tend to trust the opinions and actions of their friends – that’s why product endorsements and word-of-mouth marketing are such a critical part of the marketing mix. People are simply more likely to support your organization, trust your services, or purchase your products if they have been highly rated or endorsed by someone they trust. In this article, we’ll take a look at the most common types of social proof and discuss how they can be used to help your organization grow.  


Why Social Proof Matters in Marketing

Social proof’s main value stems from the negative perception associated with advertising. Of surveyed individuals, 96% believe that the advertising industry as a whole does not act with integrity, according to IPSOS.  Though advertising has been proven to work to increase brand awareness, it’s understandable that the public assumes information coming from a brand may be biased.  Social proof helps to reinforce the reliability of claims made in advertising and can make a business’s marketing messages more believable. Therefore, having endorsement – and trust –  generated through social proof is a critical part of most organization’s marketing approach.


The 5 Most Common Types Of Social Proof

Understanding  different types of social proof will give you a better sense for how you can utilize social proof in your marketing to increase your brand’s credibility.

  • Experts – People with respectable credentials or recognized expertise in a category relevant to your brand can legitimize your claims of leadership, quality, or innovation. For example, think of the last toothpaste commercial you saw that suggested “three out of four dentists recommend Brand X.” This is an example of expert proof in action.  Expert testimonials and endorsements are the most common types of expert proof.
  • Celebrities – In today’s society, endorsement from celebrities ranging from actors to YouTube stars to local personalities can be a powerful way to drive social proof, while also introducing your brand to a new audience. Celebrities that bring a personal and relevant connection to your product or brand are the most effective. For example, when people see their favorite celebrity using a particular product or service, they’re much more likely to purchase it. According to a joint study by Twitter and analytics firm Annalect, up to 40% of people said that they’ve purchased an item because an influencer or celebrity used it – putting celebrity endorsements on-par with personal, face-to-face product recommendations.
  • Users – Current users of your product or service are powerful sources of social proof because they have personal knowledge about your brands benefits and can offer an unbiased opinion. Marketers can encourage users to share their brand experiences through tactics like social media sharing campaigns or testimonials.
  • Wisdom Of Crowds – Based on the idea that if many people have tried your product and loved it, others will also love it, wisdom of crowds is the form of social proof we rely on when we read ratings and reviews on sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, Google, etc.. Consider implementing a review campaign, or regularly asking happy clients to leave reviews on third party sites, if your brand doesn’t currently have many reviews.
  • Wisdom Of Friends – There’s a reason that word-of-mouth marketing is so powerful. Friends are one of the most important forms of social proof. According to the Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report released in 2015, 66% of surveyed individuals said that they would trust the recommendation of a close friend for a product or service. Marketers can encourage endorsements of friends through tactics like refer-a-friend programs.

While not every form of social proof will be right for your business or organization, lower-cost, lower-barrier-to-access types of proof such as User, Wisdom Of Crowds and Wisdom Of Friends should be considered as part of your marketing program.


Using Social Proof

These are just a few ways to use social proof to your advantage. Leveraging social proof can help in your marketing efforts, but it also is a way to stay in tune with your customers and their feedback. This not only makes marketing more impactful, it also allows your brand to be the best it can be.