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How to use social proof to improve sales

Social proof is the concept that people will conform to the actions of others, because they assume that those actions are the right behaviour. For example, the use of canned laughter in a sitcom tells you something funny has happened and that it’s time to laugh. Social proof is one of the best marketing tools out there to build your brand and engage customers. Read more about how small businesses can use social proof to improve sales!

Does social proof really work?

Researchers examined the effectiveness of four signs on persuading customers to use less energy in the summer by turning on fans rather than their air conditioning:

  • Sign 1: Informed the customer that it would save $54 per month on their utility bill.
  • Sign 2: Told the customer that they could prevent the release of 262 pounds of greenhouse gases per month.
  • Sign 3: Talked about how saving energy was the socially responsible thing to do.
  • Sign 4: Let customers know that 77% of their neighbours were doing it already.

As you may have guessed, sign 4 was the most effective, even more so than saving money! That’s social proof, and we’re going to talk about how you can use it to increase your sales.

Testimonials, reviews and case studies

The most important social proof for SMEs is to get reviews from your customers. Nowadays, a product or service without reviews or testimonials is often ignored. What’s the last time you bought a product on Amazon without checking out the reviews? Some customers might even skip a perfect-looking product without reviews, and buy a product that’s not quite what they were looking for, but has multiple glowing reviews.

How to ask for reviews

You will increase your chances of getting reviews by asking the customer to do so after their purchase. You could ask them in person or you could email them with a link to your Google listing, Yelp profile, or another review platform. The benefit of asking in person is that the chance of actually getting a review is really high. The benefit of emailing is that they’re already online when they see your message, so you’re making it easy for them to review you.

review picture five star

Reviews with pictures

With so many fake reviews around, it’s important to ensure that your reviews are seen as genuine. One way to do this is to have testimonials or reviews accompanied with a corresponding picture. If you’re going to ask a customer for a review, make sure to ask if you can use their picture as well. Reviews are more likely to be believed as social proof

Avoid the “great service” review

You’re getting your first reviews, that’s great! But what if your reviews are generic sentences like: “great service” or “nothing wrong with it.”. It’s a positive review, so it’s better than a negative review, but it doesn’t tell us much. It could have been written by anyone!

Ask your customers what they liked best from your service or product when they buy it from you. Was it the quick service, the fact that you went above and beyond, or that everyone is so friendly here? Then ask them to add that to their review of your business.

When people read a long and detailed review about a product/service, they will be convinced that it must be good. Not only has the wording of the review showed them that, it’s the fact that someone decided to take the time to sit down and write that long review! Then they must have really liked it!

review five star

Case studies

A case study (in combination with a testimonial) is a great way to tell the story of how your services or products solved real problems. The best kind of case study is where you solve the situation of someone who is worse off than the reader – convincing them that if you can help solve that problem, you can surely solve theirs too!

Social media proof

Having social media channels can be social proof in itself. By having a website as well as a Facebook, a LinkedIn and a Twitter profile, you are showing that your business has a face and is genuine.

Even better than that, if your business has accumulated a large following of fans on Facebook, potential customers will see that as a seal of trust in your product or services!

Creating urgency

Do you know the concept of FOMO? It means fear of missing out, and it’s often aroused by posts on social media websites. The feeling can also happen when almost missing out on a deal or opportunity. Voucher websites like Groupon play in to this concept, stating things like “Nearly sold out!” or “1 hour left on this deal!”.

In the example below you can see that uses FOMO marketing in three different places for only one listing!

In terms of web design, you could think of incorporating a countdown ticker in your shopping cart feature, or listing the number of products you have left in stock.

Show off your customer base

By adding logos of your existing customers to your site, you’re essentially telling visitors that your product or service is good enough for these other local or successful companies, so it must be good enough for them!

Trust seals & certifications

If you have an online shop, make sure to add the trust seals from the secure payment providers you work with to your website. Similarly, if you’re service provider with certain certificates or qualifications, like a NICEIC registered electrician, you want to make sure that is mentioned on your site. Customers look out for these and often actively search for them.

That’s all!

We hope you learned a little about social proof and how you can use it in your online presence to improve sales!

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