Social Proof: Your Complete Guide to leveraging it on your website and why you need it

The importance of using social proof in your marketing has been growing for a while now, but 2016 has seen an explosion of ideas around social proof. From simple traditional thank you messages to embedding & sharing of tweets and video testimonials the plethora of ways of communicating with potential clients about how good you are, is enormous. If you haven’t got some social proof on your website, or they are old and out dated, then read below to get some up-to-date ideas on how to refresh your website and marketing and generate more leads.

What is social proof?

Social proof is the showcasing of actions by similar others to add proof and value to your offering. In other words, the queue at the busy restaurant ‘proves’ that it must be a good restaurant; The fact that all your friends have an iPad, must ‘prove’ an iPad is best.

It’s a psychological phenomenon that can and is used in marketing to influence potential buyers to choose you over the competition, and not using this powerful tool on your website puts you at a disadvantage.

It can take many forms, the most popular which has been used for years is the testimonial. The kind words from a satisfied client on how well your company did in solving their problem. Other newer forms, relating to digital marketing are social shares, retweets, likes, Facebook likes, post likes, google+1’s and Linkedin followers. These are all modern day internet based indicators of social proof.

Why is social proof important?

With Google and Facebook running on algorithms that take in to account lots of ‘signals’ to determine the relevance of search results and what appears in your Facebook feed, social proof, I believe, will come to play a greater roll in influencing those results. It’s the perfect win win for them, as they take data from people who have similar tastes, on what they find interesting, and use this to show more interesting and relevant results based on what they like, share and comment on. It is already going on, but it will grow in stature and importance during 2016.

Who should it be from?

To get the best from your social proof, as alluded above, it needs to be from the right people. The people who are your ideal customer or avatar, or a selection of ideal customers or avatars. Make sure you also get it from your existing customers, those ones that recommend you to their friends. These should form the framework of your avatars and ideal customer profiles.

If you can get the influential people in your customer group, or your industry, even better. The ones that others look and turn to for inspiration for the best or newest thing – then great. Try to identify these people in your industry or field and then start to build relationships with them. They may not buy from you, but if their followers do, then you’re on to a winner.

The other group of influencers that work well with at providing social proof are celebrities. Whether they are famous ‘A’ list celebrities or those within your industry or customer avatar. An endorsement from a well known celebrity can do wonders for sales and even crash websites. Celebrity endorsements can be paid for, or if you keep an eye out for mentions on the internet they can appear out of the blue. There are many pictures on the internet of famous celebrities with a starbucks cup in their hand, great for starbucks. Or sometimes your product or service may be mentioned in an interview our status post. Use google alerts (one of the 9 ways to attain social proof, listed below) to keep an ear out.

Where do I use social proof?

Use it on your website, your marketing, your feedback to staff, anywhere and everywhere where you want people to understand what a great job you are doing.

Make sure you make it’s easy for visitors to your website to easily and quickly share your content. Make sure blog posts have share buttons and share to the relevant websites where your avatars are. If you have a popular article that has lots of shares, then make sure people can see how many. This is called positive social proof, and can be very powerful when implemented correctly. A blog article with 100’s of likes or shares looks very popular and can encourage others to share it, due to its popularity, but a blog post with a few shares can actually put visitors off from sharing it. If others haven’t shared it, maybe its not worth sharing? – is the thought process.

On your website, it’s a great idea to litter the website with short, relevant testimonials. So put a few select one sentence length testimonials about the product or service on that page. It adds proof to what you are saying, yet doesn’t distract from the main message. You may also wish to include a testimonials page, or ‘what our clients say’ page. Here you can place full length testimonials, which tell the full story of how your product or service has solved problems for your clients. Depending on your sales funnel you may wish to link the short sentence testimonials to the full length ‘story’ ones.

Other ideas for your website (and marketing material) when you are just starting to collect feedback and have very little so far, is to look back at what you have achieved over the past x years and create statistics. Depending on your industry and service will depend on what you come up with, but try to put statistics together that showcase impressive numbers for your industry. Examples are: 1,392 happy customers served so far. 429,623 widgets built for clients. Over 5,000 sold so far this year.

What should be in a testimonial?

Testimonials can be short and to the point or tell a good ‘story’. Depending on how you are going to use them on your website and in your marketing will determine what you need.

To get the best testimonials its a good idea to ask a selection of questions to build up the story. Many of your clients don’t have time to write the full story, so breaking it up in to smaller chunks makes it easier for them, and you get the best testimonial possible.

Here’s a selection for you to tweak in your marketing:

  • What was your situation before you used [product/service]?
  • What was the main problem you needed [product/service] to solve?
  • What hesitations (if any) did you have about purchasing [product/service]?
  • What results did you get after using [product/service]?
  • What specific features do you like most about [product/service]?
  • Why are these features so useful to you?
  • Would you recommend [product/service] and why?
  • Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Also try and get an image of the person smiling to go with your testimonial. Again it adds more proof to the fact it is genuine, and look they are happy about it too.

10 ways to get great testimonials

Below is a list of 10 different and creative ideas on how to easily and quickly get reviews from your clients. Depending on your business some will work better for you than others. 1 word of caution though – if you do use any of these to generate testimonials and you then want to use them elsewhere, ask first. 1. It’s polite and 2. You make a client feel special that you consider their words as some of the best.

Facebook

You can get a review tab on your Facebook page if you are set up as a local business. This can be a very convenient and easy way to get great feedback from your customers or clients. Invite them to your page to leave a review, you can then easily take this review and use it in your marketing and website.

Linkedin

If you know your customers personally and work more in a b2b space, then Linkedin could be an excellent way of collecting some quick and easy testimonials for you. It helps build up your status as a professional expert in your field on Linkedin and also allows you to use it in other marketing. Maybe you could ask them if you can use their photo with your testimonial, to add weight as discussed earlier.

Google

Google reviews are growing in terms of signals, showcasing to google and visitors how popular and well regarded your business is. Again its easy for any one who has a google account to go to google and leave a review. In fact it is possible to email a link to customers so they can leave a review on the resulting page. [how to email a google review link]

Twitter

Twitter is another great source of short concise reviews. You may have some already and not realise, as people have given you thanks and compliments on your service so far. Login to twitter and do a search for your mentions and see if there are already some great 1 liners for you to copy and share on your website and marketing. Also you can DM existing twitter clients and ask them to give you a review by tweeting you. Again all your followers and their followers get to see this tweet and it raises your awareness.

Google Alerts

The internet is huge and trying to search it for possible kind words said about you is near impossible, even with google search. They could have said anything about you, making it impossible to find. So google has another great tool that can bring the new comments direct to you. Introducing google alerts. Here you can set up an alert for a keyword or key phrases and google will email you all new stories and web pages it finds on the internet that match – giving you an endless source of testimonials that you probably would never know existed.

Surveys

Surveys are a more traditional method of collecting testimonials – whether paper based or online, they allow you to ask deep and specific questions about how well you did. Make sure you add in some open ended questions so you can get some great insight in to how your solutions solved their problem. You can then use this to showcase to others with the same problem, on how your product helps.

Review Websites

There are plenty of review websites out there on the internet that can be used to collect reviews for your product or service on your behalf. Such services as Reevoo allow your clients to rate your product and service and give you feedback. This can then be used in your own marketing. The beauty of these review sites is that they are independent, therefore appearing to your potential client as a more trustworthy source, than say the reviews on your website.

Email

Know your customers well? Just drop them an email asking them to reply with a testimonial. Or you could write it for them and drop it on an email to them. Ask them if they are happy to put their name to it, or if they wish to tweak it and send it back. Either way it’s a quick and personal way to get a response out of those you know well.

Telephone

Email not working? Give them a call. If you have done a good job for them, it’s easy enough to get to chat to them on the phone. Ask open ended questions about your service and when they say something that sounds great, ask them if you can use it as a testimonial. If your product or service is as good as they say it is, not many are going to say ‘No’.

Rewards

If you are still not getting enough response from the testimonial hunting tactics above, then why not couple it with a competition or prize draw. Those that respond and provide feedback (I.e. a testimonial) are entered in to a prize draw to win x. This could be done on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis depending on your product or service. Just make sure the prize relevant to their needs, so they want to enter.

Nigel Lamb
[email protected]

I built my first website in 1998, and boy was it different to the ways things are done today. Since then I have watched and participated in the industry growing up through to its current adolescence. Things are changing constantly, and it can be difficult to know where you stand (hence the adolscence), but its an exciting time full of amazing possibilities. And I love it!

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