“But Nikki, I had to buy those boots, the website said they were ‘trending’ and I didn’t want to miss out.”
Were they really trending though, Lucy James? Or were you a victim of social proof?
Of course, Lucy wanted the boots, but usually cautious and sensible with her money, Lucy would’ve deliberated a little more before making such a quick purchase.
What caused this sudden urgency in her behaviour? Perhaps it was the fact the seller used social proof to lure Lucy into impulsively parting with her money - ‘these are selling fast, so buy them quickly before they sell out’.
This example is taken from a B2C website, and a one-time purchase. But I’ve been alluding to the concept of social proof a lot recently in other posts, so I thought what better example to guide us towards a discussion of social proof in conversions.
The psychology of social proof
Social proof can be defined as "the psychological phenomenon where people conform to the actions of others under the assumption that those actions are reflective of the correct behaviour."
We've all heard of social experiments where subjects are told to enter a room where everyone is lined up in an orderly queue, and without knowing or questioning why, they mindlessly join the back of the queue because "everyone else is doing it."
This evidences the fact that social proof plays a large part in decision-making.
Throughout the buyer's journey, there are many points where the user will be brought to a decision. Landing pages, CTA (call to action) buttons, subscription opportunities, product demos, that sort of thing.
When a prospect is feeling unsure about clicking a button, social proof can be used to bring confidence to their decision. After all, if it's good enough for everyone else...
With a bit more of an understanding of how social proof works, we can explore how it can aid your conversion paths, and the role it plays in boosting conversions.
Customer testimonials and reviews
Research by Nielson shows that 92% of people will trust a recommendation from a peer, and 70% trust a recommendation from a stranger. And, 88% of people trust testimonials just as much as personal recommendations.
Customer testimonials and reviews, placed strategically within the buyers’ journey, can earn you authority and trust.
Case studies are another effective way of using social proof. Since they are generally longer form, they are considered more reputable and provide higher authority social proof.
If your user count is sizeable enough to impress browsers and prospects, tell them!
Demo, trial, or even purchase landing pages are the perfect place to tell potential customers how many others are benefitting from your product or service.
Again, this is closely aligned with the B2C sector and mirrors the way restaurants work. They seat people closer to the window to make their venue look busier. You'd rather eat in a busy restaurant than an empty one, right?
Just taken on a well-known brand as a client? Or perhaps you've been working with a famous name for some time. Now's the time to name-drop.
Priceonomics ran an experiment which revealed that 'gratuitous name dropping' can increase email open rate by 111% to 465%. That's a big window - but I'm not arguing with numbers of that size!
Working with a large, well-known or aspirational brand is an opportunity to tell others and build your authority as a trusted provider.
Awards and recognition
Another act of reassurance - awards and recognition - are authoritative proof that your business is good at what they do. Awarding bodies can usually be trusted to choose winners based on competence, experience and success.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
SEO and social proof go hand in hand. The higher your rankings on SERPs, the higher your authority, and the more people are incentivised to click through to your page. Therefore, more conversions.
It's a cycle that takes a while to get onto but once you're there, each will bolster the other. So, the more conversion, the better your SEO, and the better your SEO, the higher your conversions!
There are multiple ways to improve your SEO and ideally this should be a cumulative effort that you have worked on over time.
Social proof is just one aspect of improving the conversion process. There are many techniques that can be used to optimise your landing pages, email subject lines and your website's microcopy. The key is experimenting, testing and analysing to see what works for your buyer persona. Once armed with this information, you will no doubt start to see click-through rates improve, along with conversions and sales.