The internet has leveled the playing field, allowing for upstarts to play ball with the big boys by moving us to ask what other consumers think of the product instead of blindly buying based solely because of a company banner, commercial or advertisement.
If you think about it, we’ve always looked to our friends and family for advice on trusted and knowledgeable mechanics, experienced and caring dentists, and understanding and inexpensive teachers for dance or piano lessons for our children.
But the internet has taken it to a new level. Here are five examples of how online social proof is winning the marketing battle.
Facebook Sponsored Stories
Last year Facebook rolled out its Sponsored Story feature. It allows advertisers to elevate likes, check-ins, posts and actions within custom applications to a sponsored status, seen on the right-hand side of your friend’s Facebook screen.
The story is only shared with friends you know. But then Amazon grabs the post and makes it a “Sponsored Story” that shows up your feeds. One Facebook engineer said that the feature increased brand lift, namely ad recall and likeness to recommend, among their pilot partners, again proving that recommendations for products that come from friends are worth more than those that come straight from the company itself.
The social app KLOUT went head-long into the expert social proof space by creating a tool that measures people’s relative influence. I say relative because Klout cannot measure those who are not a member, so it really becomes a game among those inside. Furthermore, it only measures those social sites in which you share information.
As inaccurate as Klout may be, you have to give it to them: their appeal to our vanity makes adoption of the product easy. Who doesn’t want to know how he or she measures up to Jeffrey R. Holland, Lady Gaga or Arianna Huffington?
Your Klout score also serves as a feedback loop. When you see your Klout score drop, you are motivated to use social media more.
The user site Yelp is designed to help people living in cities to find interesting and fun places to eat, shop and drink as well as lame and awful places to avoid. The premise is simple: users leave reviews and check these reviews before they go somewhere.
If it sounds like Facebook for the food junkie, that’s because it is, kind of. But it’s also a place where people go to make decisions about where they want to eat, drink or shop…so it’s social proof at its core.
Social proof is all about the wisdom of the crowds, so it’s no surprise that bloggers started picking up on the value of promoting the number of subscribers they have. The more you have the better.
Prospects will look at your site, evaluate whether they should subscribe or not based upon many factors, one of them being how many other subscribers you have.
Imagine you are deeply in debt. Hate your job. And are freaking tired of skimpy. You jump on the internet, and read about a guy how has a “I can make you rich” site. It is endorsed by all the leading TV news programs, Oprah, Mitt Romney, and even the Pope. Everybody who is anybody is singing this guy’s praises.
So here’s my question: Are you going to use this guy’s system? Of course you are. That is because people who you respect respect him. That is social proof on steroids.
Positive comments about you, your company or product are social proof. While it’s not from a friend or family member, it’s another endorsement that says this person or product is trustworthy.
Stick a picture of the person, or better yet a video of the person giving the testimonial with his or her full name and address on your testimonials page, and you’ve got social proof.
One day you go to a site to buy something you really want. But you have never used the site before and neither have any of your friends. You see a small “Business Verified” image from a third-party security company that you know and trust.
You click on the seal to find that the company is a legitimate business and that if there are any issues, you have many ways to get in contact with them. Because trust seals come from another business, they aren’t as powerful, perhaps, as other types of validation, but several blind studies have shown that they are much stronger than doing nothing at all.
Five Star Ratings
Customers who have already experienced the benefits of a particular product or service have the opportunity, through social proof businesses like Shopper Approved, to rate the level of service they received. When website owners display these ratings, consumers visiting the site for the first time can see exactly how others have been treated by this company. Testimonials included as part of these ratings and reviews often persuade new visitors into taking the final step towards purchasing a product.
Social proof is here to stay. We can be certain that TV programs will still have commercials and that billboards will still display advertisements, but more and more of us are turning towards the internet where friends, family and other like-minded consumers can help us make informed, educated buying decisions.