Many factors can influence a customer’s decision making.
How can you get them to buy products from your company instead of your competition?
You have to find a way to influence their opinions.
You can achieve this by leveraging social proof.
The goal is to create a positive perception of your company. It’s power in numbers.
Let’s say a prospective customer is searching for a product online.
They know what they want, but they’re not sure which ecommerce store to buy it from.
What are some things they may be looking for?
Company A has over 500 reviews. Company B has only 7 reviews.
Which one do you think has a better public perception?
Look at the factors in this graphic as a reference point.
Obviously, the company with more reviews will seem more attractive to the new customers.
That company feels more reliable.
Over 500 people took the time to write a review, so they must be legitimate, right?
Honestly, the quality of the product is irrelevant here.
Company B could potentially have a far superior product, but if nobody knows about it, it’s useless.
Don’t get me wrong: quality is obviously important.
If you’re selling a product that’s faulty or has lots of problems, social proof can backfire.
You may get hundreds of reviews, but if they’re all negative, it could put you out of business.
Regardless of your company type, industry, or current reputation, I’ll show you how to improve your conversions by using social proof.
Lets get started with the basics.
What is social proof?
Do you know what the herd mentality is?
It describes the way people are influenced by their peers to behave in a certain manner.
That’s the basis of social proof.
You see a bunch of people doing the same thing. You assume it’s the right thing to do. You do it too.
Now, it’s way more comforting to believe we are all independent thinkers and we take actions on our own volition.
Of course, the pack mentality doesn’t apply to every area of life.
In business, however, you can bet it’s always at play.
And that’s good news.
It means you have the methods to ease your prospects’ anxieties and push them to make that final purchase decision.
Best of all, social proof makes your customers feel confident about their decisions.
Here’s the thing though.
Not all proof elements are created equal.
Some are more persuasive and impactful than others. Even the placement of that proof can have an impact.
Here are 17 ways to social proof your brand.
1. Use celebrity endorsements
Don’t let the term “celebrity” throw you off.
Unless you have lots of connections, it’s probably not realistic for you to land a superstar like Jay-Z, Shaquille O’Neil, or Tom Cruise to endorse your product.
If you want someone like Selena Gomez to recommend your company on her social profiles, it will cost you $550,000 per post.
Instead, look for regular people with large followings, especially on social media platforms like Instagram.
Here’s an example of how Bose used Russell Wilson to create social proof:
Over 250,000 people viewed this video.
If Russell Wilson says it works, then it must, right?
That’s the power of social proof.
Keep in mind that the Federal Trade Commission requires social influencers to clearly disclose their relationships with brands they promote.
That’s why Russell used the #Ad hashtag in this post.
I know what you’re thinking.
Maybe Russell Wilson isn’t an A-list celebrity, but he’s still an NFL quarterback.
You can also find local celebrities or regular people with lots of social media friends.
Browse through your followers. Do you see anyone with 10k, 20k, or maybe even 50k followers?
Reach out to them directly to see if they’d be interested in becoming a brand ambassador for your business.
You may even have better success with these people as opposed to celebrities with millions of followers.
It’s easier for someone with 20k followers to stay more engaged with their fans.
Get out there, and try to find people to endorse your brand and products.
It doesn’t have to be Justin Timberlake—anyone with a large social following can help you generate social proof.
2. Proudly display your best numbers
Let your numbers do the talking for you.
How many people bought your product or downloaded your ebook?
Tell your customers.
Post this information on your website in real time.
Here’s an example from Nosto:
What screams social proof louder than 22 billion?
Here are some other options you may consider using:
- How much money have people saved by using your business?
- How many social media followers do you have?
- How many customers have you served?
But if you don’t have impressive numbers, omit them.
For example, let’s say you have only 450 Instagram followers.
That’s nothing to brag about.
First of all, if that’s the case, you need to learn how to build a larger Instagram following.
But don’t include that number on your website.
Instead, show off your strengths.
If you have 30,000 followers on Twitter, that’s something you’ll want to showcase.
Here’s another example from Kissmetrics:
The homepage shows how many companies use their behavioral analytics and engagement platform.
It creates social proof.
If it said, “10 companies use our service,” nobody would be impressed.
But 900 is nothing to sneeze at. It’s impressive.
Take a look at your best numbers to see which ones are worth displaying on your website.
3. Display visual proof of your product in action
Photos are powerful social proof.
Images can help reinforce the idea that your product works.
Remember the example of Bose we looked at earlier?
Russell Wilson had the speakers under water. And it was effective. Why?
Because it’s one thing to tell people that something is waterproof, and it’s another to show them.
That’s why you should include before and after photos on your website.
Proactiv has been doing this for years:
This page on their website encourages users to upload their own before-and-after photos.
They want to hear from their customers because it will show any skeptics that the product works.
It’s a great idea.
Plus, storytelling is an effective way to engage and persuade someone.
Think about your brand, products, or services for a minute.
What kinds of images would generate social proof?
Let’s say you’re a carpet cleaning company. You could show dirty rug vs. clean rug.
Before and after photos work well for anyone involved in the health, wellness, and fitness industry.
Here’s another example from a fitness company:
Do you look like the guy on the left?
Well, we can make you look like the guy on the right. And we promise to do it in 90 days or your money back.
It’s an impressive marketing strategy.
Visual evidence of your product working will improve conversions.
4. Give your customers incentives for writing reviews
Let’s take our last point one step further.
Sure, you can always post photos on your website.
But they’ll mean a lot more to prospective customers if they see reviews from other users.
That’s why people research companies on websites like:
Your company should have a profile on as many of these platforms as possible.
This will increase your chances of getting more reviews.
It’s all about customer preferences.
Some people may trust only Yelp reviews, while others will check your ratings on Google.
If you have one but not the other, you’re alienating potential new clients.
Encourage people to upload photos when they leave a review.
Earlier we discussed how visual evidence could impact a buyer’s decision making.
Based on the graphic above, we know user photos are far more important when it comes to generating social proof.
Customers may feel a professional photo on a company website could be glamorizing the product.
To some extent, they’re right.
Obviously, you’re not going to willingly share images that portray your business in a negative light.
But customers feel they can trust other customers.
Here’s a helpful tip for convincing customers to leave reviews.
Be direct, and ask for a review.
There’s nothing wrong with this approach.
If you have a brick and mortar location, make sure your staff understands the importance of customer reviews.
Before a customer leaves, train your staff to say, “Don’t forget to write a review on Yelp.”
If a customer bought something from your ecommerce store, send a follow up email with a direct link to your profile on a review website.
Look how Zappos accomplishes this with their email campaign:
The message is short and direct. All they’re asking for is a review, nothing else.
What’s the incentive they offer?
Make sure you give your customers a good reason to leave a review.
Providing valuable insight to other consumers may work for people, but other customers may need some extra motivation.
Here’s an example from The Body Shop:
Let’s be clear.
You’re not offering an incentive for customers to leave a positive review.
Obviously, that’s what you’d prefer, but you can’t control that.
Notice how The Body Shop just says, “Tell us what you think.”
It doesn’t specify good or bad.
Either way, as a customer, you will get 10% off your next purchase if you write a review.
This incentive can be the extra motivation customers need to generate social proof for your business.
5. Create surveys and share the results
Sometimes people won’t take the time to leave a full review.
You have to realize people are busy, and an incentive may not persuade all your customers.
Here’s where you can use a survey to your advantage.
Rather than typing customized reviews, a customer can simply click on some predetermined survey responses.
It’s quicker, takes less effort, but can be just as effective.
Here’s an example from Nordstrom:
It’s easy to build a survey online.
Check out these sites:
Share the survey results on your website to create social proof.
Look how 4Change Energy does this:
If you’re not having much luck generating customer reviews, see if your customers will respond better to surveys.
6. Display customer testimonials
Simply ask people with whom you’ve worked (and have had success) to write you a testimonial.
Unlike with case studies, I don’t recommend you hoard all your testimonials on one page.
A testimonial doesn’t tell a whole story.
That means it won’t have much impact standing on its own. It needs to be backed by something else.
Here are some ideas for placement:
- next to a contact form
- next to a call-to-action button
- on an order form
- on a sales page, right after you’ve given the benefits of your product/service
- on a newsletter opt-in form. This is excellent for those who don’t have a large number of subscribers to use as social proof.
- on your About page.
I recently stumbled upon a site that places testimonials in a sidebar. This way, they appear on every website page.
7. Get testimonials from experts in your industry
Customer opinions are valid, but does the customer always know what they’re talking about?
An expert is another matter.
If you have customers with high credibility, see if they are willing to give your business a testimonial.
Figure out which experts in your industry may be relevant to include.
For example, if you’re a mattress company, getting a positive testimonial from a chiropractor makes sense.
Other experts to consider for various industries could be:
- Physical therapists
Here’s an example from Kissmetrics:
Follow this template.
Try to include the expert’s:
- full name
How did your company help them? Be specific.
In the example above, the testimonial says “30% lift in conversions.”
All of these factors help contribute to social proof.
8. You’re allowed to brag
Growing up, your parents may have told you not to brag.
I’m here to tell you it’s okay to do that.
Let everyone know about your success and what you’re good at.
I’m not saying you should brag about how much money you made last month, but boast about anything that establishes your credibility.
Were you featured in a respected publication?
Did a popular website use your business as a reference or resource?
Check out this example from Roma Moulding:
Forbes Media is a “global media, branding and technology company, with a focus on news and information about business, investing, technology, entrepreneurship, leadership and affluent lifestyles.”
They are recognized across the world.
Getting featured on their website is a big deal.
Don’t be afraid to share information like this with your customers.
If a company such as Forbes says you’re legitimate, then you must be, right?
That’s the power of social proof.
9. Come up with a customer referral program
We’ve already established that customers trust other customers.
Customer referrals can generate social proof.
If someone had a bad experience with a brand, they won’t recommend that company to their friends and family.
If you get a referral from someone you trust, it implies they had a good experience.
They want you to get the same positive interaction.
Look at the impact referrals can have on your business:
You increase the chances of getting a conversion through customer-to-customer recommendations.
Let’s take this a step further.
Yes, your customers may love your business.
But will they go out of their way to spread the word?
Like with reviews, sometimes people need some extra motivation.
Offer an incentive, like Airbnb does:
It doesn’t need to be over the top.
Just give them some encouragement to share your brand with their friends.
Trust me, it works.
10. Use Facebook
We’ve discussed the importance of generating social proof through Instagram and review websites such as Yelp or Google Local.
But that’s not enough.
Encourage customers to review your brand on Facebook.
Facebook has such a wide reach, you can’t afford to leave it out of your social proof strategy.
Think of it like this.
How many followers do you have on Facebook?
How many friends do your followers have?
You’re indirectly connected with all those people even if they don’t follow you.
If your customers comment and write reviews on your Facebook page, it will show up on the news feed of all their friends.
It’s great exposure for your brand.
Here’s something else to consider: Facebook is the top platform for positive reviews.
Comments on your Facebook page are more likely to paint your company in a positive light than on other review websites.
How can you encourage people to write reviews on your Facebook page?
Engage with your customers. Like their posts. Respond to their comments. Make sure your profile is active.
All of these factors can help generate social proof on Facebook.
11. Case studies
This is by far one of the most powerful types of social proof.
It tells a complete story (if done well).
And as you know, a success story is the best kind of story in this case.
With case studies, you get a holistic view of your customer’s journey. You get to learn:
- what their life was like before they invested in you
- what prompted the purchase decision
- the obstacles they had on their way to a better outcome
- how you helped them overcome these obstacles
- the exact moment they experienced transformation
- what life looks like in the aftermath of this transformation.
Does your case study need all these elements?
It’s way more effective than simply having a customer say
I had a great experience working with Jane, and I highly recommend her.
There is a place for that kind of proof, and I’ll talk about that later.
Where should you display case studies?
They’re so powerful they can stand on their own. I always recommend having a separate page to feature your success stories.
Here’s another example:
Ramit Sethi executes this kind of social proof perfectly in his GrowthLab:
While you can have these on a separate page, you should also include product- or service-specific case studies on your sales pages.
You can do it in a number of ways:
- strategically embed video case studies into your sales page;
- use case studies as a response to questions on your FAQ page;
- condense the success story into a testimonial and have a “read more” link so prospects can access the full case study from your sales page.
These are just a few ideas.
12. Strength in numbers
You’ve likely seen this one used a lot.
The most common use of this type of social proof is to have social sharing buttons on your blog posts.
It tells people this is a quality blog post that should be read.
It has the same effect as comments.
Check out this post by Brian Dean:
It has 871 comments! Now, that’s social proof.
Here’s the thing though.
Be aware of negative social proof.
If you have zero comments and zero social shares on a post, you may want to keep it to yourself.
Most social sharing tools allow you to shut off displaying the share count if it doesn’t clear a certain threshold.
Some other ways you can show strength in numbers:
- number of users
- number of downloads for software, tools, or resources
- number of subscribers
Displaying subscriber count is powerful proof.
Considering how important list-building is in business, if you have the right numbers, make use of them.
4. 13. Endorsements from influencers
Influencers are people with massive authority in your niche.
Everyone knows them, likes them, and trusts their opinions.
Imagine getting an endorsement from one of the big players in your space. It can make your business.
How do you land such an endorsement?
- Zone in on an influencer.
- Get on their radar by engaging with their content.
- Make contact via email.
- Do something spectacular for them.
- Ask for an endorsement.
I know, it’s easier said than done. But that’s the general path you need to take.
Don’t want to take this route?
You can also pay to play.
In other words, you can hire influencers to endorse your brand or products.
If you have the funds, it can be quite profitable.
It’s reported that for every $1 businesses spend on influencer marketing, they get $6.50 back. Those in the top 13% get $20 back.
Now, that’s what I call rock solid ROI.
After you’ve got your endorsements, you can display them on your website.
The Home page and About page are prime real estate for this kind of proof:
It tells website visitors you’re a big deal, and you’re worth listening to.
That’s what you want, right?
If someone prominent has praised you, show it off.
14. Media mentions
Have you ever seen logos of different publications splattered across some websites?
I’m sure you have. It’s commonly used.
Here’s an example:
It doesn’t have to be a formal media establishment like NBC News. It can be a popular website in your niche.
If you’ve ever been featured there (guest post, interview, etc.), you can place the logo on your website as a form of proof.
This is almost always displayed on the Home page.
Here’s a pro tip for landing media mentions.
Go to a site called HARO.
It’s a platform that connects reporters with sources. If you have expertise in an area, you can easily become a source.
On the website, click on “I’m a source.”
Here’s how it works.
And that’s it!
You have a means of connecting with reporters and getting those much-coveted media mentions.
15. Trust seals and certifications
Trust icons help customers feel safe about working with you.
Certifications have the same effect.
Sure, we no longer live in a world where credentials matter as much as results.
But many people still rely on these signals so they can feel reassured in their decisions.
Certifications that demonstrate your expertise can give potential clients a push in the right direction.
This works best for service pages.
Just look at the number of badges Kristi Hines has on her freelance website:
I bet if someone is looking into her services, it may be enough to get them over the edge.
Now, let’s talk about trust seals.
These are especially crucial for order forms.
Here are some examples of trust seals:
- SSL certificates
- privacy badges or statements
- money back guarantee
- credit card logos
These are the most common ones.
No order form or sales page should come without at least a few trust icons.
This is where money is exchanged. Your customers need to know their information is safe.
Sometimes all it takes is to have credit card iconography, like this:
ConversionXL tested a few popular trust seals to see how they fared with customers.
PayPal was the most trusted, and Visa-Mastercard was the most familiar brand.
16. Popular posts and products
This is another way to have proof elements on your website when you don’t have many choices.
I assure you, it works.
You can display popular posts in your sidebar as I do:
You can also place them in your footer, like Blogging Wizard does:
Again, be mindful of negative social proof.
If your numbers are low, turn off the count feature in your popular post widget.
If you run an ecommerce store, you can display popular products, a.k.a. best sellers.
It has the same effect:
17. Client or customer list
A creative way to display social proof is to feature a client list.
It helps if your clients are recognizable names in your industry. This is even more impactful than a verbal endorsement from an influencer.
Here’s an example from Sleeknote:
Service-based businesses can do this as well:
The premise of social proof is simple.
When you call on other people to tell your prospects how awesome you are, the message hits home more powerfully.
And when you do decide to toot your own horn, at least you’ve got the testimony of dozens of people to back you up.
Social proof isn’t something that’s just useful. It is critical.
Your customers want to see these proof elements because they want to feel confident investing in you.
You have no shortage of options.
I’ve given you ten of the most impactful ones and the best placements for them on your website.
Both service- and product-based businesses can use these elements. So can new and veteran entrepreneurs alike.
Put these social proof elements to work. Engagement on your content will go through the roof, and conversion rates will improve.