10 Creative Ways to Use Social Proof in your Marketing Strategy

Most people are hesitant to be the first to try a new product or brand. But seeing other people try it makes them more confident in making a purchase or starting a free trial. Simply put, this is social proof in action.

Social proof is a powerful tool that any business can leverage to increase its brand reputation and fuel growth. In this blog, we’ll dive deeper into what social proof is, the different types of social proof, and how brands can use social proof to grow their businesses.

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What is social proof?

Social proof refers to the psychological impulse to take a cue from the crowd in order to conform to the “correct behaviour.” The social influence of the “crowd” can come from our friends, family, close work networks, or even random strangers on the internet. Alongside social proof, there sits a common concept known as word-of-mouth, which fuels social proof and can give consumers confidence when trying or buying something new. 

The concept of social proof is at work all around us; We consult our friends and families before eating out or going to a holiday destination. People check recommendations from search engines such as Google and Amazon before buying a product. Nearly 97% of people read product reviews before making a final purchasing decision.

Brands are well aware of the impact of social proof. Check this out.

Native deodorant social proof on Amazon

The Native Deodorant listing on Amazon is basking in social proof. Not just due to its 4.5+ rating based on nearly 70,000 reviews. You’ll notice the conveniently located #1 Best Seller tag right next to the ratings. There are also 261 questions answered for this particular product in the community.

Amazon uses social proof to get prospects across the line and generate more sales.

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Why is social proof important in your marketing strategy?

The underlying importance of social proof for any business is to increase revenues. Product descriptions, excellent sales copy, and a great content strategy will only get you so far. Social proof is that extra fuel that amps up prospective customers to make a purchase.

But besides increased revenues, there are other ways that social proof is important, including:

  • Showcasing your expertise and authority
  • Creating a community of long-term brand advocates
  • Reducing your overall marketing expenses
  • Accelerating sales

Don’t forget – Google loves social proof.  Google crawlers and bots constantly scrape web pages for affirmations of credibility and authority. Recommendations, reviews, and social proof aggregators, such as links to consumer websites, can boost rankings – especially for local businesses.

Social proof on Google search results

In the example above, we have a keyword search, i.e., “best BBQ restaurants in Atlanta.” Google pops up a couple of recommendations with results in the 4.5+ range.

This would explain why local businesses optimize their Google Business Profiles by adding ratings. The more and better ratings a business has, the higher the chances to generate more clicks from the search engine results pages (SERPs). Companies often use Google SERP API to understand exactly what the customer likes. In this way they can optimize their website for their needs.

Types of social proof

Now that we have a solid idea of what social proof is, we’ll dive deeper into the various types of social proof. We’ll look at five types of social proof:

1. User social proof

User social proof is the most common type of social proof. It stems from user reviews, testimonials, and product recommendations. Such content is important because it comes from an unbiased happy customer rather than being promoted by a brand. 

Check out the testimonials page of migration experts – This is Australia. We can count at least nine 5-star reviews from this one testimonials page alone, and there are several of these pages. The reviews look genuine based on the fact that full names, company names, and even profile pictures, are displayed.

User social proof

Yelp is a popular crowdsourced review platform that can help businesses bolster their online visibility. While Yelp doesn’t verify users or the authenticity of reviews, its sophisticated algorithms can detect bots and other fakes. Accordingly, Yelp reviews are highly trusted compared to other review sites.

This makes Yelp another incredible source of trustworthy user social proof. You can pick reviews from this platform and even embed them on your website and landing pages.

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2. Expert social proof

Expert social proof is where an industry expert such as a business blogger or a niche influencer approves or endorses your product or brand. 

Expert social proof

The image above is from Anne Handley, a digital content marketing expert and author of the bestseller Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content. In this tweet, she endorses an industry summit to increase awareness and sign-ups.

3. Celebrity social proof

People are strongly influenced by their favourite celebrities and influencers. The social proof generated by these high-profile personalities can be very beneficial to most brands.

For example, Porsche partnered with Alexandra Daddario – the Baywatch and True Detective actress, for this post.

Celebrity social proof may not work with all products, though. For example, customer testimonials and reviews may work better for highly specialized products in the SaaS industry than a celebrity endorsement.

Also, celebrity social proof can be pretty expensive. That makes perfect sense since you’ll need a bigger budget to get a celebrity talking about your brand. That’s why this is usually an option for well-established brands that generate more revenue.

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4. Wisdom of the crowd social proof

This is a phenomenon where having a huge number of customers causes other people to want to use your product. This plays into the crowd’s fear of missing out (FOMO). For example, during the Pandemic, Zoom’s year-on-year revenues increased by over 300% since 2019 due to the demand for remote work platforms.

Zoom’s exceptional quality drove its mega success. However, a significant part of this sales boom also came from the FOMO perspective of people transitioning to remote work and not wanting to miss out on this hot new phenomenon called Zoom.

5. Wisdom of friends’ social proof

This type of social proof extends to family and close associates. For example, you are more likely to visit a hotel or restaurant recommended to you by a family member or colleague than one with only recommendations from online strangers.

Social proof and social media

Any brand can use social media to level up advertising without spending a fortune. Social media can also support your efforts to generate social proof. Not only that, but you can also use your existing social proof to enhance your social media campaigns. It works both ways.

How do brands leverage social media for social proof? 

  1. #Hashtag campaigns

First, you can create #hashtag campaigns. These will encourage more customers to share their moments using your products. That means more authentic social proof for you. Moreover, it makes it easier for you to track the social proof since it’s all under a single hashtag. 

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Dunkin Doughnuts is an excellent example of a brand that leveraged this technique. The coffee and doughnut company partnered with Charli, one of TikTok’s most followed personalities. Under the #Charlierunsondunkin hashtag campaign, the brand generated tons of social proof on TikTok. The hashtag campaign saw over 218 million views on TikTok:

#Charlierunsondunkin hashtag campaign on TikTok
#Charlierunsondunkin hashtag campaign on TikTok

They even went ahead to create the Charli Dunkin drink:

@dunkin So official, we put it in writing @charlidamelio. Order ‘The Charli’ on the Dunkin’ app!🙌 #CharliRunsOnDunkin #TheCharli #Dunkin ♬ original sound – Dunkin’
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2. User-generated content

You can also pull user-generated content from your social networks straight onto your website. This is a great way to use showcase social proof on your homepage, landing page, and other critical pages on your website. And since the users can click on social media posts, this technique makes your social proof look even more authentic.

Next-gen applications and APIs allow you to integrate social media posts, likes, comments, shares, etc., into different web resources. You could embed your Instagram feed into your landing page. Displaying reviews from the real customers, you’re interacting with on social media (for example, during a webinar, Q&A, or live video feed) allows you to display credibility.

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10 ways to use social proof in your marketing

The advantages of social proof extend beyond brand recognition, trust, and increased revenues. Let’s explore how you can leverage the power of social proof in your marketing strategies.

1. Partner with influencers and experts

B2B and SaaS businesses fair well with marketing techniques like case studies, product recommendations, and testimonials. SEO for SaaS is also vital in getting your product out there through a foolproof digital marketing strategy. 

However, beyond these options, SaaS, B2B, and B2C companies can also leverage the power of niche influencers and industry experts. These experts/influencers have built a steady following on social media. In addition, they boast the credibility of being experts in their field, thus earning the trust of their followers.

For example, GymShark partnered with Vikstar, a popular UK YouTube gamer and social media influencer.

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SaaS brands are also keen on influencer partnerships. But unlike B2C brands, SaaS and B2B companies have to be more strategic. You have to partner with a reputable influencer and expert.

A classic example of an industry influencer expert is Neil Patel, who recommends several different SaaS/B2B products. 

In the image below, Neil recommends Zoho CRM as the best budget CRM. This one endorsement alone is enough to boost revenues significantly for Zoho CRM.

Neil recommends Zoho CRM as the best budget CRM

Meller is another excellent example of a brand that leverages the power of niche influencer marketing to promote its eyewear brand. The brand has a dedicated page for all its influencers, most of whom are models or beauticians. 

Despite the advantages provided by influencers in terms of social proof, brands should partner with the right people since this strategy can backfire. Influencers should align with your brand values and be enthusiastic about your product/brand. They should also be able to appeal to your target audience by sharing the same qualities.

2. Add testimonials on sales pages and social media

Satisfied customers are the best kind of marketing for any business. Market on South is a plant-based restaurant and bakery in Orlando, South Florida. The restaurant is reaping significant benefits from recommendations and reviews on Facebook. Not only are folks able to write reviews and leave ratings, but they can also share pictures or videos of their best moments. 

Check out the tasty photo from a customer upload below.

Market on South testimonials on Facebook

A potential customer can view the ratings, reviews, and kinds of food to expect. They can also make reservations, place orders directly from the Facebook page, and recommend the restaurant to their friends and loved ones.

3. Share results from customers surveys

Sharing results from customer surveys helps you utilise the wisdom of the crowd social proof. Let’s say you ran a quick poll or survey asking users something about your product or service. It could be a comparison between two of your product offerings. Then, the poll generates insane engagements from your customers. You can share the results from this survey to show other prospects what they are missing out on.

Netflix is a great example of a brand that leverages the customer feedback loop to tailor its content. On its debut in 2016, the show Stranger Things averaged viewership numbers of 14 million adults. The viewership had increased to 18 million on average by the second season, making it one of the most popular shows on the network.

Netflix uses customer feedback to tailor its content

Naturally, Netflix would want viewer feedback to know whether the show was a hit or miss and if the fans wanted more seasons or not. Netflix conducted a quick survey on Twitter. A majority of viewers overwhelmingly voted to create the second series of the show.

But here is the interesting bit. With such social proof, even Netflix subscribers who had not watched a single episode of Stranger Things would probably jump onto the bandwagon to watch the show.

4. Establish a referral program

Referrals are important because they tell new customers that someone they know has used a product/service and is satisfied with it. 

For example, if you are a website that teaches folks how to create free online courses, getting your business off the ground can be quite a challenge. However, if one customer successfully creates a course with your tools, they can now recommend your services through the referral program while giving a first-hand experience of how good your services are. 

Fiverr referral program

How do you use referrals to generate social proof for your business? Well, a referral program by itself takes advantage of social proof. You are asking users who are satisfied with your product to recommend it to their peers for an incentive. Therefore, satisfied customers will be using their own testimonials or experiences to pitch your product to their friends. 

Make your referral program simple enough and make the reward scheme quick. Customers who’ve made a successful referral don’t want to wait a lifetime for you to fulfill your promise. Also, the best performing referral programs reward both the referral and the referrer. Therefore, create a double-sided reward system for your referral program.

5. Use case studies

Case studies are a powerful tool that demonstrates what potential customers can expect from your product or service. Beyond sentimental marketing, case studies dive deep into the numbers and provide an in-depth analysis of past and present results.

For data-driven industries such as B2B and SaaS, it’s not enough to say, “Our product offers XYZ that can boost your revenue.” Evidence-based marketing, such as a case study, backs your claims with real results. 

That is one of the marketing strategies used at Audiense. It’s not enough to tell users what audience intelligence tools can do. So, Audiense created a dedicated page for case studies. These case studies are proving to be far more effective than mere customer reviews. 

Why are case studies important? They back brand claims by providing real data. They also demonstrate how someone used your product successfully through a first-hand customer account. Finally, they build credibility and trust. With so many claims and numbers floating around, it’s difficult to tell who is fake and who isn’t.

So, how do you create a winning case study? Follow the tips below:

  • Use tools like Audiense to conduct audience research and create an accurate customer persona. Then use that persona to build your case study. Remember, your case study will only be effective if it’s relevant to your target audience, So make sure your prospects can see themselves in that case study.
  • Use storytelling to create an emotional connection. Who is your customer, and what’s their story? What were their goals and pain points? How did you satisfy these needs?
  • Create a visually appealing case study. Use strong headlines and clear high-definition pictures of the product and your customers. 
  • Include dates, real numbers, charts, and graphs to share success stories such as increased sales or profits. 

Finally, don’t forget to include a strong CTA with each case study. You can direct the readers to sign up for a free trial or book a call with your customer reps, for example. 

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6. Share important milestones

Even if not in a case study, you can still showcase your achievements by sharing milestone data. You can do that on your landing page or social media profiles. Use percentages to make the figures relatable to the average person.

Slack customer success stories

Slack is a productivity app that does this quite effectively. Not only does the Slack team display important metrics concerning customers – but it also integrates customer success stories into its website.

Milestones tap into the wisdom of the crowd social proof. For example, showing year-over-year growth in users can help other prospects want to see what the fuss is about. That means more signups for your product.

7. Tap into media mentions

Don’t underestimate the power of a media mention in building social proof. Media mentions, whether printed or audio-visual, can sway the masses or even a niche viewership to your brand. 

LifeSaber capitalizes on media mentions. LifeSaber is a portable personal emergency generator for wilderness survival.

LifeSaber media mentions

Besides the authoritativeness of the media, psychologically, there is a power in being mentioned positively by different independent outlets. It reinforces your credibility and exposes your brand to different audiences.

8. Add trust badges

Badges, certificates, and awards will automatically capture the attention of potential customers. 

Craven’s Professional Painting proudly displays its badges, certificates, and achievements on Home Advisor. The social proof from these badges is only amplified further by the 4.97 ratings it has received from 25 verified reviews.

Craven’s Professional Painting badges on Home Advisor

With certifications, awards, and badges, third parties also affirm that you are an expert and have fulfilled certain criteria to be accredited. 

9. Leverage user-generated content (UGC)

User-generated content (UGC) is one of the most powerful ways to generate social proof, especially on social media. By encouraging your audience to submit brand-related content, you can build trust and authenticity and leverage the power of connections outside your network.

GoPro is a prime example of a brand that leverages user-generated content within its brand community to promote new products, promotions, and awards. From sponsoring space jumps and partnering with Marriot Hotel guests to partnering with thousands of influencers to generate new content, GoPro has mastered UGC. 

In fact, their Instagram page is a goldmine of UGC. They share stunning content from their creators and other GoPro product users. 

Mejuri is another brand that uses UGC brilliantly. The lifestyle brand that successfully leverages UGC as a marketing tactic on Instagram and Pinterest. In the image below, IG user @karenbritchick highlights her Mejuri collection while showing off her dance moves.

On Pinterest, Mejuri highlights its different jewelry collections with exclusive pins from its customers or models. With 10million+ monthly views on Pinterest, not counting its other social handles, Mejuri is basking in the glory of social proof.  

10. Incentivize customers to write reviews

Customer reviews are highlighted in many content strategy tips as being the “trust” that search engines like Google desire. Google prominently displays positive reviews in the top tier of its SERPs, especially for local businesses. Facebook will also make recommendations for businesses or services based on reviews.

If you have a new product but very few or no available reviews, you could convince customers to write a testimonial through incentives. For example, you could share the following information with a new customer through email:

Your feedback helps people like you who are new to our products make better purchasing decisions. Please leave a review to enjoy a $10 discount on your next purchase with this coupon.”

Wrapping up

Social proof is not just an abstract psychological concept. When leveraged correctly, it can be the growth engine you need to apply to your marketing strategy to move your business or brand to the next level and boost conversion rates, sales, networks, and customer loyalty.

Social proof also builds brand trust and credibility, provides richer search engine results, and reduces your overall marketing expenses. Use methods such as referrals, customer testimonials, influencer marketing, case studies, awards, and trust badges to display social proof.

Most importantly, your social proof strategy should be centered around familiarizing yourself with your target audience. Identify which channels and types of social proof would be most effective for them before unrolling any new strategy.

Good luck unlocking your new social proof prowess!

FAQs

  • What is social proof?
  • Social proof is a psychological phenomenon that makes people want to belong, thus affirming their purchasing behaviour or desires from a larger group rather than individually.

    Why do you need social proof?

    You need social proof to increase your sales revenues, brand awareness, and advocacy and to establish your credibility as a brand or niche authority.

    Can social proof be applied intentionally?

    Yes! By building up your social media presence, connecting to the right networks, seeking awards and charters, and partnering with influencers.

    What’s the cheapest type of social proof?

    Product reviews and user testimonials are the cheapest since these are unpaid. Celebrity endorsements are the priciest.

    What’s the most important factor that influences social proof?

    Your audience type will determine what type of social channels you use, who you partner with, what kind of proof you use (for example, case studies for experts), and the length of your campaign.

    Carlos Serra

    Carlos Serra is the head of corporate development and strategy at Audiense, a customer insights and engagement company, where he is responsible for managing partner and integration channels, ensuring seamless commercial expansion. He was named a pioneer in The Social Intelligence Insider 50 (2022) by The Social Intelligence Lab.

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