Social proof is a terminology used to represent the herd mentality of human beings in a good way. There has been lots of research on the subject, but in simple terms – We all like to follow and do things that other people-like-us do. Much more if they have now become more successful by doing so.
Social proof when applied in a marketing sense is very powerful. It provides a compelling reason for visitors to click on the call-to-action links and buttons, because they see it as getting on the path that other people like them have taken in the past in order to find success.
I have compiled a list of 21 different types of social proof that you can use in your marketing. Please see below with some awesome examples.
21 Types of Social Proof to Boost your Marketing
1. Customer Testimonials.
Let me start with the most powerful social prof – Testimonials from customers. For customer testimonials to be very effective you need to make sure that they look and feel as real as possible by including proof points like – photos, full name and job title at the least. The more details it has the better it is.
(Example: LinkedIn )
You can use testimonials in various places across your website and content marketing. see some awesome examples here.
Ensure that you are including enough information so that your visitors can verify the credibility of the customer by a simple Google search. see this post to know more why and how to keep testimonials real – Best Practices : How to keep testimonials real, and reasons why not to fake them
2. Customer Logos
Customer logos bunched together as a banner or a page is very effective in showcasing social proof, especially if you have some recognizable brand names. Customer Branding always helps make a big first impact.
(Example: Oracle Eloqua)
Link back to a detailed story or testimonial if you have one. Otherwise resist from providing a generic link to the customer website (unless of course the customer insisted you provide back link). In fact it is less valuable if you are expecting your prospects to read up about the customers whose logo you are showcasing (if that was your intent on generic linking)
3. Review from Users
Reviews from users rank high on credibility provided they done on platforms that allow both positive and negative reviews. And this is exactly what i mean when i say reviews.
Negative reviews are definitely not bad since it makes it more real life as no real business will have 100% happy customers. And in-fact negative reviews gives the opportunity to see how the company handles feedback about bad experiences. I see it as a golden opportunity to showcase competency in customer service.
4. Kudos Mention in Social Media (Eg. Tweets, FB posts)
Encouraging customers to post kudos in Social Media, and pulling them in into your marketing is one of the easiest ways to show credibility. It is super convenient from the customer point of view, and easily verifiable, hence making it one of the most popular social proofs.
5. Customer Success Stories and Case Studies
Customer Success Case Studies and Stories if done well is a very effective social proof from a selling perspective because it combines credibility and marketing message in a very non-salesy way. It gives an opportunity to go to the details of your product or service features and map them to the business benefits that your prospects can expect to reap.
(Example: Facebook Success Stories)
Bonus Tip :
Do not forget to add relevant CTA calls-to-action buttons to your case studies and stories, so that it does not become a dead end. see this for a great example – Landing Page Optimization: Design success story and case study pages for conversion
6. Customer Photos and Selfies
It is a well tested fact that Customer Photos add credibility to your testimonials and make them look more trust worthy as mentioned earlier. Therefore last year stock photos got replaced by real customer photos. Now professional photos are getting replaced with Selfies with the common trend of selfies popularized by the likes of Kim Kardashian and Miley Cyrus.
This is primarily because it makes it easy for the customer from a convenience perspective and it looks more real than a professional portrait any day.
Try asking your customers for a selfie and you will be surprised by their willingness. Sharing photos is an inherent human behavior and the reason for the success of the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Flickr, the list goes on and on …
7. Customer Video
Videos of customers talking about your solution are more engaging because most of us are better in grasping a audio-visual content compared to pure text and images.
Videos work only when someone is inclined enough to spend the 1-2 mins to see the video. Therefore always compliment with text and photo testimonials because it aids visitors to skim reading that is normal when you browse internet (read here about speed reading)
8. User Generated Content – Videos
User generated videos have all the plus points of reviews and videos combined together. They have the same level of credibility as user reviews, and the audio-visual component that comes with videos makes it very engaging to the viewer.
You don’t always need a fun product like a GoPro to encourage user generated videos as your social proof. It will be nice, but not a must. Even a boring product like business software (relatively speaking) can have interesting videos depending on the customer industry. Example – An F1 race team could be making use of a lot of software in winning races ? right. you know what i mean 😉
9. Endorsements from Celebrities
Research shows that association with someone recognizable or desirable makes it more credible and trust worthy in itself. Endorsements from celebrities is very effective in the B2C space. Therefore you see a lot of celebrity advertisements in various media. You can use them in your website and content marketing as well.
(Example: Samsung at the 2014 Oscars)
Samsung has been very smart in using celebrity selfies. First it was the Oscars, then it was the White House. Nevertheless selfies is a new gig here, but celebrity endorsement in general has been there ever since the existence of marketing, which is ever since the stone ages.
Even if you are in a B2B space, i am sure you will have brands who are a celebrity in themselves. The Apples, Googles, Facebooks of your world. An endorsement from a big brand in the form of a customer or even a partner goes a long way ….
10. Endorsements from Influencer(s)
Influencer can be anyone who has some clout with your target audience. An endorsement coming from someone whom your target audience trusts has much more credibility than anything coming from you as the service provider.
(Example: Neil Patel for UberFlip )
It would be awesome if this Influencer is an expert in what you are trying to sell, but it need not always be the case. It can even be someone that your customer segment would look-up to. Example – Marketing automation software company Hubspot uses endorsements from Gary Vaynerchuk. Among’st many other things, Gary is a founder of winelibrary (an online wine retailer) and a person to look up to in the customer service and loyalty space, and hence someone that Hubspot’s customer segment would relate to. ( read more about it here)
11. PR and Media Mentions
Mentions in popular publications and media is also a valuable social proof because it is a know fact that credible news sources would be mentioning you only if they have reasons to believe in your story. Very valuable for new businesses.
From a credibility and verifiable point of view It is a good idea to provide link backs to the news articles that talk about you. If you are concerned that it would lead to link leak, then list them in a separate page.
12. Partnerships and Integration
Associating with other businesses and people who are more popular helps build credibility. In Information Technology it is important that your software plays well with the rest of the ecosystem and integration with other popular software is a must have.
These are social proofs that cannot stand on their own, but play well as a complimentary proof. i.e in addition to having customer proofs. see this post on why customer poof is important – Why social proof is useless without customer proof at the top
13. Trust and Security Badges
Third party certifications are a must have if your product or service needs assurance about privacy and security.
(Source: Curated by Monetizepro.com)
Similar to partnerships/integration that i covered earlier, trust/security badges are social proofs that cannot stand on their own, but play well as a complimentary proof. i.e in addition to having customer proofs.
14. Awards and Recognition.
Awards and recognition from popular boards or industry associations are valuable proof of credibility. They are similar to Media mentions, and are very helpful for new businesses or new products/services.
They are helpful in industries where customers look up to expert boards, associations, councils, connoisseurs, etc for opinions on the latest and greatest products and services that hit the market. example would be technology, engineering, and food industries.
15. Customer-Base Stats
Customer base or User base statistics in the form of social proof provide assurance to prospects that they are not alone and there is already a significant number of people or businesses that are benefiting from your services.
Keep it real. It is awesome if you can quote numbers in real-time, but if not it is OK. Please don’t make up increment counters. Everyone understands it is a big deal to be able to show real-time numbers. Rounded-off numbers look and feel much more genuine than fake counters.
16. Social Sharing Stats
Social sharing statistics is a social proof that is very relevant and valuable in content marketing. Knowing that it has been shared well increases the credibility in the content.
Many people recommend that showing stats that have low numbers is not a good idea. I don’t necessarily agree. Lets think like a customer – what could be that one reason as to why you are not showing your sharing stats ? A. you want to be modest and not be boastful. B. you have numbers that you are not proud of showing. what is your guess ? (i know this could swing both ways, but in the case of showing low numbers one thing is clear – you are honest)
17. Product or Service Usage Stats
Similar to Customer Stats, but this is more about the Product or Service in itself. Having a large number of customers does not always mean they are using your services well, and vice-versa – having a large usage does not mean many customers. Though it is true in most cases. Therefore both statistics are valuable.
(Example: Mad Mimi)
Same as Customer Stats. Do not give fake counters. it is OK to say over 40 million emails sent. it does not have to be 40,145,987 !
18. Friends’ Recommendations
If you see that your friends and contacts in your network have recommended something it is very compelling because you can relate to it better. even if the number is small the impact is very big because you tend to think that if a few people you know have liked something what would be the scale at a broader level – quite big.
(Example: Coca-Cola Facebook page)
I still don’t like coca-cola even though 5 of my friends love it ! 🙂
19. Trending Stats
Statistics like 48 people are listening, 10 people are viewing, 25 people bought this item, etc are quite compelling as a social proof because it helps us picture a long Q in front of the popular food joint, which assures us that the food must be good.
Try to keep it relevant to the customer. ask yourself the question – as a customer why would you care if this number is high ? eg. you can easily show “100,000 people are viewing this page right now” but ask the question – so what ? if you have a good reason – go for it ! eg. if it a piece of content, then even 100 people viewing it means it is valuable and hence it is big deal.
20. Subscribers and Followers
How many followers you have in social media or how many subscribers you have for your newsletter or mailing list definitely indicates the level of credibility and clout you have therefore it is a very valuable piece of social proof to showcase.
Bonus Tip :
There are many styles of presenting this, but I love this one above used by the content marketing institute for 2 reasons – 1. It is different from the standard social follow-like buttons, hence making it interesting. 2. It is ordered in the order of high to low, thus making it easier to total. at the end of the day, it does matter what is the total following. doesn’t it ?
21. Projects and Portfolios
Proof of past projects or portfolios in the form of screenshots and photos is very common in the services industry, but is rarely mentioned in the context of social proof which is surprising because it is social proof – 100% for sure.
Try to strengthen your portfolio roster by including testimonials. Most people keep them separate, which does not make sense because at the end of the day both are proofs of credibility and it reinforces credibility and competency when both portfolios and testimonials (for those portfolios) are showcased together.
22. Visitor Activity Stats (NEW)
Live Statistics about the visitors and what they did on your website is a way of assuring your new prospects about the popularity of your site.
This is more effective for B2C industries like Retail, Booking sites, etc where the relationship is transactional in nature.
23. Best Practices Sharing by Customers (NEW)
Getting your customers to talk about their area of expertise is another way of showing social proof.
They might or might-not refer to your product/services, but by agreeing to share best practices they are endorsing you, which is great. They get to see this as an opportunity to showcase themselves as a subject matter expert, which is a Win-Win.
Good example is the CultureTalks video interviews by OfficeVibe.
Correction : I got a clarification from Jacob Shriar, Growth Manager at OfficeVibe – the cool dude doing the interviews, saying that the CultureTalks video interview series is not necessarily with their customers, and hence they are not intended as testimonials for OfficeVibe. I would still like to retain it here because i think this is still a best practice, and a valuable social proof as such. And nothing stops you from doing similar interviews with your customers and using them as testimonials. read more about it here – Best Practices in Video Testimonials
Bonus Tip :
This is something that you can still try to do with your customers in cases where they are reluctant to provide any public testimonials (for their own reasons . eg. company policy).
And many more ……. I am sure there are other social proof that i have missed. Please share via commenting if you know them.
It is a well proven fact that using Social Proof gets you more conversions, more traffic, and more leads. People always want to take the same path – the guaranteed path that others have taken leading them to success.
As you have seen above there can be 21 (and more) different kinds of social proof, and you can use them in innumerable ways across your website and content marketing. So go ahead and rock it.
Do keep one thing in mind though – keep them as real as possible because social proof is all about ‘assurance of credibility’ and any whiff of fake-ness has exactly the opposite effect.
If you have other good examples please share via commenting.
If you feel this is useful, please share it with your friends. appreciate it. thanks. anupam
Anupam Bonanthaya is an experienced Customer Success Marketer and the Founder of CustomerRivet – The Social Proof Marketing Experts
Rivet.ly – Hosted Our-Customers Page
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